BALTIMORE — Sitting in his Park Heights Avenue office on a rainy afternoon recently, longtime Baltimore dentist Dr. Ernest James Colvin reflected on his storied career. Dr. Colvin who is 80-years-old, is a native of Rock Hill, South Carolina and the son of a cotton farmer.
“Dentistry suited my personality,” said Dr. Colvin. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I was in charge. I loved seeing patients. I always said, ‘Don’t ask me about the amount of money I made. Ask me about the amount of patients I saw and the service I provided to my patients.’”
Dr. Ernest J. Colvin practiced dentistry for nearly 50 years before his recent retirement. The prominent dentist first opened the doors of his practice located at 4413 Park Heights Avenue in 1968. At the time, he was one of a small group of African American dentists serving the city and the African-American community.
“It was a time that was full of promise,” said Dr. Colvin. “I was a young doctor, excited about providing quality dentistry to the Park Heights area.”
The Park Heights location of Ernest J. Colvin & Associates is one of two offices. He also operated an office located in the 5800 block of York Road.
“I decided to go into dentistry after a buddy of mines called and asked me to come here,” recalled Dr. Colvin. “I applied to dental school and was accepted within two weeks. It was a lot of hard work, and it wasn’t easy. I stayed up all night studying. But as I went further along in school, I wanted to learn more.”
Dr. Colvin began his education in the rural schools of York County, South Carolina. He later moved to Baltimore to attend Morgan State where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. He then enrolled in Howard University’s School of Dentistry, where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1968.
Although he is retired, Dr. Colvin still visits his offices daily. Those who know him best shared stories of his service to the economically-disadvantaged, how he worked speedily, yet precisely, and how he never wavered from his refusal to put gold on the teeth of his patients.
“I wouldn’t do it,” said Dr. Colvin. “You could polish it up and make it look good. But I knew that putting gold on top of teeth would cause decay.”
Dr. Colvin’s office manager Barbara Dunston still works at the practice. Dunston worked for Dr. Colvin for 20 years.
“I miss him,” said Dunston. “I miss his quickness. He worked fast, provided excellent service, and is a wonderful person. His patients kept coming back because they were happy with his work. The quality of dentistry he provided in the community was legendary.”
“My brother opened this practice on Park Heights Avenue straight from dental school and this office has been here ever since,” said Jackson. “He often provided service to people who didn’t have the money and is loved by the community. The children of the patients he treated still come here. Many people who don’t know he has retired still come here looking for him. He treated generations of patients,” said Ola C. Jackson, who is Dr. Colvin’s sister. She assists in managing the day-to-day operations of his practice.
Dr. Colvin is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, and is very active in the fraternity. He owns and races several thoroughbreds that he exercises at his stables, “Circle C” in Howard County, Maryland. He is a former member of the Maryland State Racing Commission, and was appointed Chairman of the Commission by the late Maryland Governor William Donald Shaffer, and served two terms.
“The field of dentistry I came into back then has been completely transformed by technology and new schools of thought and practice,” said Dr. Colvin. “It is still an exciting time to practice dentistry, and to open a dental office that serves your community.”