Best In The Citi | Innovator: Dr. Charles Alston

Dr. Charles Alston, Best In The Citi Innovator for 2022
Charles Alston III followed in his mother’s footsteps to be a dentist – and if he has his way, all three of his children will be dentists too. 

“She tried to push me to become a physician but I liked her hours. She was able to be home on the weekends. She had her own office,” he says of his mother, whom he started assisting in high school. 

But as much as he loves dentistry, it’s actually farming that excites Alston. 

One of the first things he did when he got settled in Austin was buy 10 acres in Elgin on which he is starting to build a small farm – a few cows, dogs, chickens. He wanted enough space to not have to worry about neighbors complaining about dogs barking too loud in the subdivision, or apartment neighbors complaining about the bass on the speakers being too loud. 

He primarily enjoys the “mindless” nature of farming and enjoys being able to teach his children – 8, 6, and 5 – important life values through time spent with the animals. 

For instance, “taking care of the things you own and why you need to do it,” he says.

Alston grew up in Pine Forge, Pennsylvania, a small, unincorporated town about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia with a heavy Seventh Day Adventist influence. His parents had moved the family back to his mom’s hometown from Lawton, Oklahoma, where he was born, to be closer to his grandparents and extended family. 

His maternal grandfather was a hay and dairy farmer who owned 500 acres of land, and Alston says he was “totally inspired by him.” 

“I was one of the younger grandchildren, but one of the things I remember specifically was being 10-12 years old being out there with him all day bailing hay,” he remembers fondly. All of his extended family visited from down South every summer to help work the farm with the family’s patriarch, whom Alston calls “the foundation for our family.”  

Alston’s family was full of mentors and role models. His mother inspired him to want to own his own dental office. His grandfather inspired him to want to own a farm. His father, a drill sergeant, helped shape his work ethic. He left Pine Forge to attend Oakwood University, a seventh-day Adventist HBCU in Huntsville, Alabama, and the only historically Black Seventh-day Adventist institution in the country. 

From there, he was set to follow in his mother’s footsteps and go to Meharry Medical School, another historically Black institution in Nashville. But Dr. Wisdom Coleman, associate dean of Admissions at the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, was recruiting heavily at HBCUs trying to increase the number of Black students in the program. And he came calling with scholarship dollars. 

It was at the University of Tennessee where Alston met Dr. Laressa Woods, who is now his partner at their Pflugerville practice, Grand Family Dental. After graduating from dental school, he went back home to Pennsylvania to work in his mom’s dental office. But he and now-Dr. Woods would cross paths again a few years later when Alston moved to Arkansas to work for a system of clinics in De Queen, Arkansas, a rural town with a population of fewer than 7,000 people.

But the desire to own his own practice still lingered in Alston’s mind, and soon, the opportunity to do just that arose – in Pflugerville.

Alston likes Pflugerville. It reminds him a bit of being at home in Pine Forge, where he could be in the country or the city with just a 30-minute drive. It’s close enough to Austin, and also close enough to his farm escape.

I did my best to provide for them a better future, a better life, easier life

Working with the animals on his land is a stress-reliever for Alston – and a way to impart the work ethic he learned from his parents and grandfather into his children.

He hopes his children look up and say “I did my best to provide for them a better future, a better life, easier life,” he says. He hopes that he can provide one thing in particular that his parents weren’t able to provide for him: the opportunity to graduate from college debt-free. 

In the meantime, he has them follow him around on the farm doing age-appropriate chores and learning how to not just care for things but solve problems – like building a water system to water the cows. 

He also wants to breed Belgian Malinois, and maybe add a horse or two to the land. But mostly, he just wants to provide fair, compassionate care to those he encounters.

Dr. Alston’s practice is located in Pflugerville at 1620 Grand Ave Pkwy, Suite 130, and appointments can be booked online or by calling the office at 512-240-6512.

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