Dentist's plan lacks teeth

After staring at the teeth of 20,000 children for nearly three decades, Dr. Keith Serxner is hanging up his white coat.

Serxner, 57, who started his practice in La Cañada in 1985, said that he and his wife, pediatrician Laura Mabie, both have elderly parents whom they want to help care for, but that retirement is also a chance for the two to bike, hike and travel.

“You get to be close to your 60s, and you see that friends of yours don’t get to do what they’ve planned because life is not always predictable,” he said. “I want a good 20 years in my life to travel, and be with her.”

Mabie retired from her practice at the Descanso Medical Group three years ago.

Serxner, who climbed Mt. Whitney three weeks ago for his 57th birthday, said he wants to get as much climbing time in as possible.

“A big part of it is because I’ve got a whole bunch of mountains I want to climb,” he said.

Serxner said he has seen lots of La Cañada Flintridge kids grow up, which is how his office wall came to be covered in college pennants. He will scale back his hours to Tuesdays only for the rest of the year before turning over the practice to the husband-and-wife duo of Pedro Romero and Marcela Lezama.

Romero, from Colombia, and Lezama, from Honduras, met in Loma Linda while they were preparing for their California Dental Board tests.

Romero, like Serxner, completed a post-doctoral residency in pediatric dentistry. He also helped develop dental care and education for small communities in the Amazon jungle in 1994.

Serxner said Romero’s work in the Amazon helped them form a bond, as Serxner first became interested in pediatric dentistry while working in Cambodian refugee camps after dental school.

Romero said that he and Lezama will try to keep as much of the practice’s staff in place as possible, but that some changes are on the horizon.

“All the hospitals are evolving [toward] the next step of being paperless and using more computers, so probably we’re going to have to do that change in the near future,” Romero said.

Lezama, a general dentist, said many of Serxner’s former pediatric patients who are coming back from college still need treatment.

“The kids have grown up, and they’ve stayed, so that’s where I come in,” she said.

Romero said the couple had looked for a dental office to start a permanent practice for about five years and finally felt like they found a match.

“It’s not easy when you’re looking for an office, because they’re showing nice computers or nice chairs, but in reality the most important thing is the patients,” he said.

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