Taking Care of Teeth: Hillside Dental
Downtown Eau Claire staple welcomes a fresh face to its time-tested roster of compassionate dental professionals
For the last 51 years, Hillside Dental has been a downtown Eau Claire staple, nestled on the banks of the Gray Street hill. There’s a well-established tradition at the practice of giving patients the best possible dental care they can provide – and the team at Hillside have a combined 300 years of experience brightening smiles in the Valley. That should tell you something.
“I’ve met patients that have been with us the whole time
– all 51 years.”
Dr. Stephen Welna – the freshest face at Hillside, having started there just this past June – can already see the tradition, longevity, and stability at work, even in this tough year of 2020.
“I’ve met patients that have been with us the whole time – all 51 years,” Dr. Welna said. “Some families are on their third or fourth generation.”
That should tell you something too. As Dr. Welna is quickly learning, Hillside is trusted by so many families in town because of their full-hearted approach to patient care – making sure that from the second they walk in the door to the moment they walk out, patients simply feel good and taken care of. That’s Hillside’s number one priority.
And for Dr. Welna, stepping in at this moment with all the history behind the place, he said he feels lucky to not only be a part of such a legacy and a great team of people, but to be here in Eau Claire with his wife and three kids (with a fourth on the way!).
Dr. Welna always knew he wanted to be a dentist. A Rochester native and graduate of UW-Stout and North Carolina State University, he returned to Rochester after school to work as a lab technician for Mayo Clinic. What he intended as a stopgap on his way to dental practice turned into an eight-year stint at the hospital system, where he learned the ins and outs of the medical field.
A turning point came as Dr. Welna started doing volunteer dental work at a Salvation Army free clinic in Rochester. Helping people directly – it turns out – was too good a feeling to turn away from.
“That really fired me up,” he said. “That’s when I knew this is what I want to do.”
So, after graduating from the University of Minnesota Dental School (with a bunch of awards, honors, and academic distinction to boot), Dr. Welna and his family find themselves here in Eau Claire doing their best to get acquainted with the city during a challenging year.
A bit of an outdoorsman, Dr. Welna has been taking in all the natural beauty of the Chippewa Valley – the parks, trails, and waterways – and little by little, showing his kids all the cool stuff about their new home.
But home for Dr. Welna is more than just city and family – he’s finding the camaraderie of the team at Hillside Dental is like family in and of itself. The three other dentists he works alongside – Dr. William Hutchinson, Dr. Lonnette Breneman, and Dr. Chris Johnson – all have been at Hillside for over 20 years each. Being around that time-tested expertise would be beneficial to anyone, but Dr. Welna says he never takes for granted a chance to learn something new, take advice, or even just find new things to do around town.
“I’m learning a lot,” he said. “It’s been a lot, adapting to a new job during COVID, but we’re all settled into the groove of it all. We’re really happy.”
Hillside Dental has weathered lots of storms over the last half-a-century with utmost care, compassion, and flexibility for their patients. If you need quality dental work done by some of the most experienced and kind folks in town – Hillside is where you need to go.
It really is as simple as that.