Feature: A dentist's pursuit to put patients first

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CHICAGO, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Yvonne Higgins never expected that her accidental drop-in visit to a dentist in suburban Chicago in late summer of 2013 has become her source of joy and happiness.

"I was driving down the street and I saw her office, so I just decided I'm going to go into this dentist and tell her that I wanted implants." This is the first time when Higgins met Zhang Liqing, a dentist of Chinese origin.

"My teeth were all messed up (then)," the 75-year-old told Xinhua. "When I was a young girl, my mother didn't have a lot of money, all they knew was to pull your teeth. By the time I got to be an adult, half (of) my teeth were missing ... For years I'm walking around thinking I'm cute with all these missing teeth in my mouth, and my (left) teeth started to shift."

Before Zhang Liqing, Higgins has been to about five or six dentists. "Each time I told them I got the terrible gag reflex, they would put the cheapest partial plate in my mouth. I couldn't wear it."

Higgins went into Zhang's clinic in the southern suburbs of Chicago, and asked about a full restoration of her teeth. "She x-rayed my mouth, gave me a payment plan and said this is what we're going to do."

Knowing "I have a very sensitive gag reflex, she ordered some special spray to help me get through the procedures; she would massage my jaws; little by little we got this work done."

"When Zhang tells you to turn your head, she always says please, it's comforting." Before retirement, Higgins was a registered nurse.

Once Higgins was at the movies when her jaw was locked, a temporal mandibular joint displacement. "I called Dr. Zhang from the show and she said 'come on in right now.' She gave me some injections. She massaged my jaws and everything and then eventually it stopped locking on me."

Higgins was worried that this could happen at night. Zhang gave her personal home phone number, and said "I'm about an hour away from where you live, I will come in and take care of you."

"What dentist do you know that would do that?" Higgins said emotionally, tears in her eyes.

Bill Zhu has been Zhang's patient for over 10 years. "In my knowledge, Doctor Zhang usually leaves clinic around 9 p.m., as there are often patients coming in an emergency. No matter how late, she would always complete the treatment."

"Patients come first, that's her work ethic," Zhu said. And the patients she has treated age from six months to 102.

Born in a doctor's family, Zhang entered Hebei Medical University in 1990, majoring in stomatology, and went further to get her master's degree in a medical university in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province in 1998.

In retrospect of the years, Zhang was full of happiness. "Being a doctor is what I have dreamed of. I just treated as many patients as I can to accumulate experience. I never felt tired, I love helping patients," she told Xinhua. "Helping others is what I like to do."

Driven by this enthusiasm, Zhang came to Canada and enrolled into the faculty of dentistry of Dalhousie University in Canada in 2005.

Zhang first worked with an oral medical company in Chicago after graduation in 2008. Then she opened her own clinic in 2010.

Before working as an assistant to Zhang, Vaniah Jefferson had worked at another clinic for 10 years. "I like how she cares about the patients," she told Xinhua. "Some doctors that you work with a lot of times it's just about the money. But she cared more about the people than the actual money. When they come in pain, her first priority is to get them out of pain, the money pretty much is second."

"Her compassion for the patients, how much she cares about them, you could really feel it from her," Jefferson added.

"I've never worked with a doctor that has so much talented experience ... (She is) a doctor that does everything from braces and plants, surgery, gum surgery, impacted wisdom teeth, distractions and do it so quick root canal treatments in 15 minutes," Jefferson said. "This is the first doctor I've ever worked with that we didn't have to refer nobody out. She specializes in everything."

"She amazes me daily," the 35-year-old assistant said. "Even if it's something that she's not familiar with, give her a few hours, she'll figure it out and do it."

Because of her medical skill, and patient-first practice, Zhang is listed in the 2020-2021 "Marquis Who's Who" in America, a reward to individuals who possess professional integrity, demonstrate outstanding achievement in respective fields and have made innumerable contributions to society as a whole.

Higgins is referring everybody she knows to Zhang's clinic. "She works with patients, making treatment affordable. That's important."

"I trust her judgment. I see how she interacts with all of her patients, how she interacts with her staff, how she has grown and I know that she goes to a lot of conferences to keep up with her craft, to keep up with her skills," Higgins said.

"All of those things tell me that she is progressive and proactive in learning her craft so that she can take care of her patients," she stressed. Enditem

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