Tom Sega has a Zoom sit-down conversation with Dr. Duncan Puffer, Board-Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and Senior Partner at Northern Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons PA, on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack. Duncan and Tom discuss how Dr. Puffer grew into his career, medical advances in dentistry, how COVID influenced the field, and his passion for the outdoors as an avid bow hunter.
Background on Dr. Duncan Puffer
Duncan was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota when parts of Saint Paul were still a rural area with a large dairy farm behind his childhood home. Duncan grew up spending large amounts of time outside, which has influenced him through life. He graduated high school in 1978 and went onto university at Gustavus Adolphus, where he started as a chemistry major. Tom asks Duncan how he ended up in dentistry, and Duncan explained that he struggled his first semester in school, and it wasn’t until he watched his older brother, who was a dentist, that things began to change. After shadowing his brother, Duncan enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the field and realized he also wanted to pursue dentistry and changed degrees to become a pre-dental major. Duncan went to dental school at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where he graduated with honors and then went immediately into the University of Minnesota Dental Surgery Program. Dr. Duncan Puffer was excited to enter the program so quickly, as traditionally, students are required to do multiple years in the field before returning for the surgery program. His program took three years, but it is now a four-year program, with some schools taking up to six years.
Tom talks to Duncan about his experience during his surgery rotations in school and how his experiences made him a better Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. Duncan explains that his schooling had rotations working in dentistry and general surgery. Duncan’s first rotation was at Hennepin County Hospital and was extremely busy, recalling spending countless hours in the surgery center repairing broken jaws and other traumas as well. Tom asks Duncan how he felt about his rotations, to which Duncan explained that the program was designed to overtrain you with a broad knowledge of general surgery so you would be ready for your specialty.
Dr. Duncan Puffers’ Career:
Tom asks how Duncan’s career started in Dentistry, and Duncan explained that he was approached during his residency and went into private practice with two of his part-time professors in the twin cities for three years. Dr. Puffer learned an enormous amount during that time and then went up to Duluth to join another well-respected surgeon. Tom and Duncan discuss the day-to-day of Dr. Puffer, and Duncan starts by explaining that in his position, “It’s all about caring for patients.” He spends his time performing surgeries, consults, patient follow-ups, and paperwork. Tom proceeds to ask Duncan how technological advances have changed the dental field. Tom also asks how COVID has affected his industry as well. Duncan explains that things continue to change from digital x-rays, monitoring equipment, anesthetics, and more. He even says that since he began, note-taking has even changed. Duncan says that dentists would hand-type notes on a typewriter when he started in the field. Now everything is scanned into a computer and saved digitally. COVID was another major change for the dental game. Tom asks Dr. Puffer what his experience was with COVID professionally, and Dr. Puffer compares his experience to being a canary in the coal mine as they spend time so close to patients in such an intimate setting. Many dental offices were closed at the beginning of COVID, and many methods of care changed when they began to reopen, from virtual consults and patients waiting in their cars instead of lobbies to PPE requirements for dentists.
Passion Outside of Dentistry:
Tom and Duncan switch gears from dentistry to discuss one of his other passions – a love for the outdoors as a bowhunter, something they have in common. Tom and Duncan discuss how Duncan started bowhunting. Duncan explains that he did not grow up in a hunting family and learned about hunting through his childhood friend when they began bowhunting together in 1982. Tom asks Duncan his favorite part of hunting, and he says, “Well, there are many parts, but you might be surprised because killing an animal is the part I like the least. I enjoy eating venison. I enjoy eating elk even better. I enjoy eating pheasants and grouse. If I don’t enjoy eating it, I won’t hunt it.” Tom comments that he is in the same boat, and they chat about their love of the experience of being in the outdoors and the things they get to witness while sitting in a bow stand.
It was such a pleasure to listen to Dr. Duncan Puffer share his experiences and knowledge as a Board-Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and Senior Partner at Northern Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons PA with us along with his passion for the outdoors as a bowhunter. Learning his story of how he came into his career was a fascinating learning experience. Thank you, Duncan, for sharing your story with Duluth Pack.