By Joe Louis Gomez
A second generation Valley dentist says growing up in the family practice has fortified the concept of what it means to be a health provider, as well as a foundation for families in the community. Dr. Iris Barrera, DDS, says lifelong mentors have shaped her approach to the business, and what it means to be a dentist in the region.
When Professional Dental Group PA opened its doors last August, not only was it the culmination of much of her youth spent observing teeth cleanings and bridges, it was also applying lessons learned from her mother, Dr. Lourdes Barrera, to develop the best practice possible, she said.
By working at an early age in the office, observing patient interactions, she eventually came to understand how patients influence the practice on a professional and personal level, she said.
“My mom is a dentist and she went through dental school when I was a little girl. I grew up in dentistry all my life,” Dr. Barrera said. “Not only did I go with her to school, but I also saw her work and saw her treat her patients. I saw the way patients responded to her, and how they became part of our lives.”
Born and raised in Brownsville, Dr. Barrera said she grew up in a household where education was a priority, along with a respect for culture and willingness to help others in need.
Her mother also stressed the importance of adding that “female touch” to the practice, being able to nurture and provide for patients as only a woman can, she said.
“As a little girl, I saw it at first as a bystander and then just helping and understanding how to treat patients,” Dr. Barrera said. “It’s amazing how you grow and become a family with your patients. You get to see them throughout their lives, and you get to see their kids grow up. I’ve even seen some kids that my mom saw, I see them as well. I see their children as well.”
Schooled in Brownsville, graduating from Pace High School in 1997, Dr. Barrera then graduated from St. Mary’s University, and earned her Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree from Baylor College of Dentistry in 2005. Following school, she then worked with Dr. David O. Adame as an associate for four years before opening my practice solo last summer.
“He (Adame) fortified that same idea about education and oral health to provide the best of me to my patients and the best of my knowledge as I grow as a dentist,” Dr. Barrera said. “It has been really exciting just to apply everything I learned throughout the years, from my mom, the way that she ran her practice, as well as from where I worked and giving this my own twist.” The new twist in her practice, according to Barrera, is seeing more families, and attempting to construct an atmosphere centered around children and their overall comfort, above all else. Her mother, who is now retired, helps with daily office management, and other family members assist in daily operations.
“For me, my focus is not only for children but it’s also a family office where I want to provide for parents, grandparents, cousins…I understand how important it is,” she said. “I guess in a sense I want to make them feel comfortable coming in and being able to relate to their families because it’s a family here.”
“This is where I have most of my family, most of my friends. I think it’s important to remember where you’re from. I love the area.”