Dental Dynasty

As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Such is the case for women in the Graber family.

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As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Such is the case for women in the Graber family. Dentistry, you see, is in their roots.

Drs. Katie, Jane, and Susan Graber practice in the Chicago area. Katie is the fourth-generation dentist of the family.

“My great-grandfather had a practice for general dentistry in St. Louis, Missouri,” she said.

Looking at the family tree of dentists, you’ll find Dr. Joseph Graber. Follow the lineage, and you’ll come across Dr. Tom Graber, Katie’s grandfather.

“I practice orthodontics with my father, Dr. Lee Graber, in the office started by my grandfather, Dr. Tom Graber,” she said. “My mother, Dr. Jane Graber, aunt, Dr. Sue Graber, and uncle, Dr. Lance Robbins, are general dentists as well. My father, mother, aunt, uncle, and I all graduated from the University of Michigan dental school.”

Katie began her dental career assisting in her parents’ respective offices. She graduated with honors from Miami University of Ohio with a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology. She’s president of the North Shore Women’s Dental Group, dinner chairwoman for the North Suburban Chicago Dental Society, an American Association of Orthodontics Foundation Regent, and a member of the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation Vanguard Society. She’s married to John Evarts, CFO for AIDSCare, Inc., a company that provides housing for people with AIDS who otherwise would be homeless. They recently became parents to a baby boy.

Sisters-in-law Drs. Jane (left) and Susan Graber (right) discuss technological advances in dentistry with Dr. Katie Graber, part of the next generation of great dentists within their dental dynasty.
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Katie’s mother entered the dental field during high school by working as a sterilization assistant in a periodontist’s office.

“When I indicated an interest in dentistry,” Jane said, “the periodontist helped me arrange an interview with Dr. Dorothy Hard at the University of Michigan dental school. She guided me gently toward dental hygiene and discouraged me from attempting to apply to dental school.”

Jane graduated in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. After practicing a year as a hygienist, she entered the dental hygiene Master’s program. Then she worked for three years as an associate professor at Northwestern University’s dental school. She also attended the University of Kentucky’s program for expanded-duty auxiliary training.

“I could perform restorative work as well as the dental students in the program,” Jane said. “My husband, who was clinical director of the orthodontic department at Northwestern, encouraged me to apply to dental school.

“His mother, a professor at the University of Illinois, believed all things are possible for a woman if you really want it. My father-in-law, Dr. T. M. Graber, has always touted women power as well. So with their full support and encouragement, I investigated becoming a dentist. After finishing the required courses at Roosevelt University night school, I applied and was accepted into the University of Michigan.”

As were Susan and Lance.

“I come from a long line of dentists,” Susan said. “I worked in high school as a waitress and dental assistant in my father’s orthodontic office. I went to the University of Michigan for undergrad. During the summers, I worked at various restaurants in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, but I never had to declare a major because I was admitted to dental school after two years of undergrad - I was one of three people admitted after two years. The summer between my sophomore and junior years in dental school, I worked as a Playboy Bunny - waitressing, not posing - at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club, which was a totally different experience from being a dental student. It taught me a lot about dealing with people and their perceptions.”

That was the same summer that Jane gave birth to her first child.

“Susan helped me when Katie was born,” Jane said. “She used to comment that Katie attended one year of dental school already - in utero.”

Jane also has two younger daughters. Megan is a fourth-year medical student with plans for practice in obstetrics and gynecology. Molly works as a human resources consultant in Boston.

“Each has used her talents to become well-rounded. Proficient in their chosen careers and loving life, they have achieved the balance that many of us long for,” Jane said.

After practicing solo for 25 years, Jane reduced her time in the office to three days a week in 2003.

“I now practice part time in Northbrook, Illinois, with Dr. Mark Humenik,” she said. “It’s great to be an independent contractor as I have more free time. I’ve been involved with organized dentistry as a vice president, then president of the local women’s dental group in the early ’80s. I have been active as room chairwoman with the Chicago Dental Society’s Midwinter Meeting. I was also a newsletter writer for our North Suburban Branch, but most of my energy has been devoted to supporting my husband’s commitment to the American Association of Orthodontists and the World Federation of Orthodontists.”

Jane enjoys working in her gardens, riding her horse, and spending time with her first grandchild. In addition, she recently returned from a dental mission trip to Belize.

“This is my fourth year with the group,” she said. “It has been an affirmation of every reason I went into dentistry. The program was initially an extraction experience but has evolved over 14 years under the guidance of Dr. Frank Whipps to more of a restorative and preventive emphasis. He continues to expand the mission team’s reach into areas underserved in Belize that require mainly exodontia, but that appreciate the impact of patient education, restorations, prophylaxis, fluoride treatments, and sealants.”

Susan owns a 1,650-square-foot dental condo in Glenview, Ill., with some 2,100 active patients.

“I started as an associate in a group practice and also taught part time at the University of Illinois School of Dentistry,” she said. “Within two years, I discovered that the associate position was not leading anywhere and opened my own office.

“I had rented office space previously, and I always wanted to do more for the building than my landlords were willing to do. Now when I want to change and upgrade, I just go ahead and do it! I enjoy helping people, being my own boss, working with my hands, fine details, precision work, and the lasting relationships I have with patients. My husband’s practice is in Skokie, Illinois. We considered working together but decided it was best to have separate practices. He’s the dentist for the Northwestern University athletic department.”

Susan said her most prized accomplishment is having found a good balance between raising children and maintaining career involvement. She’s the head of mediation for the North Suburban Branch of the Chicago Dental Society, a clinical evaluator for the Dental Advisor, part of the Mentor Program at the UIC Dental School, and a member of Donated Dental Services, which provides low-cost or free dental care to people unable to afford it otherwise.

“Dentistry is a good profession,” Susan said. “It does require hard work and perseverance.”

She advises women to stay in the profession even when their children are small.

“I don’t want to see women perceived as quitting as soon as they have kids,” she said. “We can stay as involved as men as long as we continue to be creative in our approaches. Our children will not suffer if we continue to work when they are little, and we will be happier and sane for doing it. I know I was.”

And here’s proof: Susan’s oldest son, Kyle, recently was accepted to dental school at - you guessed it - the University of Michigan.

How do you like them apples?

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SUSAN GRABER: Sister to Dr. Lee Graber. Married to Dr. Lance Robbins. Mother to Kyle, a dental school student, Kevan, and Spencer Robbins. Worked as a dental assistant in father’s office through high school and various interesting waitressing positions through college and dental school.

JANE GRABER: Began dental career as a sterilization assistant, became a hygienist, then a general dentist. Married to an orthodontist, Dr. Lee Graber. Mother to Dr. Katie, Megan, and Molly.

Fourth-generation dentist. One of the youngest American Board-Certified orthodontists in the world. Married to John Evarts. New mom to baby boy.

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KATIE Graber:
JANE Graber:
SUSAN Graber:

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