Southern Wesleyan alumni build dental practice in Upstate

February 11, 2009

COLUMBIA, SC – February 11, 2009 – Two Southern Wesleyan University graduates are polishing up a promising dental practice in a growing part of the Upstate.

Dentists Michael Davis and John Atcheson are all smiles about working together at Keowee Family Dentistry in Seneca.

It all began after Davis received his doctor of dental medicine degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2000 and bought an existing practice in Seneca. As Davis worked to build his new practice, he wanted to add another dentist. In a conversation with one of his former professors, Davis found out about Atcheson, who was close to earning his doctor of dental medicine degree.

Atcheson recalls that the professor mentioned Davis’ name and suggested he call him. Seeing an opportunity to practice dentistry close to home, Atcheson said that he “jumped in with both feet.”

Davis said, “It’s probably been as good as it possibly could be as far as two people being able to work together and actually having the same types of views and same treatment ideas.”

Davis and his wife Christina live in the Clemson area with their 2-year-old son Greyson. Atcheson lives at Six Mile with his wife Renee, who is enrolled in Southern Wesleyan’s masters of education degree program.

Coming to SWU from different directions

Davis, who grew up on a small farm in southern Greenville County, was interested in a career in the sciences. He also enjoyed playing baseball and wanted to play on the college level. A friend and former Woodmont High School teammate invited him to SWU for a visit.

“I wanted to go somewhere to play ball and thought that in a larger school I wouldn’t be able to do that,” Davis said. He was signed to play as second baseman for the Warriors. While Davis was at SWU, Dr. Walt Sinnamon, his advisor at the time, talked to him about the possibility of medical school, but the idea of four additional years of college didn’t appeal to him. He had considered environmental engineering, but was basically undecided.

After graduating from SWU, Davis joined a Greenville manufacturing company where he previously worked during his breaks from college. Sensing little opportunity for advancement and losing interest, Davis considered career alternatives.

“After getting out and working for a year or so, I thought it would be worth it to go ahead and go a little further,” Davis said. A friend of his who is a dental hygienist urged him to look into dentistry. The idea began to appeal to Davis.

 “I enjoy using my hands and meeting people,” said Davis, adding that he went to a few offices and visited several other dentists. 

The year he entered dental school, Davis said that he was among about 55 out of more than 700 applicants from all over the country. He said he feels blessed to have been accepted on the first try, adding that he was well prepared for the challenges of successfully completing his required coursework.

“I think just having small class sizes at Southern Wesleyan University you get so much more one-on-one instruction than at a larger school with big lecture halls. That’s one reason I was so much better prepared — because of having smaller class sizes. You could move at a much faster pace, but also you don’t get left behind,” Davis said.

Davis is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, the South Carolina Dental Association and has served as president of the Tri County Dental Society. He is currently working to obtain a Mastership with the Academy of General Dentistry.

For Atcheson, deciding to enter Southern Wesleyan was a “foregone conclusion.” Atcheson’s father, Marty Atcheson, graduated from SWU and is currently the university’s senior vice president for finance. Growing up in Central, John Atcheson would ride his bicycle through the Southern Wesleyan campus, near his home. Even as a youngster, he wanted to attend SWU.

“I felt like I was one of the most prepared people,” Atcheson said, adding that close interaction with his professors and small class sizes built his confidence. Atcheson noted that from the first day of dental school, he would confidently approach his professors with questions, but noticed that his other classmates were hesitant to approach professors directly.

Atcheson considers entering dentistry a natural progression, given his love of working with his hands combined with a love for science. He enjoys the challenge of saving a decayed tooth or interpreting a dental x-ray. Atcheson’s hobby is woodworking and he especially enjoys carving duck decoys. His uncle is also a dentist and his younger brother, Joseph, is studying dentistry, as well.

Atcheson is a member of the Academy of General Dentistry, the South Carolina Dental Association and the Tri County Dental Society.

At a time when a lot of dental school graduates move into a specialty, Atcheson is satisfied to treat patients with a variety of needs.

“We see people from age 2 to 96 – root canals, extractions – it gives me a lot of variety,” Atcheson said.

Davis adds that since he started pursuing a career as a dentist, he has never looked back.

“The way we were brought up, we believe things happen for a reason,” said Atcheson.