From Patient to Dentist: The Parallel Lives of Two Eastman Alumni

Aug. 9, 2017

While attending University of Maryland School of Dentistry in the early 1970’s, Robert Bray, DDS (Ortho ‘75, MS ‘76), inquired about residency programs with his dean. To the dean, it was a no-brainer.

“Dr. Salley (PhD ’54) graduated from the University of Rochester and he said that Eastman was the only place to do an Ortho residency,” said Dr. Bray.

He followed the advice of Dean John J. Salley, joining the Eastman Institute for Oral Health (EIOH) in 1973. His interest in orthodontics stemmed from his own treatment as a 6th grader in Philadelphia. He credits his success at Eastman to the tremendous impact of the late Drs. J. Daniel Subtelny and Bob Baker. A year after graduating, he completed a Master’s of Science degree at the School of Medicine and Dentistry with a major course in genetics to improve his understanding of family care.

“I knew that a background in genetics research would be helpful in the office of any Orthodontist because you are often providing care to families and their children,” added Bray.

In fact, family bonds are not only instrumental to Dr. Bray’s patient career – they have strengthened his relationship with his colleagues. He sees patients at his seven offices of Brayces Orthodontics of Southern New Jersey with his partner, Robert Tarby, DMD (Ortho ’12, MS ‘12), a fellow Eastman alumnus. Yet, their relationship goes well beyond five years as co-orthodontists in the practice.

Drs. Bray and Tarby“It’s the closest thing to a father-son relationship without actually being one,” said Dr. Tarby.

Dr. Tarby’s first experience at Brayces was in 1996 as an 11-year-old patient. His successful experience with braces and early fascination with orthodontics led to his first job. He knew that Dr. Bray often hired summer helpers.

“I can’t honestly say I wanted to be a dentist or orthodontist at 14, but it was the experience that ultimately led me into the dental field,” said Dr. Tarby. “I was impressed by the relationship they had with their patients, and the art and science of orthodontics.”

His roles at the office changed as started to learn about the medical knowledge and social skills inherent in dentistry. Although he started with administrative work, Dr. Tarby transitioned to performing clinical duties and educating patients. He credits his experience at Brayces as the driving force to his decision to study biology in college and pursue dental school.

Pedo and Ortho clinic entranceDespite attending Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Tarby always found himself working in those familiar Southern New Jersey offices during school breaks.

“I performed many of the same duties, but had a much better understanding of what and why we were doing certain things,” said Dr. Tarby.

When the time came to apply to residency programs, he looked no further than his own mentor, Dr. Bray, for guidance.

“He was very successful and at the top of his class in Harvard. I advocated for Eastman as the finest, most developed orthodontic program,” said Dr. Bray “As an inquisitive and bright individual, I knew he would be a great fit.”

Dr. Tarby followed the advice of his mentor and gained acceptance into program that both Dean Salley and Dr. Bray raved about. As a first-year Orthodontics resident, Dr. Tarby knew that he could rely on Dr. Bray for educational and moral support. The two would occasionally discuss Dr. Subtelny’s famous Hot Hot Seat class in action with the late Dr. SubtelnySeat technique, a series of highly stressful classes where residents would answer clinical, problem-solving and patient treatment questions from him for hours.

After completing the orthodontics residency and a Master’s of Science with a research project in cleft lip and palate in the same year, Dr. Tarby knew exactly where he wanted to start his dental career. Although Drs. Bray and Tarby had known each other for over fifteen years, the two had never worked together as equals. He was hired as an associate at Brayces for one year.

“We were trained and mentored in the same way, especially due to Hot Seat. At Eastman, we learned how to present and diagnose a case through all aspects of care,” said Dr. Tarby. “We still joke about how stressful, yet rewarding those seminars were.”

The tradition of summer employment continued for Dr. Tarby, when he joined Brayces as a full-time orthodontist on July 9th, 2012. He was especially excited to reconnect with the community he has called home for several years.

“The entire staff and myself were extremely lucky and blessed to have Dr. Tarby join the team,” said Dr. Bray. “Many of the workers watched him grow up from a patient to a successful orthodontist.”

Both Drs. Bray and Tarby have taken extra measures to return to Rochester when the time permits and the opportunities arises. Dr. Bray, an avid supporter of education, is a visiting professor at the EIOH and was appointed to the Foundation Board in 2015. Dr. Tarby, who gave a lecture at the Institute in April, would like to eventually lecture more often.

“Orthodontics Chair Dr. Emile Rossouw and I are talking about setting up telecommunication so that more people can stay connected with Eastman as Orthodontics graduates,” said Dr. Bray. “Dr. Tarby and I agree that it’s so much fun to be around our extended family!”