When Brandy Howard was a girl living in Breckenridge, her visits to the dentist interested her and prompted her to ask questions.

That wasn’t what got her interested in being a dentist, though.

When she was 11, her dad underwent a single lung transplant, and the medical care he received so impressed her that she started thinking about going into medicine herself.

Dentistry still wasn’t on her radar screen.

At age 14, she was shadowing her dad as he worked on cars. She got pretty good at auto mechanics; her dad told her she had the dexterity to become a dentist. When he was a kid, he told her, his dentist had “big ol’ fingers and it was kind of uncomfortable.”

Howard didn’t need much more urging. After dental school and three years in the Air Force, she entered private practice. Howard, now 34, joined Dr. Wesley Hutchins’ practice in Brownwood in July and is Brownwood’s only female dentist.

Howard moved here with her family from Coppell. Her husband, Chuck, was one of the coaches who left Coppell with Brownwood Lions Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Bob Shipley. Chuck Howard is the Lions’ defensive coordinator.

“I love it. I love it,” Howard said of her work. She said her parents told her to avoid choosing a job just to work at.

“I can’t believe I get to do this. It’s a privilege,” Howard said. “You get to see people every day. You have the science aspect, which I love. … I get to work with my hands.”

There is also the artistic part of the job — “putting things back together” and giving someone their smile back, Howard said.

The problem-solving and diagnostic parts of dentistry, she said, have some similarity to working on cars. “It’s just more precious because it’s people,” Howard said.

Dental assistant Anita Canon said having a female dentist in the office is “different, but a great ‘different.’

“She is a great asset to this office,” Canon said.

Howard explained why she was

attracted to the medical field when her dad had the lung transplant. “It just made you think about all the teams of people who come together … the common goal is to improve the health of somebody they don’t even know,” Howard said.

“It was very touching to see the compassion of the medical field.”

Howard graduated from Breckenridge High School in 1993 and attended the University of North Texas as a track athlete, earning a degree in exercise physiology. She got the prerequisites for dental school at UNT, and got married her senior year.

Dental school didn’t come for another for years.

She spent those four years teaching high school, middle school and in a Montessori school.

Howard started dental school in 2001, and went on inactive ready reserves status with the Air Force while still a dental student. After dental school, she attended Commissioned Officer Training School and became an Air Force dentist for three years, reaching the rank of captain.

Living in Coppell as a civilian, Howard worked in a dental office and with a mobile program that took dental care to at-risk children.

In moving to Brownwood, Howard said, she and her husband are “trying to find a place to call home” for their two children — Conner, 11, and Cidnee, 8.

She said she doesn’t see anything unusual in being the only female dentist in town. “There are female physicians here already,” she said.

Howard said she heard author, teacher and pastor Max Lucado say “do the most that you do the best.”

“What are we here for if not to enjoy being around people?” Howard said. “We’re all here to find out what God has bent us toward when he made us.”