It was John Leffert’s own dental work that led him to the specialty.
“I worked with a general dentist and oral surgeon through some personal treatment, and my interactions with them really swung me in that direction,” said Leffert, who has been the lead dentist at the University Health Center’s dental clinic since 2006.
Leffert’s family has a background in the medical field—both his father and brother are physicians—but he wanted to take a different route. He was interested in health care but didn’t want to work in a hospital.
As an undergraduate, Leffert studied marketing, but he said he knew he wasn’t going to be a good salesman. He finished his B.B.A., but his interest in health care continued, and he applied to dental schools after taking several additional science classes.
He’s been with UGA for almost 20 years, which allows him to see a more specific kind of patient and, in turn, focus on patient care.
“It’s a different type of dentistry than you’d have with a wider range of patients,” he said. “It lets me do the kind of dentistry I like to do.”
Leffert pointed out that not many university health centers offer dental services, and UGA’s clinic provides many benefits for students. Patients can be seen quickly—often the same day—and appointments are convenient because the University Health Center is on the main campus and easily accessible between classes. Current UGA employees can also use the dental clinic.
“I think it’s a great thing for students. Getting a student well enough to go take a final as opposed to having to withdraw from a class—things like that seem little at the time, but that could have been a turning point,” he said. “The students, as well as their parents, really appreciate it.”
In fact, the patients are his favorite part of working at UGA.
“My No. 1 goal is to serve students and enable them to do their studies, stay on track and prevent things that would keep them from missing class and disrupt their college life,” Leffert said. “This is often the first time they’ve made an appointment themselves or gone to an appointment without their parents. I’m always thinking about how I can make it easier for them and help them be better prepared for life.”
Working on a college campus does make for unique opportunities. Leffert said that they do see a good number of student-athletes at the clinic and that they treat many injuries and deal with wisdom teeth more than private practices.
“We pretty much do everything that a general dentist in private practice does, except for dentures and complex restorative cases,” he said.
Leffert’s involvement with dentistry doesn’t end at the clinic. He is an instructor for Athens Tech’s dental hygiene and dental assisting programs. He’s a member of the American Dental Association and the Georgia Dental Association and is always looking for new, interesting health care solutions.
When he’s not seeing patients, Leffert enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and cycling, something he started doing with his father at a young age. One day, he would like to cycle cross-country, hike the entire Appalachian Trail and go skiing in the Alps. He’d also like to use his dental skills during mission trips to help those who need it in other parts of the world.
“I will try to help or get help for anyone who needs help,” he said. “Life’s too short not to be helpful.”