Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, June 28, 1999

Neff celebrates 25 years of dentistry in Winsted

By Luis Puga

After 25 years as a dentist in Winsted, Dr. James Neff said that the town he came to in 1974 has become his home.

Stationed at McCord Air Force Base for two years beforehand as a captain in the service, Neff said he and his family had a list of nine criteria for a community they wanted to live in.

Ultimately his reasons for choosing Winsted were numerous. "I think the location near the metro area was important to us. Also, that it was definitely rural because people tend to be friendlier and it's a great place to raise a family," he said. "It seemed like a good, Christian community. That's important to me."

He adds that the community needed a dentist at the time and saw an opportunity in that need.

Neff opened his office in Winsted on June 24, 1974 on 2nd Street South.

At the time, it was just him and two staff members; one dental assistant and a business receptionist.

Neff said he had some sentimental attachments to his first downtown office, but space needs eventually moved him to his new location on Fairlawn Avenue.

Since then, he and his practice, Dr. Neff's Gentle Dental Care Clinic, has come a long way, moving locations, adding staff, and new practices and technologies.

For a time, Neff contributed to his field as an educator, taking externs as part of the Rural Summer Dental Program from the University of Minnesota. Between 1979 and 1980, he saw the need for orthadentia services.

Adaptability has been part of his career as a dentist. With a shortage of specialist dentists in the area, he learned to add to his training in general dentistry more knowledge of cosmetic dentistry, orthodontics (teeth straightening), endodontics (root canal work), and periodontics (gum disease).

As he added to his own knowledge, he developed more services for his patients.

His in-office teeth whitening has developed into what is called an Apollo System using a plasma lamp. This system has allowed him to use continuous energy light output to lighten teeth significantly in one sitting.

Even his office's aviary was a measure to help his patients. Neff explained that the presence of the various birds acts as a calming therapy for worried patients. He adds that watching the birds is something the children love to do.

Computers have also played a developing role in his practice. Neff has begun the process of implementing a computer network within his clinic to handle scheduling, billing and patient records.

He said that he still relies on the paper chase and predicts the complete reliance on electronic record keeping will take some time. An added feature has been a voice entry of patient data into electronic files, which is also still developing.

Neff has also seen many changes in his staff. Some of the faces that have come through his clinic include Dr. Dave Gorecki, who joined the staff in 1980, who then went on to establish a practice in Waverly for 10 years.

In 1994, Dr. Mary Correl joined Neff's staff for a year, relocating to Washington afterwards. For nine months, Dr. Todd Stanky was on staff until he moved on to Wisconsin.

However, with a father's pride, Neff said his favorite colleague has been his daughter, Dr. Carla Heino, who joined the staff in 1996.

Neff said that Heino, who had worked previously at the Minnesota Department of Public Health for two years, has been a blessing on his practice.

Neff's daughter was not the only family member to contribute to the practice. From 1975 to 1996, Neff's first wife, Norma, was the office manager of his practice.

The changes Neff has had to make in his practice have been numerous and will continue. In the future, Neff will be adding two treatment rooms and office space to better accommodate patients. The remodeling should be completed by winter, with an open house to be scheduled.

Over the years, Neff has played many roles in the community.

For a time, he was a member of the medical staff at St. Mary's Hospital and a dental consultant for the nursing home. He was also a past director of the boards of St. Mary's Apartments, Health Central Systems, St. Mary's Hospital and Home, the Winsted Civic and Commerce Association, St. James Lutheran Church of Howard Lake, St. John's Lutheran Church of Winsted, and Mayer Lutheran High School.

Currently, he is also a member of the board of directors of the Winsted Civic and Commerce Association.

Neff has also been very active in karate as fifth dan, or fifth degree black belt. As director, and for a time instructor, on the Winsted Karate Club, he has seen the club and its athletes reach national levels of achievement and greatness, including his own role as coach of the Minnesota Shotokan Karate Team.

Neff has served his martial art well. Throughout his life, he has served as a member of the American Shotokan Karate Federation, the U.S. Karate Federation, the Minnesota Amateur Karate Federation, and spent 15 years as the director of the American Japanese Karate Federation. He continues to participate in the championship competitions as a tournament official and examiner.

A widower for two years, Neff recently married Mary Stamm of Winsted. Besides his daughter Carla, Neff has a son Brian, and another daughter, Patricia.

Also, not only has Dr. Heino blessed his practice, but she, and her spouse Christopher, have given him a grandson Joseph. Stamm has also enlarged the family with a son from a previous marriage, Sid.

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