(02/13/13) - Every year during Black History Month, the Genesee District Library takes a moment to honor men, women and organizations who are making strides in our community.
ABC12's Dawn Jones continues our Portrait of Excellence series with honoree Dr. Raymond Gist.
As a young boy growing up in the city of Flint, Dr. Raymond Gist knew he wanted more.
"I saw their homes, saw their lifestyle, and I knew how they cared for patients. I had my own personal dentist and he really influenced me," Gist said.
It was in the mid-1950s when he first shared his dream of wanting to become a dentist with his family. He vividly remembers their reaction.
"When I mentioned that I was interested in going to college and going to dental school, my family didn't quite believe I was going to be able to do that because really we were in a poor neighborhood and nobody had ever thought about that before," he said.
With their blessings and encouragement, he became the first person in his family to graduate college - receiving a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. After graduation, he went into the Air Force before returning to Flint to open his first dentist office.
"My first private practice was on Saginaw Street - Saginaw Street and Foss Avenue," he said.
Fifteen years ago, he established Valley Dental in Flint Township. He credits his gentle manner with patients to his decades of success in dentistry.
"Once we treated patients once or twice, especially patients that were emergencies, they would come in with a toothache and full of fear and once we got them under control and got them treated, then we had a patient for life," he said.
In 2010, he became a part of American Dental History, becoming the first African-American president of the American Dental Association - a global dentistry organization.
"The idea of being the first to be president of the American Dental Association and what I've done to move dentistry forward," he said.
He is known as a trailblazer - a pioneer in the field of dentistry - serving as a living inspiration to dentist around the world.
"It just pleases me to be as much of a role model as I can be and to help those who really have a desire to go into dentistry or another field to give them that encouragement and show them that it can be done," he said.
The Genesee District Library will honor Dr. Gist Saturday at the Black History Month Brunch. The event is sold out.
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