LEWISTON – For Dr. Graci Marra Bax, becoming a doctor – and specifically a dentist – is a family tradition.
Her maternal grandfather, the late Dr. Peter J. Marra, was a prominent dentist in Western New York for 50 years and was able to present his granddaughter her doctoral diploma at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine graduation ceremony in 2005. Pictures of her grandfather are proudly displayed throughout her new office, including one of his graduating class more than 50 years ago from the UB Dental School. All the graduates were men.
Her paternal grandfather, Dr. A.L. Bax, was a general surgeon for 45 years and her father, Dr. A.J. Bax, has been a surgeon for 30 years and now serves as medical director for Niagara Hospice in Lockport. Her sister, Dr. Sarina Bax DeBiaso, is a general surgeon who joined her father at Niagara Hospice as assistant medical director.
Now her mother, Gracelyn Marra Bax, a retired Lewiston-Porter Spanish teacher, is also part of the new office, and her oil paintings adorn the walls of her daughter’s office.
Graci Mara Bax, a 1996 graduate of Lewiston-Porter High School, has a lot in common with her mother. She minored in Spanish at Geneseo State College and also enjoys oil painting.
Bax opened Graci Family Dental last month in the Mount St. Mary’s Medical Arts Building, 5320 Military Road, Lewiston – her first solo practice after seven years working as an associate in Depew with Bochiechio Dental.
“I will always remember the words my grandfather said to me the day I was accepted into dental school: ‘There is great satisfaction knowing that you are making a difference in someone’s health – in someone’s life.’ Today, after practicing for several years, I clearly understand the essence in these words.”
She and her husband, Mario Granata, a math teacher for the Iroquois Job Corps, are parents of a 2-year-old son, Marcello.
Your grandfather taught at the University at Buffalo Dental School. Did he teach you?
No, he had already been retired. He did teach for years in the crown and bridge department, and was well respected there. I actually teach at the university. I teach in radiology. I teach the students how to take X-rays on their patients. Right outside the radiology department is a picture – his picture from the years he taught. It’s kind of nice.
Did you come to his office as a kid?
Did you think – someday I will be a dentist?
Actually, no. My mom actually suggested, “Why don’t you think about dentistry” So I did spend some time with my grandfather. I spent a summer working for Dr. (John) Whiteman and (Salvatore) Manente (in Lewiston), and I found that I really enjoyed it. I had just finished my undergrad.
Why did you decide to open your own practice?
I think because I get to be my own boss for the first time, probably in my life. You get to set your own schedule and do the procedures you like to do.
Are you looking for new patients?
Yes. Definitely. I decided not to buy another practice, which is probably the tougher choice. So it will take time to build, but in the end it will be the way I envision it.
How is it opening a brand new office.
It’s kind of comparable to building a house. I knew I would have to pick dental chairs and supplies, but I didn’t think about the molding and the color of every wall. I had to choose every light fixture. But in the end, I think it came together.
Tell me about the name of your practice – Graci Family Dental. You used your first name. That’s unusual.
Actually the name Graci is very special. Graci is my grandmother’s maiden name. Marra is my mother’s maiden name, and Bax is my father’s name. So there’s three generations of last names. My husband said, “Why didn’t you take my name?” But I had been Graci Marra Bax for 32 years, so it was kind of hard to change it.
You worked previously in Depew before opening Graci Family Dental?
Yes, but I also have been working in this community for the Tuscarora Reservation and the Schoellkopf nursing home. I took time off from the Reservation Dental Clinic, but I will be going back. It’s newly built. It’s a beautiful facility.
So this is a perfect place to open an office
It’s the only place I would have considered opening up an office. I grew up here, and I am invested in the community. Everyone’s here. So to me, this is home.
Did you ever think about being a surgeon, like your dad and sister?
No. I love science, but I never wanted to be a medical doctor. I think because of their schedules. They were doing surgeries at all hours of the night. It was very tough. With dental, I get to keep the science. And I love art, and it’s kind of an artist profession. It combines science, art and if you like people, all of those things in one.
But many of those people say they hate the dentist.
Every patient I had today said I hate the dentist. One patient said today, “I’d rather have a colonoscopy than visit the dentist.” But they laugh about it and handle the treatment well. We just assure them if they are uncomfortable at all to let us know, and we will make sure they are comfortable. I use humor to make them relax, and I go slow. Once they trust you, the fear is usually gone.
You kind of have to be a caretaker.
Definitely – and patient. I explain every step as I go along, and people seem to like that
You said you like art.
I love to paint, oil painting. I said every piece of art (in the office) was going to be mine. Then I had a son and have been really busy. Then my mom picked up the hobby, and she painted 90 percent of what is in the office. She just picked it up one day, and she is great.
Your son is only 2, but do you hope someday he will be a doctor?
I didn’t think about it until I opened the office here and after all the time and energy I put into setting up the office. Over the next 20 years building the practice, I kind of hope he wants to be a dentist, and we can work together for a short time, and then I can retire.
Before we go, I have to ask about Easter, where there’s lots of candy – chocolate, jelly beans.
Jelly beans are not good because they are sticky, but as long as you brush after, you can have just about anything. I have a sweet tooth myself. I always said before I had kids that I wasn’t going to give them sugar. I was pretty strict about eating well and exercising, and then I became a mom and – whatever makes him happy. I just try my best to offer him his toothbrush three or four times a day, and hopefully one out of those times he will use it.
Are you the kind of person who hands out toothbrushes at Halloween?
I did that one year, but I gave them candy too.
Information on Bax and her practice available at www.gracifamilydental.com or by calling 29-TEETH (298-3384). Know a Niagara County resident who’d make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.