Copeland was born and raised in the small town of Florence, Mississippi, located just south of the state capital of Jackson. As small-town America as they come, with a population that only clocked over 2,000 residents after the year 2000, Florence shaped Copeland throughout her youth as she came up through the tight-knit community’s schools.
“My first-grade teacher kept in touch all through the years,” she says with small amazement. “I remember that I was sensitive as a child, so she tried to toughen me up. My grandmother would still call her after I graduated!”
Copeland’s first job at age 14 as a technician at the local pharmacy helped shape her vision not only for her career, but the manner she would approach it. “I loved that job and I wanted to help people,” she recalls. “I went to pharmacy school but I soon realized that the tech interacted more with the patient, so then I was deciding between medical or dental schools.”
Sticking close to her roots, Copeland attended college at the University of Mississippi, the state’s beloved ‘Ole Miss’. Her mentor was the chancellor of the medical school, who ultimately recommended the path he saw as the best fit for Copeland.
“He suggested dentistry and I loved it,” she says. “You get to help people and it’s like doing minor surgery every day.” Copeland transferred to the satellite dental school, University Medical Center in Jackson, earning her DMD in 2000. Feeling the inexorable pull of home following her residency, Copeland returned to Florence and opened her own practice.
“I try to add humor to my work, as I came to realize there’s a legitimate fear in many patients of dentistry, especially in the ages of 40 to 60,” she says. “I’ve found that laughing and joking does help relieve them. I also explain and show exactly what I’m doing. When they understand what we’re doing, there’s less fear.”
After successfully operating her own practice for six years, Copeland moved into practicing pediatric dentistry for a further five years at the Department of Health Fort Walton Beach, in Crestview, Florida. At the end of this period, a confluence of personal challenges and a desire for change led Copeland to a crossroads in life, seeking what to do next.
“I heard about this great practice of 30 years and that the town was rated the number one place to raise a family and it just seemed too good to be true,” she exclaims. Taking into account her young son, Hart, Copeland made an introductory trip, which ultimately clinched her decision to relocate. Since arriving to Blacksburg Smiles this past July, Copeland has settled in to her new surroundings exceedingly well. “The town is wonderful and very personable, while the culture here is very diverse and intellectual due to the university,” she says. “It’s a small town, but with a lot of big town amenities because of the school culture.”
Professionally, Copeland is committed to helping Dr. Tomoda maintain the existing standards of the practice. “Every day I meet patients who have been coming to this practice for 30 years, who tell me they’ve been coming here since they were children,” she says with small amazement. “You can tell the patients really admire those doctors and you can tell why when you examine their mouths; the doctors took their time and everything is done nicely.”
Having found a new home in Blacksburg, Copeland hopes to use her irrepressible humor and energy to soothe patients for many years to come. “I love to laugh and have a good time and try to find the humor in everything, even in dentistry,” she says.
Getting in one last parting joke, as a big sister to a beloved younger brother, “I tell them, ‘I hope you have a sense of humor. If not, go to Dr. Tomoda!’”