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From tornado to triumph

June 10, 2014
On May 22, 2011, Dr. Michael Fitterling's life changed forever when the Joplin, Missouri, tornado transformed his practice into a pile of rubble.
On May 22, 2011, Dr. Michael Fitterling's life changed forever when the Joplin, Missouri, tornado transformed his practice into a pile of
rubble. At age 62, Dr. Fitterling wondered if he had the amount of determination and energy needed to rebuild, literally from the ground up. That's when his office manager of 11 years, Cindy Sooter, stepped in and stepped up.

"We would not have the practice we have today if Cindy was not our office manager," explains Dr. Fitterling. "With Cindy's dedication and encouragement, and the help of my wife, who is our business coordinator, we chose to focus on the future and formed a plan that would take us from debris and devastation to having an incredibly healthy, thriving practice."

Because of Cindy's vision and the team's efforts, temporary offices in trailers were almost immediately set up and the practice saw their first patient less than one month after the tornado. And in the past three years, Joplin Family Dental has doubled their office space to 6,000 square feet, added five team members, a part-time dentist, and a full-time dentist who will transition to ownership as Dr. Fitterling transitions out of dentistry.

In 2013, because of Dr. Fitterling's nomination, Cindy was awarded Office Manager of the Year by the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM).

"Because of Cindy and all she does, I have the opportunity to live the dream of having a beautiful office, an awesome team, and doing the type of dentistry I love to do," said Dr. Fitterling. "She is loved and appreciated by our patients, our team, and especially by me. She truly helped take us from rubble to renewal."

"I feel truly blessed for even being nominated. I'm proud and humbled to be chosen as Office Manager of the Year," said Sooter. "After the tornado, we were all given the choice of quitting or creating. We chose to create a new, better, wonderful practice for our patients. I wouldn't have chosen any other path, even though there were those days where the obstacles seemed just too big. But we stayed together, and took it all step by step."

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As the 2013 AADOM Office Manager of the Year, Cindy received a special package provided by CareCredit, AADOM's founding sponsor of the award. Cindy intends to use her prize money to pay for additional classes and earn her AADOM Fellowship. "I just love dentistry," said Cindy. "We have a healthy practice because we keep our patients healthy and happy. It's about creating relationships with patients where they feel safe to ask questions, confident they are making the right decisions for their oral health, and we appreciate that they are giving us their trust and their business. In the end, we rebuilt Joplin Family Dental for our families and our patients' families."

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