40 UNDER 40 HONOREES

Walter D. Thames

  • Garden Ridge, Texas
  • Specialty

Age:

39

Name of Practice:

Smile Specialists

Specialty:

Prosthodontics

Education:

University of Texas Dental School at Houston


Why They Were Nominated

Establishing a dental-prosthetics laboratory, a specialty practice and a dental-assistant school in just 19 months was just another tough mission accomplished for this Navy lieutenant commander. Through his 11 years in the U.S. Navy’s Dental Corps, Dr. Thames supported Marines and sailors stationed overseas.

Why They Became a Dentist

“In college, I volunteered for a dentist, plastic surgeon and oral surgeon, and fell in love with dentistry.”

Inspiration

His older brother, Dr. Paul Thames, an ophthalmologist in Abilene, Texas. “He’s a respected clinician and devoted family man. I saw what he was able to accomplish and wanted to strive for the same type of success.”

Biggest Challenge

The transition to civilian life. “In the Navy everything is so structured professionally that you were able to just provide dental services without consideration of cost.”

Philosophy

The ideal dental relationship is lifelong. “I want patients to feel so confident and comfortable in my office that they will make me their ‘forever dentist.’ ”

Most Memorable Patient

“In dental school I had a patient who was psychologically challenged. She told me every appointment that her husband was an imposter and an alien. This experience helped me learn that mentally unwell patients need to be treated by those specifically trained to treat them.”

Something People Don’t Know

Dr. Thames, a trained sculptor, won the Texas state sculpture championship in high school.