It took Kristyn Barker a number of years and a lot of schooling to figure out what she wanted to do for a career, but it could have been much simpler had she listened to some advice from Andover dentist Aaron Huslig early on.
“My family dentist when I was a kid always said, ‘You should be a dentist,’ and I said, ‘No, that’s gross.’
“He had kept just putting that in my mind,” Barker says. “I honestly thought he was just being ornery with me.”
Now, though, Barker is starting her first solo, self-named dental practice, which will have the tagline “Smiles By Design.”
“She’s one of those people who’s a natural leader,” Huslig says. “Owning her own practice is right where she needs to be.”
In addition to being intelligent, focused and well spoken, Huslig says Barker has always had “a sincere desire to help others.”
“I was like, this is amazing,” Barker says of discovering dentistry. “Just the ability to get somebody out of pain, to make them comfortable, just to provide a service.”
Her path began with a full scholarship to the University of Kansas for music and voice performance, but at some point she says she realized she didn’t want to move to New York City and pursue a career in music.
After graduating, Barker began working and experimenting with some different jobs, and she decided to shadow her dentist for a day.
“Lo and behold I fell in love with it,” Barker says.
She continued working part time to earn money while going to school for three years to take all the undergraduate classes necessary before fighting thousands of other applicants for 85 dental school slots.
“I feel like there was some divine intervention there,” Barker says.
Finally, she graduated in 2011 and went to work for Derby Dental Care.
“I learned lots of things about what to do and what not to do,” Barker says. “Mainly … I was able to focus on patient care and developing my skills.”
She’s now purchased Lynn Cramer’s dental practice in the St. Francis Medical Park at 1035 N. Emporia.
“The timing was just perfect for both of us,” Barker says.
“I have a hard legacy to live up to because he’s a great man,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Barker says she especially likes the Medical Park, which has a large atrium filled with plants and a fountain.
“I find it very calming out in the atrium area, and I love being outdoors.”
Barker says the clinic and building feel like home, especially with Cramer’s staff.
“They make this place,” she says. “That really kind of sealed the deal for me.”
Her practice, which opens to patients Monday afternoon, has six operatories.
At a time when a lot of dentists are joining larger practices in part to avoid having to take care of the business side of dentistry, Barker says she thinks she’ll be able to focus mostly on patients.
“I’m confident in the team that I have and the support I have.”
Barker still loves music and sometimes will sing with her younger patients to put them at ease.
“‘Frozen’ has been a good movie for us in the dental field.”
She says a singing dentist is “not something that you see every day.”
Barker still keeps up with music and theater through shows in Wichita and elsewhere. You can hear her sing “If I loved You” from “Carousel” in a video at her new office at Kansas.com/video.
She says she likes the variety of care in dentistry, though.
“There’s something amazing about science,” Barker says.
“I was like, this is it.”