NOVEMBER 29, 2018, WINTHROP – When Dr. Howie Brooks of Winthrop sat his parents down to tell them he wanted to be a dentist, they were bemused. “I sat down on the bed and I said, ‘I am going to go to dental school …’ And they looked at me and they said, ‘OK,’” Brooks said before breaking into laughter. “They were kind of awestruck.”
As far as his parents knew, he was studying to get into business school. However, dentistry had always been an important part of Brooks’ life because his father, Barry Brooks, was a dentist.
From an early age, Brooks was drawn to his father’s profession. “I was very much into what he did – I used to go down into the office when I was 12 or 13 years old,” said Brooks. “I was always interested in him doing lab work.”
In 1987, after Brooks graduated from the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University, he joined his father’s practice in Winthrop, where he has been ever since.
Thirty-one years later, it’s déjà vu all over again. In May, Brooks’ daughter Stephanie also graduated from BU’s dental school, where she graduated summa cum laude and was inducted into the National Dental Honors Society. She was also asked to sit on the school’s alumni board. Now, she has become the third generation in her family to treat patients at Brooks Dental, which her grandfather started in 1959.
Stephanie can’t remember the precise time she told her father that she wanted to follow in his footsteps. Even though she majored in English at Franklin & Marshall College and thought about going into publishing, she had long considered joining her family’s practice.
“I was a dentist for Halloween when I was maybe 10 or 11, so I always had it in my head that this is where I was going to end up,” said Stephanie. “My dad is ecstatic.”
Now, three generations work together under the same roof (Barry, at 86, still comes in once a week to check up on patients, some of whom he’s been treating for over 50 years.) Even though Stephanie said that professors at dental school warned her about the potential pitfalls of working with family members, she has enjoyed working with her father and grandfather on a professional level.
“[My dad] is such a great mentor because he knows when to give me space and independence, but he always welcomes questions. He’s never hovering over me. It’s a really good dynamic,” she said.
“We’ve always had a close relationship,” Howie said. “Any sport that she did, I was always there coaching her. I found her very coachable and easy to work with, and I knew that the relationship in the practice would be the same because there’s no ego, it’s not like, ‘Do it my way or the highway.’ We work really well together.”
Growing up, Howie’s family attended Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop, a town that had a larger Jewish population than it does today. “[My father] did see quite a few Jewish people in Winthrop,” said Howie. “When I started practicing in 1987, there was a pretty large Jewish population … as time has gone on, there’s definitely less, no question.”
The Brooks family now belongs to Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, and are active with Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ fundraising.
Even though Stephanie has just begun and is still learning the ropes, she admitted that she occasionally thinks about a fourth generation at Brooks Dental in the distant future.
“Four generations would be crazy. And it would be so nice to pass this business onto someone you can trust, and who you know patients will love,” she said.