Giving a simple gift to those in need
Words by Lindsay Brewer|Image by Blakeney Clouse
“Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing right.”
The words of Ansley Parnell Allen’s grandfather, Frank Rutledge, echo from her past to impact her present. “That’s kind of what I’ve always lived by,” Ansley shares with a smile. Clearly, she still loves the man who taught her many valuable life lessons. Death cannot steal her memories or the knowledge he passed on.
“If I had to say there was one person who was influential in me going to dental school, it would be my grandfather. He was my best friend,” smiles Ansley. “He always taught me the value of hard work. You have to work up to your goals. If you put in the time and the effort, it will pay off in the end.” All are values Ansley’s granddaddy instilled in her and words that guided her as she decided to pursue a biology degree at The University of Alabama before spending four years in dental school.
With their families and her husband’s job rooted in Jasper, Ansley and Hunter moved back upon her graduation. She had taken a big leap of faith to move so far from home for school, and now she returned with the intent to serve the community where she grew up. She credits God with guiding her to her current places of employment, Bivona Family Dentistry.
“I spent a lot of time praying about where God wanted me to start practice and that lead me to Dr. Bivona’s office, and I have the same feeling as I did before dental school, it’s right where God wants me to be,” Ansley says. Currently, Ansley works at Bivona Family Dentistry four days a week offering comprehensive dental care. One day a week she works with pediatric patients at Dr. Jill Gamotis’office.
Her childhood dream of becoming a dentist blossomed into her chosen career after a week-long dental mission trip to Panama in 2011. A yellow building with a bright blue roof and only two openings for air and entrance served as the site of a makeshift dental clinic. Leaning white plastic lawn chairs onto their knees, scrub-clad team members gladly offered dental care for the Panamanians.
“The people were so receptive to everything we were doing for them,” Ansley recalls. “We handed out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. It was like Christmas morning for kids. You hand them a toothbrush, and the smile on their faces was big enough to brighten anyone’s day.”
For Ansley, witnessing how people’s lives were changed during her week in Panama provided realization that she wanted to help people every day the way her team had helped the Panamanians. As an undergrad student, Ansley was able to assist the dentists, aid in the cumbersome cold sterilization process in the absence of sterilization equipment, and apply fluoride. Upon returning to the U.S., Ansley’s 80-pound luggage weighed only 8 pounds because she left everything with the Panamanian people –her clothes, snacks, and all of the supplies she had taken. “I just fell in love with the people down there,” Ansley smiles.
Fueled by her passion for helping others, Ansley went to LECOM School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, Florida. The four-year program took the Jasper native and her husband out of Alabama and into the Florida panhandle. “Dental school prepares you with the basics of dentistry,” Ansley attests. “The real world teaches you how to practice dentistry. I’ve been very fortunate that Dr. Bivona has coached and taught me so much in the short time I have been in his practice.”
While she has found the real world challenging, Ansley considers it a fun challenge. “There’s an artistic, creative aspect to dentistry. Everyone wants a pretty smile.”
As she learned the basics of dental health care, Ansley and Hunter often found their way to the water where they would enjoy the beach or go fishing. “We have a boat and love to be out on the water fishing,” Ansley says. Quickly pulling up her photos app, Ansley shows a picture of her husband holding a redfish under the moon’s reflection. Though temperatures dropped and cast a chill over that experience, Ansley fondly recalls their evenings redfishing followed the next day with a blackened redfish dinner.
Football has been another interest for Ansley from an early age. Her dad took her to her first Alabama game when she was only 2 years old. She and Hunter also have three dogs, so they spend a lot of time outdoors playing with their Goldens, Belle and Beau, and their Miniature Australian Shepherd, Rocky. As she mentions Rocky, Ansley’s voice softens and moisture pricks her eyes. Rocky was her granddaddy’s dog. Now she cares for Rocky in her grandfather’s stead, just as she cares for her patients. 78