For local dentist John Harker, the Hope community has been the home of his career that has spanned more than 40 years.
A couple of years after graduating from Indiana University with his doctorate in 1971, Harker and his wife, Barbara, returned to Hope to establish Harker Family Dentistry, that would serve several generations. Harker recently talked about his practice, what brought him to dentistry, as well as the challenges he's faced, what he enjoys most, and the rapport he has built with Hope's residents.
How long have you been in practice in Hope?
I've been in practice here in Hope since 1973.
What prompted you to go into dentistry?
I really started Purdue in engineering and for some reason I decided I wanted to work with my hands a little bit more rather than sitting behind a desk. And so I'd had some experiences with dentists in the past and decided that's where I wanted to go.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
Working with your hands is the big part. But what I've come to enjoy most is actually the people I meet and get an opportunity to talk to. I've been here long enough I'm probably into my fourth generation in some families and it's just amazing to watch families grow and develop and watch the kids grow and go to college and just see what happens to them.
You seem to have a significant rapport with the Hope community, would you say your practice is foundational to the area?
Yeah, I've been here long enough and actually my parents were born and raised in Hope. I was actually raised in Shelby County just across the county line so north of Hope about seven miles. We've always had a family base here in Hope.
What do you think makes Hope such a tight-knit town?
It's just a small community. We have a school and as long as you have a school you can have a community because you have camaraderie - something common for the people to relate to. That is why it is so important that hope maintains a school here. It's just a typical small town community. People know one another and wave at you as you go by, you just can't get that in a big city.
What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced during your career?
Dealing with insurance and government regulations. It changes every day and prevents practitioners from actually dealing with the patients. They need to get back to the point where we can deal with the patients and do what they need to have done rather than what the insurance says that they can.
What do you do in your spare time?
I sit on a couple of local boards, but most of the time I take care of our animals and farm - we have about 150 cows and about 500 acres.
What is the greatest lesson that your career has taught you?
I think probably enjoying and learning about people. That is the biggest thing I've gotten out of the practice. We should spend our time helping and learning about people and our neighbors.