Dr. Karen Connell (’00) has been with the Anniston Dental Group in Anniston, Alabama for ten years, and took the practice over from her father and fellow UAB School of Dentistry alumnus, Dr. Art Lewis (’67), in 2012.

When the COVID-19 shutdown initially started, she and her family were vacationing in Orange Beach, Ala for spring break. She returned home to a strange “new normal” at the office for the next six weeks – going in for only a few hours a week to treat patient emergencies.

The Anniston Dental Group returned to regular patient scheduling and procedures on May 4 and are currently operating at one hundred percent capacity, but Dr. Connell estimates that it will be August before they have made up for all the missed hygiene and appointments. Their team is carefully following all CDC and Alabama Board of Dental Examiner’s new guidelines for office health and safety and patient care. The office’s open floor plan has made Dr. Connell and her team have to stay vigilant about enforcing social distancing and limiting the number of people who are in the clinic, but patients don’t seem to mind waiting in their vehicles until their appointment starts. In fact, Dr. Connell might continue this protocol even after waiting room restrictions are lifted. She’s also noticed that limiting the number of guests that patients bring along with them into the office has resulted in fewer distractions and a more efficient appointment flow, and she plans to continue these limitations indefinitely. Dr. Connell feels the Coronavirus has helped shine a positive light on the profession of dentistry and has reminded many just how prepared dentists already were at working in contaminated environments.

Like so many others, Dr. Connell experienced an array of emotions when she was first forced to close her office. Among these included were anger over the situation, fear over the virus itself and how long she could afford to remain closed, and sadness over her children missing their end-of-year activities, particularly her son who graduated high school in May. But she feels that these initial negative emotions were redeemed through the extra time she was able to spend with her family and through rekindled relationships with dental school classmates who offered advice, support, prayers, and a bit of comedic relief!