Dentist on Display: Rebekah Lucier Pryles, D11, DG13
Dentist on Display is a series created by Career Services spotlighting young Tufts Dental alumni doing extraordinary work around the globe.
Rebekah Lucier Pryles, D11, DG13, summarizes her work ethic in a few words.
“I have always been somebody who, once I decide on something, [I] try to go full-force.”
Since graduating from Tufts Dental and completing her residency in endodontics, her career path has reflected this attitude. Pryles has embraced a variety of opportunities within the field; her accomplishments include becoming a partner at an endodontics practice, co-writing a textbook, becoming a director with the Vermont State Dental Society and traveling internationally to lecture on endodontics.
Endodontics Residency & A Job Offer
As Pryles entered her fourth year of dental school, she was already determined to specialize in endodontics and hoped that she would be able to stay at Tufts to complete the program.
“I just knew the quality of the clinical education that Tufts was providing,” she said. “Graduates at Tufts have their own chairs, which isn’t necessarily true at other programs, and the volume of patients, just given the location of Tufts in the city, was massive. So I knew I would get the right amount of exposure to patient care while still having that really fantastic basic science and literature background that would put me in the position to succeed in the long term.” Pryles was accepted into the program and found that the small cohort of residents and close relationships with faculty members was exactly the environment that she wanted. Unbeknownst to Pryles at the time, her relationship with faculty would ultimately lead to her current position. During her first year, Pryles met Brooke Blicher, DG09, who was teaching as a faculty member in addition to practicing endodontics in Vermont.
"She and I just hit it off,” Pryles said. “We had a really similar philosophy when it came to patient management, when it came to the way that we felt the practice should be run, and had a similar commitment to excellence in endodontic care.”
Blicher invited Pryles to visit Vermont to see the practice and a year later offered Pryles a job working with her. The combination of her relationship with Blicher and Vermont’s active outdoor lifestyle convinced Pryles to accept the offer. “It was nice because I could see how her practice functioned and see the kind of work that they did and learn as much as I could while in residence to help myself fit in better,” she said. Pryles spent time during the rest of her residency working with pediatric and special needs patients to enhance her skill set. She also found that moonlighting was helpful to continue to build her clinical skills, and worked at several practices to gain more experience. Pryles left for Vermont the day after she graduated from the endodontics program and officially started at Upper Valley Endodontics two days later.
Working at Upper Valley Endodontics
Pryles is currently a partner at Upper Valley Endodontics in White River Junction, Vermont. Pryles works with Blicher and the doctors regularly see a mix of pediatric and adult patients needing endodontic care. “We work the typical 8 am-5 pm hours, but endodontics is an emergency driven business so many times we’re staying late,” she said. Pryles typically sees about 7-10 patients a day and works four days a week. She stated that the practice is also outfitted with the latest technology including a cone beam and operatories equipped with microscopes. In addition to Blicher, Pryles also works with clinical assistants, an office manager, and her husband, who works at the front desk. Additionally, Pryles volunteers with the Red Logan Dental Clinic, which provides free dental care for patients in the Upper Valley.
Pryles’ previous pediatric experience has served as an asset at the practice. “A lot of the kids are involved in sports and a lot of outdoorsy, dangerous things so we tend to see a lot of trauma in our practice.” Pryles stated that helping her patients and their families understand the emotional side of the trauma is equally important to the procedure itself. “As Dr. Amato always says, anyone can do a root canal,” she said. “It’s not always the most challenging procedure, but when you have somebody who’s really fearful, who’s just been through a really traumatic incident, all of a sudden they’re having to have this procedure that they’ve heard about being really painful and scary, it just adds a whole layer of challenge on top of that. So being able to calmly and confidently and efficiently manage these things and explain things in a way that makes sense is really important with that population.” Pryles’ positive experience at Tufts has led her to also return in the role of a volunteer faculty member. She makes the two-hour commute to Tufts approximately every six to eight weeks. “The endo program just gave me so much, it’s the least I could do to give back,” she said.
Participating in Organized Dentistry
Another way that Pryles gives back is by serving as a director on the board of the Vermont State Dental Society. This position gives her the opportunity to serve as the liaison between the dental community and legislators. She is able to help advocate for position changes in dentistry for the state of Vermont. Recently, the board, which meets bi-monthly, has focused on addressing the anti-fluoridation referendums that have affected some towns in Vermont, and has advocated for public health services. “Organized dentistry is something that can really impact the profession in a major way, [a] policy level way and so, for me, getting involved in organized dentistry was a way to give my time and give my energy at this point, and it’s helping keep the profession of dentistry at a level where it should be. “
This position is one of several interests that Pryles has pursued outside of clinical endodontics. She has also collaborated with Blicher to pursue academic interests, including writing and publishing scholarly articles and a textbook.
Pryles wasn’t initially planning on writing a textbook, but in preparing for the oral board exam in endodontics, she worked with Blicher to create a set of extensive notes.
“We were approached by Quintessence Publishing about putting these notes into a more official format… It’s not a book that teaches you how to do a root canal, but it’s a book on everything you should be thinking about before, during, and after root canal treatment and talking about when root canals are appropriate and really goes into depth about the evidence to support why we do what we do.” The textbook, Endodontics Review: A Study Guide, was published and is currently available online through Amazon.
Although publishing a textbook wasn’t her goal when she began compiling her notes, Pryles cites the experience as one of the proudest moments in her career so far. “We had all of the notes compiled already and it just made perfect sense to do this and it was not something we were really paid to do. It was more of an academic exercise and it was lots of fun. It was hundreds of hours between the two of us. We’re really, really proud of what came out of it.”
Pryles has continued to take on new challenges outside of clinical endodontics. Inspired by the Shonda Rimes book, The Year of Yes, she has decided to intentionally say yes to new opportunities that come her way. The first was via her textbook’s third co-author, Jarshen Lin, who was invited to lecture about endodontics to dentists in Taiwan. “So Brooke and I went to Japan and Taiwan for two and a half weeks in November with our kids and lectured on endodontics to a ton of dentists over there.” Based on the contacts made from that trip, another trip to Asia is being planned for 2018. Additionally, Pryles and Blicher have written additional scholarly articles and were invited to lecture at Harvard at the end of October.
Ultimately, the variety of experiences that Pryles has had allow her to enjoy the field of endodontics fully. “I love clinical endodontics,” she said. “It’s a great way to make an immediate impact in someone’s life. The majority of our patients come in in a significant amount of pain and we’re able to change that, immediately, for them. And that is a huge privilege and a huge responsibility. But I also love that dentistry gives me the flexibility to be able to pursue those academic interests and while having this great dental practice, write a book and go to Asia to lecture and use that other part of my brain so when I say endo really checks all the boxes, it really checks all the boxes.”
-Marguerite M. Moore
If you are interested in nominating a recent TUSDM alum, please contact Marguerite Moore, Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Career Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Dentist on Display archive.