We kicked off the year with Dr. Julie Melbinger-Wagner and Lori Cavitt of Mequon Smile Design providing their member thumbnails. It was wonderful to get to know them better. We are grateful to have them as members! 
My name is Julie Melbinger-Wagner and I am a general dentist and owner of Mequon Smile Design. I was born and raised in Medford, Wisconsin where my father practiced as a dentist for over 40 years. There was not a restaurant, store, or community event that we attended as a family where at least one patient would approach him and say, “Hey doc, thanks for all you did”! It was his dedication to our community and his patients that attracted me to follow in my father’s footsteps.
Knowing my future career path as early as high school, I was drawn to attend Marquette University and accelerate my education by entering their pre-dental scholar’s program. After completing 3 years of pre-requisites, maintaining a strong GPA, and attaining a required score on the Dental Aptitude Test, I was accepted into the Marquette University School of Dentistry Class of 2002.
Following my dental school education, I decided to advance my medical and dental training by completing a one -year residency at the VA hospital here in Milwaukee. I completed rotations in oral and maxillofacial surgery, anesthesiology, periodontics, endodontics, and prosthodontics to further hone my skill set in those specialties.
My dental career in Milwaukee at that time was brief; following a proposal from my husband Peter Wagner, also a dentist, we moved to Chicago, IL where he accepted a position as an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident. Chicago would become home to us for 4 amazing years; we met many friends, new colleagues and welcomed our first daughter, Ella. Following Ella’s arrival and Peter’s residency moving closer to completion, we knew our time in Chicago was coming to an end. Furthermore, we were driven to be back by family, friends and our beloved WI sports teams and we subsequently returned to Milwaukee upon completion of my husband’s residency.
Two years after the arrival of our eldest, Claire arrived and almost like clockwork, 3 years later our final addition, Andrew was born on his daddy’s birthday. During this phase of our life, I was fortunate to work as an associate dentist part-time and raise my family. I experienced many different practice models: Group practice, corporate practice, and solo practice dentistry. Though I was thoroughly enjoying being a mother and raising our three beautiful children, something was missing professionally. At some point along this path of discovery, I realized I was losing my autonomy as an associate and forgot the reason I chose to be a dentist. The only practice model I experienced prior to becoming a dentist was watching my dad run a private dental practice and was one of the many reasons I chose to be a dentist. Private practice would provide for me the autonomy I was missing professionally; the ability to hire the employees I want, purchase equipment and materials that work best in my hands and determine my own schedule. Most importantly and the primary reason I chose to be a dentist, was watching how my father became a part of people’s families, their lives, and the community in which my parents lived; by simply giving them a reason to smile!
Shortly after the birth of our son, I was on a mission to locate a practice to purchase. Following 5 years of searching, I finally located the ideal practice. In June 2016, we moved to Mequon and planted new roots.  We were loving our new neighborhood, schools, and friends, however, I was still unsettled professionally and disheartened to find a practice to purchase. By this time, I had one practice purchase fall through and several dentists that I attempted to negotiate a transition to purchase who decided not to proceed. With the support of my husband, family and friends I decided to try again. I sent a letter to prospective dentists in the Mequon area nearing retirement that may be interested in selling or transitioning their practice. Finally, after several dinners and meetings, Dr. Friedman and I decided to move forward with transitioning his practice. I worked as his associate for a year, then purchased the practice in March of 2019 when Mequon Smile Design was established.
WOW has it been a ride! We have rebranded, relocated, and survived a pandemic. I do believe that God will never give you more than you can handle, and he must think we can handle ANYTHING!
March of 2020, the new practice build-out was full steam ahead; a lease had been signed a couple of months before, the architectural plans completed, and equipment ordered. March 23, 2020, a stay-at-home order was issued for the state of Wisconsin for non-essential workers, which believe it or not included dentists! With uncertainty looming, I had no choice but to halt the project. Following weeks of navigating employee layoffs, triaging patients on the phone, acquiring additional PPE and barriers to make my team and patients safer, we were finally able to start seeing patients again in May 2020. With only one year and a half left on my lease and a leap of faith, I requested the build-out project move forward to completion. On August 27, 2020, we moved to our new location at 11649 North Port Washington Road--directly across the street from Metro Market.  Look for the tooth!
In parting, a thank you to all the businesses, T-M chamber organizations, colleagues, families, and friends that have welcomed Mequon Smile Design and our team members with open arms to the community. We look forward to growing our practice, becoming part of people’s families, their lives, and the community of Mequon Thiensville; by simply giving them a reason to smile!