Dr. Barron's former practice renamed River Town Family Dentistry

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Dr. Alicia Walke has taken over Dr. Barron's practice and renamed it River Town Family Dentistry. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

In 1979, the late Dr. Donald Barron opened up a dental practice in Guttenberg. His son, Dr. John Barron, joined his practice one year later. "I started my career in dentistry 41 years ago," Dr. Barron commented. "My wife, Sandy, and I arrived in Guttenberg in July 1980, just in time to ride on RAGBRAI VII, which ended their ride in Guttenberg that year. My father and I were in practice together until his retirement. He had practiced over 50 years in dentistry." 

Numerous changes in the dentistry field occurred throughout the years. "The changes in the field of dentistry over the past half century are mind-boggling. Most of the restorable care early in my career involved the use of alloy restorations. This has now progressed to the current use of composite 'white' fillings exclusively," Dr. Barron  noted. "The digitalization of today’s dental practice has exploded in the past decade. All the operatories are now equipped with multiple computers. All transactions and procedures of the dental office are now digital, replacing the time-consuming tasks of the past. Keeping up with all the new technology has been a challenge." 

  "The success of my career I can attribute to the excellence and longevity that my staff provided. Running a dental practice involves a multitude of talents, and I was blessed to employ great people. One staff member has been with me for 37 years and two others have over 25 years with the practice," he said with gratitude. 

"My plans for retirement include having the time to travel more. Hopefully this will become easier as the pandemic eases. I would like to take a hike in all of our nation’s 62 National Parks some day," he said. 

Dr. Alicia Walke

Dr. Alicia Walke has taken over Dr. Barron's practice and renamed it "River Town Family Dentistry." She has been working with Dr. Barron for the past one and a half years. She attended Grand View University from 2008-2011 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and a minor in chemistry and Spanish. She attended the University of Iowa College of Dentistry from 2011-2015, earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. "I graduated dental school in the summer of 2015. I worked as a dentist for four years in the United States Navy Dental Corps. I left the Navy in the summer of 2019 and came here to work for Dr. Barron," she noted. 

Dr. Walke shared her inspiration for becoming a dentist. She commented, "As a child my parents instilled the importance of good oral hygiene in me, so I enjoyed going to the dentist.  When I was 12, I was embarrassed by my smile and was fortunate enough to go through orthodontic treatment. Having straight teeth really boosted my self-esteem and made me think about dentistry as a profession." She went on to say, "As I looked into dentistry I realized there was so much more to dentistry than the cosmetic benefits. I love being able to help my patients achieve their oral hygiene goals, and I look forward to having an opportunity to build long-standing professional relationships with my patients."

Dr. Walke resides in a 100-year-old farmhouse on a hobby farm located outside of Garber. She enjoys entertaining her one and a half year-old son, Stanley, walking the family dogs in their woods, and hunting and fishing. 

Close family ties brought her, and her husband, Brett, to the area. "My husband and I bought our home from his parents. He has family in the area, so when I was planning to leave the military we decided to purchase our home from them. Guttenberg is a charming close-knit community and we really fell in love with the area," she shared. 

Dr. Walke is grateful the transition is going well. "The new transition is going very well. Lucky for me, all of Dr. John's wonderful staff members have decided to stay and they have been very flexible and supportive throughout the whole process. We are implementing a few new technologies, such as automated patient confirmations, and they have taken it in stride," she said with gratitude. 

Upcoming renovations are being planned. "We are planning to complete some cosmetic updates to the building, such as new flooring and painting, in the beginning of February. We will also be purchasing some new equipment and dental operatory chairs for our patients," she added. 

Dr. Walke will be offering new advancements in dentistry. She explained, "I am now offering Invisalign which is a set of clear trays designed to move teeth to improve their alignment."

Dr. Walke bids farewell to her colleague. She shared, "Over the past year and a half I have come to know Dr. John as a wonderful mentor and colleague. His long -standing loyal patient base and staff who regard him as family speak volumes about him as a provider and a boss. I feel very fortunate to have found his practice and look forward to carrying on his legacy for years to come." 

Rhonda Ungs 

Dental assistant/office manager

Rhonda Ungs, dental assistant and office manager, has been working in the family practice for the past 37 years. "Dr. Donald, and his wife, Marilyn, hired me as a dental assistant on Jan. 1, 1984," commented Ungs. "Through the years of assisting, I would also work at the front desk. When Marilyn decided to retire, I took over the position as office manager but also maintained my chairside duties when needed," she added. 

Ungs' years of service were inspired by the family's camaraderie. "The Barron family has always made me feel like I was part of their family. Marilyn is like my second mother. A person develops strong relationships when you work together for that many years," she said. "The patients are also a very important reason why I have remained in Guttenberg for 37 years. When our patients enter our practice, they are much more than a number – they a are part of our dental family.”

Ungs noted the improvements and changes in the dental industry over the past three decades. She mentioned, “Some of the changes are our personal protective equipment we are required to wear. When I first started in the dental field gloves and masks were not mandatory. Dr. John and I discussed this fact on many occasions.” She went on to say, “Technology has been the biggest change for me. When we switched from our paper appointment book to the computer, they almost had to pry the book out of my hands. I will have to admit the changes through the years have definitely been improvements for both our practice and our patients.”

Ungs reports, “The transition to a new dentist is going very well.  We have a team that works great together and everyone is pitching in some extra time to make the transition run smoothly.” 

She concluded, “It has been an honor working side by side with Dr. John for the past 37 years. Don’t get me wrong – we have had our ups and downs but we have always had extreme respect for each other. I am very happy for Dr. John and Sandy as they enter into the new adventure of retirement, but we will all miss his presence in the practice. I will end with my favorite quote from Dr. Seuss, ‘Do not cry because it is over, smile because it happened.’”

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