2023 WSPD Member Spotlight: Dr. Brianne Butler
Written by: Natasha Bramley
Mr. Rogers famously said, “Always look for the helpers. There will always be helpers.” To know Dr. Brianne “Bri” Butler, is to know that she truly embodies the spirit of what it means to be a helper.
From her youngest years, she sought to adopt a profession where she could use her hands, but, more importantly, connect with people. “My father was a woodshop teacher, and so many of the principles and science in woodworking I found also in dentistry. I chose pediatric dentistry because I wanted the focus of my career to be on prevention and education.”
She grew up understanding the impact that a solid educational foundation could have on a person’s future. “I credit some of this to my parents. Being raised by two school teachers, there was lots of talk around the dinner table about the power of education, ways to improve it, and the influence it can have on an individual.” Born and raised in Washington State, Dr. Butler completed both dental school and her pediatric residency at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she received extensive experience in working with children of all ages and children with special needs. After completing residency, she and her husband decided to relocate to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula where she has since been serving children.
While she enjoys all aspects of dentistry, including treatment, connecting with families in her community and giving them the tools to have a healthy smile is what truly fulfills her. She also volunteers her time working as affiliate faculty at the University of Washington School of Dentistry and attends events throughout the community to promote oral health in children.
She has always been a strong proponent of organized dentistry, and has served as a volunteer leader for most of her professional life. Her passion for organized dentistry began as a dental student. “When I was in dental school, I did a summer internship in Washington, D.C. with Senator Patty Murray. This was while the legislature was considering the Affordable Care Act. This experience showed me the importance about being a part of organized dentistry, and I have made it a priority to stay involved since that time.” And stay involved she did- she is currently Immediate Past President of WSPD, is an advisor on the legislative committee for the Washington State Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, serves on the Legislative Task Force and Medicaid Task Force for the Washington State Dental Association, and is excited to be a part of Cohort VII for the AAPD Leadership Institute.
To achieve so much in such a short period of time takes vision, commitment and drive. Drive, she says, is something that has always been an inherent quality in her. “Even as a child when given a small classroom assignment, I always felt the need to go further. Why just write a page, when you could write a book?!” As she grew older and became more involved in clubs and activities, she realized that she was not satisfied unless she was giving each assignment and activity a hundred percent of her focus and energy, and always wanted her contributions to be sustainable and to fix the root of the issue.
When asked what inspires her to keep going, she asserts that inspiration has come from different moments and individuals at different points in her life. She is grateful for the opportunities she has had to work with and learn from professionals who were strong leaders in their different organizations and found herself being inspired by their passion. She credits Dr. Beatrice Gandara and Dr. John Gibbons as mentors, as well as Bracken Killpack for choosing her for the Patty Murray internship.
Dr. Butler has been instrumental in implementing several important changes in the various organizations she has belonged to, but humbly recognizes the role her colleagues and fellow organization leaders have played in bringing those ideas to fruition. “I don’t think that I as an individual can take sole credit for anything I have done in organized dentistry. The thing I love about organized dentistry is that it connects you with your colleagues, who can help you get your goals accomplished.” Some projects that she “got the ball rolling on” include creating a mid-winter CE/social event for WSAPD, initiation of CERP certification for WSAPD CE, and working with the legislative task force to get amendments to the dental health aide/therapist bill. For the WSPD, she knows that much of the work she has done is still ongoing. But, one of the key issues she has tackled and hopes to have accomplished is getting the district’s members to know what the WSPD is really about. She has also worked hard to develop interstate relationships to help grow the smaller states through partnership and collaboration.
For all her many stellar achievements, Dr. Butler remains the most proud of her family. “I’ve got an amazing and supportive husband and two beautiful daughters. Their love and support mean everything to me.” She hopes that when her children are older, they see her professional contributions through organized dentistry as something meaningful. Above all else, she hopes that they contribute in similar ways in their own chosen fields.
Looking back on her time as a district leader, Dr. Butler feels that she has learned and grown from the experience. “Being a member of WSPD has been a HUGE benefit to me! The relationships I have made, the advocacy I have been a part of and continue to be a part of are one of my favorite parts of my career.” She feels honored to have represented Washington on the board, and then to have represented all the Western states on the district’s executive committee. Most importantly, she asserts that she learns a lot from each organization and group she is a part of, and each experience and position makes her a better leader for the next. She hopes to remain involved with the WSPD after her tenure, saying, “Even after my time on the executive committee, I hope to continue to be a part of WSPD as I truly believe in its mission.”