By Martie Thompson
Mandarin’s own Dr. MacKenzie Farnham was certain he would never be a dentist when he was young … yet here he is, a fixture in the Mandarin community while carrying on the dental practice first founded by his parents 40 years ago. Known to all as “Dr. MacK,” he was born and raised in Mandarin and still lives off Mandarin Road, about a mile away from his dental office and the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society, where he serves as a volunteer and is in training to become a docent. He graduated from The Bolles School and the University of Florida as well as dental school at the University of Maryland. “I had to humbly return to all those people in the community and say I’m going to be a dentist after all,” he said.
Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I was certain that the last job you could convince me to do was be a dentist, since both of my parents were dentists. After school as a young boy, I would hang out at the practice and sometimes got in trouble for being too loud. I clearly recall a conversation with my dad about what I wanted to be when I grew up and he told me that you want to do something that you like — and in a perfect world, you would also do something to help others, because that gives your life value.
Q: How did you end up in dentistry after all?
A: I started at the University of Florida as a business major and after the first couple of years realized that I missed my science classes. So I switched my major to biology and then tried to decide between medicine and dentistry. I knew I wanted to own my own business, and that’s what made the decision for dentistry. I thought I’d be an oral surgeon, but my parents were ready to retire when I graduated from dental school. So I had another decision to make … I could buy their practice or continue with five more years of school to become an oral surgeon. I wanted to help the people in this community, so I chose to buy the practice and in so doing I was able to help provide for my parents’ retirement and keep the Farnham name on the practice. My dad retired immediately and my mom continues to work a half a day per week.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being a dentist?
A: I love everything about it. I love to help others. It is such a blessing to be an individual in the community where people can go for help. Hands down, I enjoy socializing with our patients. I believe this makes for a good dental and medical professional; it’s important to listen to the patient. I’ve met so many cool people in our community, many of whom have retired from very interesting jobs.
Q: What are you involved with in the way of community service?
A: I’m blessed that I have a skill I can donate to the less fortunate. I volunteer at the Healing Hands Dental Clinic and at Give Back a Smile, which is for victims of domestic violence who have suffered dental injuries. I also operate a non-profit called Leland Dental Charities, which provides dental work in El Salvador. Pre-COVID, we would take a team of dentist volunteers there each summer to work in our mobile dental clinic. We plan to get back there this summer.
I’m also active with the Rotary Club of Mandarin and I just started volunteering at the Mandarin Museum where I spend most of my time in the barn and the winery. I think it’s important to get young people involved in the community.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I’m a product of where I was born. I love the water and spend most of my spare time on the St. Johns River, either fishing, paddle boarding, or boating. I also love to surf at Jax Beach. I have three black labs who come with me everywhere, including the dental office.
Photo courtesy MacKenzie Farnham
Dr. MacKenzie Farnham