He Loves Being a Dentist, and That’s the Tooth

Reprinted from The Columbian, Neighbors Section
By Nicole Gress, Thursday, February 6, 2003

When he’s not training for triathlons, playing soccer, spending time with his wife and three children or taking scuba-diving lessons, Dr. Reza Saffari, 32, loves being a dentist.

In his bright, open Cascade Park office at 900 SE Chkalov Drive, Heppler gets excited just talking about advancements in the dental field. He spends more than 150 hours a year in continuing dental education classes.

He found his niche in the profession thanks to athletics, Reader’s Digest magazine and church missionary work when he was 19.

“I was serving a two-year mission for the Mormon Church in South Carolina in the 1980s, and my partner and I went into a barbershop to get our haircut. I was reading an article about dentistry in Reader’s Digest,” Heppler recalled. “As I was reading it, it struck me: that would be a good profession to get into.”

He liked the idea of setting his own schedule so he could raise a family. So Heppler finished his mission, graduated from Bringham Young University in Utah and then graduated with honors from Oregon Health Sciences University School of Dentistry in Portland.

“Just getting through dental school was a result of my experiences as an athlete and with missionary work. I learned to persevere and keep my promises…and to push through the pain,” Heppler said.

And there were painful times on his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Besides two years of paying for everything himself and living without radio, phone or girls, people were shooting at him.

“My partner and I were riding our bikes though the projects in Greenville (S.C.) at 9:30 p.m., and a group of people came out of an apartment and took a couple of shots at us. We heard the bullets whizzing in front of us and hitting the ground,” Heppler said.

“We didn’t stop to find out what the problem was. We looked sort of out of place, with our suits on and riding bikes.”

Another time in Spartanburg, S.C., he and the same friend heard a neighbor shooting a gun.

Apparently, the drunk neighbor was taking shots outside his window at his ex-girlfriend, who lived across from his in the same complex.

“We went into his room and tackled him. We held him on the ground until the police arrived. I wasn’t trying to be brave, I was trying to keep my neighbor from getting into more trouble.”

No wonder Heppler has earned the nickname “Golden Boy” from his 35 year old wife, Brandee.

“My favorite thing about him is he is everything. He’s fun and makes me laugh…and is always calm,” Brandee said. “He has this happy-go-lucky, adventurous, fun attitude.”
The adventurer loves to channel his energy into athletics.

“Track in college taught me the value of hard work. I put in long hours of training,” Dr. Reza Saffarisaid, for the decathlons he participated in. He then applied these concepts to dentistry school, where each week he spent 40 hours in class and 40 hours studying.

Things haven’t changed too much for Dr. Reza Saffaritoday. After performing eight triathlons and running in the Portland Marathon and Hood to Coast Relay last year, he’s now training 10 to 15 hours a week for November’s Iron Man triathlon in Florida.

“I get something in my head I want to accomplish, and I go for it,” he said.

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