Dr. Ivan Hucal
Some individuals in my specialty will tell you that they have always dreamed of being an Orthodontist. Not me. In fact if you asked me when I was a kid what an Orthodontist did I could honestly tell you that I didn’t have clue. Having grown up on a farm, I loved the outdoors and had a mechanical sense that drew me to working with my hands gladly leaving books unread and untouched. In high school I decided to enter the trades and enrolled in an Electrician program but quickly understood that reading books was an important aspect of learning beyond my ability to work with my hands. I was very fortunate to have a group of passionate science teachers in my rural community of Dauphin, MB that guided me towards keeping my career options open and suggested that I consider a different educational path beyond high school.
Upon graduating high school, I respected my high school teachers’ advice and made the decision to pursue the medical sciences and enrolled in the Science program at the University of Manitoba. I soon realized that the combination of an academic challenge and working with my hands was a perfect match for being a Dentist. I was accepted to the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba and after 7 years of university education, I graduated in 1993 with a Dental degree. The cost of university was a huge obstacle as my parents had limited incomes so in order to pay for my education I joined the Canadian Armed Forces. I served with the Army and was posted to CFB Esquimalt (Victoria, BC) for my military career. During this period of time I was trained for oversea missions and served two years at sea as a naval Dentist sailing the Pacific Ocean on board a Canadian Forces supply ship. I experienced unbelievable situations on the high seas far beyond what a farm kid from Manitoba could ever have imaged.
When I completed my military obligation I had the option of extending my contract and move up the ranks, leave the Forces to enter a private dental practice in Victoria, or return to university to complete a specialist degree in Orthodontics. All options were great opportunities but I ultimately decided to return to school for another 3 years to become an Orthodontist (Yup that’s 10 years of university education or grade 22 if you’re counting). Although orthodontics is part of a general dental degree and I was able to provide simple orthodontic treatment as a Dentist, the orthodontic education is quite basic and limited when compared to the knowledge and expertise taught in a specialist program. It was a tough slug going back to school after being away for 4 years, not to mention leaving Victoria for Winnipeg, but I knew I needed to go this route to fully learn how to provide the best possible orthodontic treatment for my patients.
When I finished my orthodontic program in 2000, my wife and I decided to move our family to Red Deer as we enjoyed its small town feel, sense of community and its numerous educational and sporting opportunities. Although Red Deer will continue to grow in size and shed its small town image, I will always hold my small town values and will continue to cherish my farming background. I am very fortunate that my Ukrainian immigrant parents came to Canada, taught me a strong work ethic, respect and commitment to others as well as sacrificing all they had to allow me the opportunity to pursue a post-high school education. My path to becoming an Orthodontist was far from a straight road but I have really enjoyed the road travelled and love my profession as well as all the individuals and families that I have met and treated over the years.