By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez

As originally published by Mega Doctor News in its newsprint edition February 2011

They are difficult to find but if you look hard and close you will find them. No, they are not a precious stone like a diamond but they are professionals who do parallel in rarity and value. 

Mega Metropolis Health & Fitness recently had the opportunity to meet with just such a person, Dr. Juan D. Villarreal, a native of Harlingen.  Dr. Villarreal who owns and operates Harlingen Family Dentistry has been practicing since 1983. 

During 28 years, he has served his community in various capacities.  Dr. Villarreal has built a very successful practice based on hard work and high moral principles, unique characteristics that set him apart.

He comes from humble beginnings, his father used to work at the local Hygeia Dairy Company in Harlingen close to where Dr. Villarreal was born. “My father used to make the ice cream at the dairy company, so of course we used to have our refrigerator full of ice cream,” he said. 

By the time he was 13 years of age his father had passed away; this event changed the lives of everyone in his family. “Because of this, we learned how to work even harder,” he stated.  He was a child at the time when the new activity of a newspaper route came into place. It was thru that newspaper route, and mowing and trimming yards that he was able to earn money to help the family.

Dr. Villarreal went through the Catholic School system, then on to Coakley Junior High and Harlingen High School.  

Dr. Villarreal’s decision to go into the field of dentistry came about as a result of a suggestion from Joe, his 21 year old brother who was in the Navy and worked as a dental technician. “My brother talked to me about dentistry and how much he liked it,” he recalls.

At the time Dr. Villarreal was seriously thinking about going into medical school, he had become an x-ray technician, working full time in the medical field and his plan was to become a radiologist. The fact that he is now in the dentistry field is due to his brother’s influence on him. 

Dr. Villarreal graduated from Corpus Christi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Then he attended dental school at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, and received his dental degree in 1983. 

Dr. Villarreal told Mega Metropolis Health & Fitness that many of his patients in the dental clinic had also been his customers during the time he was a newspaper delivery boy.  In addition he said, “One of them is Mr. Campos and he is 95 years of age, I used to deliver the newspaper to his house when I was 13 years old.”

As any good doctor will do, Dr. Villarreal makes the time to talk with his patients and some of their stories bring joy to his heart. One example he shared is that the son of Mr. Roel Campos, a Harvard law school school grad who was appointed to the Securities and Exchange Commission by President Bush, and according to his father is now an advisor to the president of the United States. “I am happy to hear things like that,” he said.

Challenges:

In the beginning, learning how to manage the practice or run the dental practice became a challenge for him. “It was probably one of the hardest things because in dental school you are trained on the technical skills for treating patients and all the different aspects of dentistry, but you never get trained in the area of business or managing a practice,” he said. After 6 years of being in practice he took a management course, and got some insight on how to run a dental practice. “Since then our practice has grown tremendously.”

As in any of the professional fields in medicine, the dentistry field is in constant evolution, the frequent change of technology is one of the big challenges for Dr. Villarreal and his staff. “We have had some major advances and we always have to stay dedicated to learning the latest technology including the digital radiography and the updated procedures in dentistry.” In addition he said that Laser Dentistry is one of the latest procedures coming into the profession.

For this reason he has traveled to other countries to study how they do dentistry from Japan to China and Latin America he says that the US has more advances in dentistry, but he acknowledges that some of these countries are really developing technologies in their area too. “Especially when it comes to equipment and materials, Japan and China are becoming leaders in that area,” he said. 

The professional satisfaction and rewards for Dr. Villarreal are to see beautiful smiles on his patients. Straightened teeth, teeth restored to good health, and patients without teeth that have been restored with proper restoration procedures that bring beautiful smiles that make Dr. Villarreal happy.

For anyone in business or any profession in order to distinguish yourself or a practice it is important to set yourself apart from the rest. What sets Dr. Villarreal’s practice apart from other dental offices is the compassion shown to his patients. “We are very service oriented; we go the extra mile to service our patients and take good care of them and are constantly working on improving.” He went on to say, “We can always improve or do better than yesterday; our goal is to get it better every day.”

Being an innovator is very important for anyone in business and Dr. Villarreal has a good handle on this subject. About 15 years ago he started a dental assistant school located in his dental office building. The school became a necessity in order to fill a need of dental assistants in the area.

“We designed a curriculum assisted by a doctor from Colorado and we set up our program,” he said.  The school has been quite an exciting endeavor now providing custom trained assistants to meet the needs of this community in dentistry.  “We also help them get certified in radiology, infection control and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); these are things that are required in a dental practice as part of the Dental Practice Act.” The Dental Practice Act (DPA) is the popular name for the law governing the practice of dentistry in Texas, found in Subtitle D of the Texas Occupations Code which was enacted by the Texas Legislature.

He also stated that at the end of this month a new class will begin and they are expecting to have about fifteen students. The school has been very successful and will continue to serve the dentistry needs of the area.  The school is unique and offers an 8-week program. “Somebody can still be working and be doing this program at the same time; classes are at night,” he said.

Dr. Villarreal said that his greatest opportunity in life is to serve others. Six years ago he founded Narconon South Texas Drug Addiction and Rehabilitation Program; a Drug-free methodology that treats the whole person. This is an entirely drug-free social education program. 

The Narconon addiction treatment program has been used successfully by hundreds of thousands of people around the world to rid themselves of the need for drugs and to regain control of their lives. According to Dr. Villarreal this program has a 78% success rate which is one of the highest rates of success that he is aware of. He got involved in founding the program when someone close to him graduated from the program but had to do it in Canada because it was less expensive.

He also learned that the need for this type of program is a great need in the Rio Grande Valley; now after six years in operation he has seen many that have graduated successfully.  “When I heard the testimony from the first graduate from the program that he was completely off of drugs, getting back to his family and repairing the damage that he did to his family, it is well worth it,” Dr. Villarreal stated.  

Since 1989, he has also supported The Way to Happiness, which is a moral code program that instills values in students throughout the Rio Grande Valley. 

His plans for the immediate and long range future are to continue expanding Harlingen Family Dentistry possibly opening new offices in other cities, and also to help the community in any way he can. “I would like to offer management programs for health professionals or businesses that can help them run their businesses more efficiently.” He feels this is critical considering how the present economy is affecting everyone across the United States. “I think it’s important for more of us to learn how to improve and help make our businesses flourish and prosper,” he said. 

Dr. Villarreal is married to Elena Villarreal and they have six children: Mark 27, Amy 25, and Johnny 23, Julian 11, Max 10, and Jon David 7. “My older children didn’t follow in my footsteps but I hope one of my younger children will take up the profession although they all have diverse interests right now, so we’ll see what happens.”

Being an avid hunter and fisherman, Dr. Villarreal helps balance the hard work at the office; he also plays a little bit of golf and enjoys exercising and playing racquetball. “My other hobbies consist of carpentry, welding, photography and boating.”

When asked how he would like to be remembered he said; “As someone that cared and had a strong conviction to make a difference.” That is why Dr. Juan D. Villarreal is our Mega Doctor for this month. 

You may contact Dr. Villarreal at Harlingen Family Dentistry located at 1214 Dixieland Rd. #4, in Harlingen, Texas, 956.428.5322.  MMHF

Service to his community:

  • Served on the Harlingen School Board from 1992 to 1998. 
  • Served on the Harlingen Economic Development from 1998-2004.
  • Served on the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners from 2000-2008
  • Served on the Board of the Hispanic Dental Association  1990-2002
  • President of the Hispanic Dental Association from 2001-2002
  • Provides scholarships for the Hispanic Dental Association for the past 12 years. 
  • Provides scholarships for the Harlingen High School South and Harlingen High School.
  • Provides scholarships to senior students going into the health profession; programs based on setting a good example with JROTC students in Harlingen High and San Benito High School.
  • Founder of Narconon South Texas which is a drug rehab center that helps get people off of drugs and offers drug education in the schools throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
  • Provides educational programs for the Darrell Hester Juvenile Justice Center
  • Sponsor of the Harlingen Community Outreach Center, The Bridge
  • Supporter since 1989 of The Way to Happiness a moral code program that instills values in students throughout the valley. 
  • Supporter of different groups and organizations in communities throughout the country with programs like drug rehab and moral codes; and encouraging students to read books.