Dr. Martin Halbur and his daughter, Dr. Marie G’Sell, pose at Carroll Dental Associates, where they both own private practices.
Dr. Martin Halbur and his daughter, Dr. Marie G’Sell, pose at Carroll Dental Associates, where they both own private practices.
October 8, 2013

Dr. Martin Halbur had hoped one of his daughters would follow his footsteps into dentistry.

When one of them did, and settled into a group practice in St. Louis, Halbur's hopes turned to having her open a practice alongside his in their hometown.

After working as a dentist in St. Louis for six years, Dr. Marie G'Sell, 33, returned to Carroll.

"It was a wonderful surprise," said Halbur, 62. "But she had to make the decision."

G'Sell grew up working around the dentist's office, as a janitor, receptionist and dental assistant. For a long time, though, whenever she was asked if she wanted to be a dentist like her dad, she said no - she'd had enough.

But she discovered that she liked the science of finding out what was wrong and fixing it, and after aptitude tests pointed her toward dentistry, she reconsidered.

She graduated from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., in 2002 with a double major in biology and theology, and received a doctor of dental surgery degree from the Creighton University School of Dentistry in 2006.

G'Sell's husband, Dan, is a pharmacist at Hy-Vee. They have three children: 4-year-old Andrew, 2-year-old Evelyn and 5-week-old Benjamin. Although G'Sell was successful in her St. Louis practice, she and her husband wanted to raise their children in a city like Carroll.

G'Sell graduated from Kuemper Catholic High School in 1998 and said the school had provided her with the opportunity to focus on academics and participate in sports and musical activities at the same time - something she wants for her children.

She'd been gone from Carroll for about 14 years, but when she returned, the reception was overwhelming.

Describing one welcome, G'Sell said, "I was going through the drive-through at McDonald's, and a woman handed me the food through the window and said, 'Hey, Marie, I heard you're coming back - that's great!'"

Halbur attended the Creighton University School of Dentistry as well, and G'Sell graduated 30 years after him. Many of her father's classmates had children who, like G'Sell, decided to be dentists and became her peers.

"I'd heard about them all my life, and all of a sudden, we were in classes together," she said.

Working in a family-based office allows G'Sell to see patient loyalty firsthand - her father has had some families as patients for generations.

Halbur and G'Sell work alongside three other dentists at Carroll Dental Associates. All five run private general practices under the same roof. They share some of the same equipment and help with each other's patients as needed.

G'Sell and Halbur are the second father-daughter pair working at Carroll Dental Associates. Dr. Michelle Sturm recently returned to Carroll to open a practice alongside that of her father, Dr. Karl Eischeid. Dr. Nicholas Fangman rounds out the group of five dentists.

As the practice has expanded, the dentists have been able to work with out-of-town specialists, such as oral surgeons, orthodontists and periodontists, who now have satellite offices in Carroll.

"Before, when someone needed an orthodontist, we'd have to send them 100 miles away," Halbur said.

Outside of her work in Carroll and St. Louis, G'Sell has been involved with dental mission trips to the Dominican Republic for years. She goes with a group to provide dental education as well as free services such as cleanings, fillings and extractions.

The people they visit need the treatment and education, but they're tough, she said.

"Some people walk two hours to get treatment," she said. "They hug us, thank us and then go to walk the two hours back. They know this is their chance to get it done."

The group members stay with families in the village they visit, who visit the dentists while they're working, take them snacks and make sure they're not working too hard. They become very close.

"There was a little girl who was 3-1/2 when I started, and the last time we went, we got to meet her boyfriend," G'Sell said.

G'Sell hopes to continue the trips to the Dominican Republic, but back in Carroll, her father is glad to have another member of the family working nearby.

"The most important thing is the continuity of care for our patients," he said. "Someday, if I ever retire, I know there'll be someone to take care of them."