b y Michelle St . Onge | Photo by Jessica McCafferty
Issue: February 2022
Family: Husband, Geoff; four adult children
Education: Mount Assumption Institute (high school), Providence College (undergraduate), University of Buffalo (dental school)
Occupation: Partner, Boule/Spear Family Dentistry
Community Involvement: North Country Mission of Hope Board; Holy Cross Parish (formerly St. Peter’s Church) Parish Council, longtime former coach and volunteer for the Peru Youth Commission
THREE GENERATIONS AND GOING STRONG
The story of Boule/Spear Family Dentistry began when Dr. Anne-Marie Spear’s grandfather, Dr. Isidore Boule of Keeseville, opened his first dental practice on Margaret Street in Plattsburgh in 1911. After enduring a business loss by fire and a relocation to the second floor above the current Cornerstone Bookshop, the practice eventually settled on Brinkerhoff Street. Dr. Isidore welcomed the next generation to the practice in the 1940’s when his sons Dr. Roger Boule and later Dr. John Boule joined him.
Dr. John Boule practiced there for the better part of his career. He welcomed the third generation to the practice in the 1990’s after two of his six children graduated from dental school and returned to the area. More than 110 years after Dr. Isidore saw his first patient, his grandchildren Dr. Anne-Marie Boule Spear and Dr. Mark Boule continue the family legacy today just a few miles from where it all began.
Dr. Anne-Marie Spear followed her grandfather and father’s footsteps, graduating from dental school in the summer of 1991. “That was a busy time for me,” she recalled, “I graduated from dental school in May, got married in June and started my dental residency in July.” Dr. Spear and her husband Geoff started out in Hartford, Connecticut where she worked at Mount Sinai Hospital. The couple returned to the area in 1994 to join the family practice, settle down and start their family. When her brother Dr. Mark Boule joined the practice in 1998, the business expanded by assuming an existing practice in Peru, where Dr. Anne-Marie was raising her family.
Dr. Anne-Marie recently sat down with Strictly Business at their current location on Tom Miller Road to share her story.
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?
AS: This is a family practice, run by a family, and I want to treat people like family — both staff and patients. It is very important to be honest with people and treat them the way you would want to be treated.
SB: Who was your most influential mentor?
AS: My dad was definitely my biggest supporter and my biggest mentor. I was so lucky to have him as a dad — not only as a person, but also a dentist. He was such an honest and fair person. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.
SB: How does being in a family practice influence your work?
AS: One of the really neat things about having a family practice for so long is that you get to know generations of patients. I have patients who were seen by my grandfather. Just today I treated the child of a longtime patient who I first treated when she was a child. There is a huge family connection with so many of our patients.
SB: If you could talk to your younger self, what advice would you offer her?
AS: When you’re in dental school, those years are very stressful. I would reassure her to trust her gut and that it will all work out.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
AS: Work hard and don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep plugging away and don’t think too far in the future. Concentrate on getting things done slowly and don’t stress about what might happen. Just keep plugging away at it.
SB: What does success look like to you?
AS: Success for me is when one of my patients refers another patient to me. When someone tells a friend that they can count on me to help them with their problems, and that they had a good experience. That is one of my greatest rewards.
SB: Tell us about your approach to management and leadership.
AS: It is important to me to have my staff involved in decisions and empower them to make their own decisions. I allow them autonomy to decide how to take care of their tasks. That way they can take pride in what they do without me micromanaging them. We are so blessed with the quality of people on our staff — ethical, honest people who work hard for us. And they tend to stay with us a long time. Our Office Manager has been with us for 41 years. How often does that happen?
SB: What are you most proud of professionally?
AS: I am proud to be part of this one-hundred-year-old family legacy, and I am proud of the generations of family connections we have made that still continue today.
SB: How would you like to be remembered?
AS: I would like to be remembered as a person who was very caring and supportive of her family and her community. As a dentist, I have lots of opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it is helping someone overcome their fear of the dentist or getting to know you and your kids. Those are the moments that make it worth it for me. There are certain patients you remember, and that has nothing to do with the procedure of dentistry. It has everything to do with the personal connections you make.
SB: What is something no one would guess about you?
AS: I was one of the first girls in this area allowed to play in organized youth Little League and ice hockey. I graduated from high school in 1983 which was just after Title IX opened up sports to women. There weren’t a lot of women athletes back then, or women leaders for that matter. I am grateful to all those women that came before me who did the work to get that legislation passed. I got the benefit of their hard work, with an athletic scholarship.
A lot has changed for women since my grandfather’s day. There was only one woman dentist in his graduating class, and it is notable that she was #1 in her class. Only about 20% of my dental school class were women. Today though, there are about as many women as men in dental school. Young girls have so many more role models. The sky’s the limit for them, and that is such a positive change.
SB: What inspires you?
AS: I have always had a very strong faith. It is inspiring to know that there’s something beyond this world. Something that makes me get up every day and keeps me moving is just trying to take some action to make my little piece of the world a better place.