Issue 4 » Dr. Sepi Fatahi: Valencia Dentist Lives a Childhood Dream

By Stephen K. Peeples

As a precocious Santa Clarita Valley third-grader in the late 1980s, Sepi Fatahi became fascinated with dentistry after a female dentist visited her school on a Career Day.

The eight-year-old decided that day she wanted to be a dentist and own a dental office when she grew up, so she could help people in her new hometown of Valencia keep their teeth clean and healthy.

Fast-forwarding to August 2017, Dr. Sepi Fatahi, D.M.D finally achieved her dream – to become a general dentist and own and operate a multi-specialty practice in her hometown.

Baywood Dental Team, from left: Candice Linkmeyer, Assistant; Tony Garcia,
Insurance Specialist; Bahar Salemy Kochesfehani, Dental Assistant; Mayra Castillo, Treatment Coordinator;
Patricia Orozco, Front Office Supervisor; Dr. Sepi Fatahi; Nicole Salcido, Dental Assistant;
Dr. Izzy Korobkin; Angela Mayelian, Office Manager; Hasmik Harutyunyan, Hygienist; Sherri Sherman,
Dental Assistant; Rosa Mercado, Treatment Coordinator; and Summer Lopez, Dental Assistant.

By then a graduate of Valencia High School, UCLA, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dentistry, and a practicing dentist for six years, Dr. Fatahi acquired Baywood Dental Group. Situated at the corner of Baywood Lane and McBean Parkway in Valencia, Baywood was established in 2004.

She quickly assembled her own dental dream team of top generalists, specialists and support staff, many of whom she had worked with at another local practice. She also upgraded the office’s equipment and technology to state-of-the-art.

“I understood how to manage an office with multiple doctors,” Dr. Fatahi said. “I just changed the doctors and staff to bring in the best people I have worked with over the years. I wanted only the best for our patients, and I feel that’s exactly what we have now at Baywood Dental Group.”

Augmenting her own expertise in oral surgery as well as general and cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Fatahi works closely with associate Izzy Korobkin, D.M.D, a graduate of BYU.

“A guest female dentist came to speak at school. During recess, while the other kids played, I stood there thinking about it. From that point, I knew I was meant to be and wanted to be a dentist.”

As detailed on the Baywood Dental Group’s website, the practice provides patients of all ages with virtually everything dental, from basic care like exams, x-rays using a digital panorex machine, 3D x-rays (precise cone beam CT scans limited to a 6” x 8” field and the mandible, not the chest or whole body), teeth cleaning, gum treatment and teeth whitening to specialized care including oral surgery, root canals, implants and reconstruction.

“We believe in being a one-stop practice where our patients can have all their dental needs met by a team of caring profession- als,” Dr. Fatahi said. “Our goal is to provide superb dentistry in a comfortable atmosphere. We truly care about our patients and treat them like family. We know they are happy because many have given us the greatest compliment – referring their family and friends.”

Chasing a Sky Blue Dream

Sepi Fatahi’s experienced more than a few unexpected turns on her journey to Baywood Dental Group.

Born in Iran, Sepi was 6 years old when her family endured a lengthy process to emigrate to the United States. They finally settled in the SCV just in time for her to start third grade at Skyblue Mesa Elementary.

That life-changing event was soon followed by another.

“A guest female dentist came to speak to us at school,” Sepi said. “During recess, while the other kids played, I stood there thinking about it. From that point, I knew I was meant to be and wanted to be a dentist.”

Fortunately, Sepi had her family’s encouragement. Her father, Ray, is an electrical engineer and a longtime employee at Pitchess Cogan, a power plant in Saugus. Her mother, Mansoureh (Mary) Varshovi, has held various jobs over the years to help support her family, which also includes Sepi’s brother, Ali Fatahi, older by just 11 months.

Sepi kept nurturing her dental dream as she moved on to Sierra Vista Junior High, then Valencia High School. She played on the Vikings basketball team for a year, but otherwise devoted most of her time to preparing for college and graduated at the top of her high school class in 2001.

“I was very studious, a bookworm, with straight A’s all the way through,” she said. “Valencia provided me with all the resources to prepare me for my career, including great teachers and counselors who were supportive and knowledgeable. I am more appreciative and grateful today than ever for the education I received here.”

In high school, though, Sepi’s career track veered away from dentistry and more toward medicine.

“At the time, my parents had a strong influence on my career decisions, not to mention my uncle, a retired surgeon doing radiology in Texas,” she said. “They wanted me to follow their dream of me becoming a medical doctor.”

So Sepi volunteered at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, did research in an AIDS lab at UCLA, studied all the med school prerequisites, took the Medical College Admission Test, and even filled out her med school application.

“That’s when I realized I was pursuing someone else’s dream,” she said. “I didn’t send the application.”

Instead, Sepi enrolled at UCLA as a biology major. For her sophomore year, she switched to molecular cell development biology (MCDB) because it had more of the development-related courses she desired.

But by her junior year, she again realized she wasn’t chasing her own dream.

“Three years into college and with nothing planned toward dental, I basically had to start over,” Sepi said. “So, when I graduated from UCLA a year later with a B.S. in MCDB, I went back home with no plan to go into the field.”

Meanwhile, throughout college, even while continuing to pull down A’s, Sepi also pursued her passion for another kind of teeth – as the gear-head owner of a race car.

“My daily driver was a turbo-charged 2001 Acura Integra GS-R,” said Sepi, who shared her brother’s love of muscle cars and drag racing.

“It was an 11-second car on the quarter-mile after tuning it up on the Dyno and putting on a pair of slicks,” she said, fast and furiously. “There was a shop on Main Street in Newhall called Trackmasters that sponsored my car. Modified Magazine featured it in April 2004. But that car took a lot of time and money to maintain.”

Back on the Dentistry Track

Sepi credits her parents with helping her finally get back on the dentistry track after she graduated from UCLA.

“They got involved again, and this time I’m glad they did,” she said. “I got a job at a dental office in Valencia, which gave me the opportunity to not only learn more about the career, but also to prove to myself that this field was my true calling.”

Sepi’s next major move was to get into a top dental school.

“Fortunately, the major I chose at UCLA worked for both medical and dental school, and I was thrilled when UNLV (the University of Nevada, Las Vegas) gave me the opportunity to finally fulfill my dream to become a dentist,” she said.

By then, Sepi had also put the brakes on her racing hobby.

“I realized it was too time-consuming and too expensive, and if I was really going to get focused on my career, I couldn’t have a hobby like that on the side,” she said. “So, I sold my GS-R for $15,000 cash just before leaving for
Las Vegas.”

While studying general dentistry at UNLV, Sepi discovered the university’s oral surgery department and grew to enjoy the surgical side of the field.

“After graduating UNLV in 2011,” said Sepi – now Dr. Sepi Fatahi, D.M.D – “I decided to do a one-year internship in the oral surgery department at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, then apply to become an oral surgeon at the end of that year. I thought by becoming a dental surgeon, I could make my parents and uncle and myself happy at the same time.”

Not quite. After a year interning at CWRU, Dr. Fatahi stopped listening to her head and tuned back into her heart.

“I canceled the dental surgeon application at the last second and vowed once and for all to be a general dentist with my own practice,” she said. “Of course, I had to start over again with general dentistry because I had only focused on oral surgery the previous three years. But by then I was used to starting over.”

You CAN Go Home Again

Back in Valencia, Dr. Fatahi landed a position as a general dentist in the same office where she’d worked before heading to UNLV.

“The owner encouraged me to spend time with patients perfecting my hand skills and gaining knowledge for general dentistry beyond just the surgical aspect,” she said. “I was dedicated and a quick learner, so it wasn’t long before I became the office’s managing dentist, even being the youngest of the many dentists who worked there.”

Dr. Fatahi shadowed many of her colleagues during those years, soaking up invaluable general dentistry knowledge and expertise and adding to her years of surgical training and experience.

“I wanted to know everything about everything, so I would be well prepared to open my own practice,” she said.

She also secured a license for conscious intravenous sedation (limited IV sedation during which the patient remains conscious and can talk to the dentist) and served as a volunteer dental surgeon. That included extracting wisdom teeth for local uninsured or under-insured teens and young adults (something she does to this day).

Dr. Fatahi looked at dental practices in the SCV for several years with an eye to buying one. By 2017, when she discovered Baywood Dental Group was on the market, she knew she’d found what she’d been looking for and moved fast.

“It took a lot of hard work and inner strength, but I succeeded this time because I stayed on my path, chosen without influence,” she said. “At the same time, I don’t regret any part of the journey for a second.”

The Tree That Keeps on Giving

It’s doubly sweet for Dr. Sepi Fatahi that she’s finally living her dream, and in Valencia.

“This is the town that gave me every opportunity to be the person I am today,” she said. “It was the first place I truly called home, where I grew up emotionally and physically, where my family lives.”

Dr. Fatahi remembers when she left Iran as a 6-year-old, she had nothing but a favorite book, “The Giving Tree.”

“I kept it until I finished college and realized I couldn’t read Farsi, and ended up tossing the book – a mistake,” she said. “However, I recently bought a new copy in English and read it to understand what was so special about the book.”

The message was clear to her: “Valencia represents my giving tree,” she said. “But I don’t want the tree to be the only one to give, as in the story. I want to give back in every way I can, hoping this place gives to others what it has given me – hope, support, kindness and knowledge. So, I am changing the ending of that story by giving back to the community that gave me everything I have today.”

Dr. Sepi Fatahi, D.M.D
General & Cosmetic Dentist
24121 Baywood Lane
Valencia, CA 91355
661-291-1200
sepi@baywooddentalgroup.com
baywooddentalgroup.com

Read more articles from Issue 4