Every day is Mother’s Day

Mom/daughter practice partners are a perfect pairing
May 5th, 2020

Dr. Leah Stelly (left) and her mom, Dr, Julie Stelly, at Leah’s dental school graduation in 2017.

When Dr. Julie Stelly ’83, ’87 opened her practice right out of dental school, she never dreamed it would one day be a family business.

“Honestly, I didn’t really know of very many family dental legacies, much less a mother/daughter legacy,” she says.

Three years ago, her middle child and only daughter, Dr. Leah Stelly ’13, ’17, joined her Plano, Texas, practice. The transition has been flawless because the partnership just made sense, really, she explains. This dynamic mother/daughter duo has always been simpatico.

“I cannot think of a time when we weren’t,” says Julie. “We have what I would describe as an ‘easy relationship’—giving each other space but always having each other’s back.”

Three generations at the office: Leah Stelly (left) and Julie Stelly (right) with Julie’s mother, the late “Dodo,” in 2017.

Leah is the only one of Julie’s three children who ever expressed any interest in a health care career. Her sons chose engineering and finance. Julie remembers how Leah used to dream of the possibilities while growing up.

“There was one time when she thought she might be a dentist, a veterinarian and a teacher—all at the same time,” she says.

Those career choices were quickly narrowed to one after Leah spent her first summer working at Julie’s dental office as a 16-year-old high schooler.

“When dentistry became a common interest for both of us, it just made it even more special,” Leah says. “I’m extremely thankful that we have always had a great relationship, personally and now professionally.”

Julie says she was “absolutely ecstatic” when all of her children were accepted into and graduated with bachelor’s degrees from her alma mater, Texas A&M University. And she was equally thrilled when Leah chose Texas A&M again for dental school.

“We were even taught by some of the same professors,” says Julie. “Clearly, they were super young docs when they taught me in the ’80s. I’m proud to be a Baylor College of Dentistry grad. We were well prepared to become caregivers.”

And that’s one thing that Leah most admires about her mom: just how great she is with her patients. Leah says she not only admires her mom as a person, but working alongside her those summers as a teenager gave her special insight. She’s especially impressed with how her mom treats patients with “incredible skill, confidence and care,” as well as keeping up with the latest dental techniques.

“She is constantly learning and growing as a dentist,” Leah says. “She is an excellent mentor not only to me, but also to any high school or college student who comes to shadow at our office.”

Julie is just as quick to gush over Leah’s professional prowess.

“Leah is an amazing dentist,” she says. “She is a quick learner and has magnificent hand skills. So capable and so polished. And she has the most beautiful chairside manner.”

Some patients remember when Leah was born, and Julie says she cherishes seeing Leah now interact with them on a professional level.

“It’s that relationship with our patients that I respect most about the dentist that Leah has become. I’m so proud of my daughter, and I am so blessed to share my profession and my practice with her,” she says.

As expected, the lines between work and home life often blur, but that’s fine by them. The Stelly family is extremely tight. They have a family dinner at least once a week and often meet to catch up around the fire pit. In the fall, they spend most football Saturdays tailgating in College Station or celebrating in their “Aggie Party Barn” at Julie’s.

“We do both love that we are a part of the Aggie family. Texas A&M provided the foundation for our success in dentistry,” Julie says. “Our family has a fairly good number of Aggies now, starting with me and my siblings and going on through our kids. It’s time to brainwash the grandbabies.”

At Leah’s baby shower in 2019 before son Rowan was born.

Julie says she can’t get enough of her two grandbabies, including Leah’s son, Rowan, with husband Jared, and eldest son Brian’s daughter, Cora, with his wife, Monica. The 7-month-old cousins were born a day apart.

“We love getting together often as a family, usually at least every Sunday afternoon. It’s the best part of my week, spending time with my awesome kids and my fabulous grandchildren,” she says.

The thought of those grandbabies someday joining the family business has crossed their minds, but Leah says there will be absolutely no pressure for the third generation to continue in the dental profession. If they do, though, Leah says they have the perfect role model.

“My mom is an incredible dentist, but she is an even better person. I hope that my kids will share in her bubbly personality, tremendous work ethic and never-ending energy,” Leah says.

Every day when Julie heads to the office, she can’t think of a better partner than the one she has.

“What a thrill for me that my daughter is a dentist and did join my practice. It’s the best,” she says.

Julie Stelly (left) at daughter Leah’s Texas A&M University graduation in 2013. They’re a proud Aggie family.

— Kathleen Green Pothier