Dr. Lee Ann Brady has accomplished many firsts in her career.
She was the first in her family to become a dentist, the first female resident faculty member at Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, the first woman director of education for the non-profit organization, and the youngest teacher.
Now Brady, who has been practicing dentistry for 35 years, adds another first: the first woman to be inducted into the Pankey Institute’s Master Hall, which honors dentists who master the skills of dentistry and have made significant contributions to the industry, institute and the community.
Brady, 56, is the 12th member joining 11 men in the Master Hall, where her portrait hangs inside the honor room at the institute for students, faculty members and the institute board members to see.
On June 3, they threw her a party at the institute to celebrate her induction at the Institute, located at 1 Crandon Blvd., followed by dinner at the Links at Key Biscayne.
Brady, a native of New York, was overwhelmed by the honor.
“I was shocked, but the word I want to use is totally surprising,” she said. “It’s the honor of a lifetime.”
She learned about the news of her honor only about a week prior to the induction ceremony, while she was1,381 miles away from Miami.
Dr. Richard Hunt, chairman of the board for Pankey Institute, wanted the honor to be a surprise and concocted a plan with her husband, Kelly Brady, to get her to attend a dental symposium in San Antonio, Texas.
He wanted to announce the honor before thousands of dentists, their guests and donors nationwide at the event.
Kelly Brady said his wife had no clue that her three children, including a daughter attending college in California, would be attending to celebrate her honor.
The look on her face was priceless, he said.
“She was surprised,” he said. “What an honor for her. “I know she’s a great dentist because I hear it from people and I hear it from her patients.”
The work of Brady, who is the founder and lead curator of Restorative Nation, a supportive learning community for dentists, didn’t go unnoticed 12 years ago. That’s when she was recognized by Dental Products Report as one of the “Top 25 Women Dentists in the U.S.” in the category of dental educators.
Kelly Brady, a businessman, said his wife has reached the pinnacle of her career in a male dominated industry.
“With Dr. Pankey’s philosophy, she brought forward important points in dentistry like teaching science, which is so complicated,” he said. “It’s very comprehensive, but she accomplished it.”
The Pankey Institute, which was founded 52 years ago, is a state of the art facility that accommodates classrooms, dentistry laboratories, clinics, therapy rooms and an X-Ray/MRI department.
The institute was named in honor of Dr. L.D. Pankey, a top professor, and it is recognized as one of the country’s top dentistry institutions.
Pankey was a visionary who focused on teaching how to save patients’ teeth at a time when extraction was the common recommendation.
“Dr. Pankey’s philosophy has changed the lives of over 30,000 dentists since the institute was founded,” said Brady. “This celebration of his legacy is about every clinician we have educated.”
Pankey was described as a passionate advocate of comprehensive, patient-centered dentistry. He helped other dentists understand the happiness that comes with closer relationships with patients.
Dr. Michael Melkers, who sits on the advisory board for the institute, said Brady reflects Pankey’s philosophy, as she embodies the definition of mastership, all for the betterment of dental patients worldwide.
“This is not a set process in selecting someone for the Master Hall,” Melkers said. “It just appears. The board meets to decide who belongs on the wall. We came together for a mutual decision (and) Dr. Brady was the one.”
Brady said she had a practice in Arizona when she enrolled at Pankey Institute in 2005 to brush up on her dentistry skills. She was asked to join the staff as its first female resident faculty member.
“It was something that was not on my radar screen or my plans to join the staff,” she said. “They saw something in me, and the rest is history.”
Within a year, she was promoted to clinical director until 2008, when she was asked to join Dr. Frank Spear in the formation of Spear Education and the expansion of his curriculum.
As the Executive VP of Clinical Education at Spear Education, she managed the development of all programs, in addition to her teaching responsibilities.
In 2011, Brady left to focus more on hands-on patient care. She opened a practice in Atlanta, then later returned to the Pankey Institute.