Alumni Connection - Dr. Clara Dutton Griffey, DDS (’05)
When you’re thriving in a profession that combines your two favorite subjects — art and science — it’s a win-win. And Clara Griffey (’05) is now making the most of that as a practicing dentist in her hometown of Waco.
“I love that as a general dentist, I get to do a wide variety of procedures and see many different types of patients,” Griffey said. “I love working with my hands, and I love how artistic dentistry can be. It also uses concepts in engineering, physics, medicine, and is now incorporating a lot of technology.”
Grffey said she also loves that she gets to work with people everyday, both her patients and her team.
“It is constantly changing and developing and it’s a wonderful profession to be a part of. My husband and I chose to come back to Waco because we felt like it would be a great place to raise our children, and also so that we could be closer to our families. I wanted to practice in a city small enough where I knew my patients both inside and outside of the dental office, but large enough tofind a variety of things to become involved in. It also didn’t hurt that my husband is a pretty big Baylor athletics fan, so he was immediately on board for the move.”
But Griffey said she had a long, nontraditional path to get where she is today.
“I attended Baylor University, and had a hard time choosing a major because I loved everything,” she said. “I switched back and forth between arts and sciences until I chose to get my BFA in Studio Art with a concentration in Painting in 2010. I still couldn’t shake the draw towards the sciences though and stayed at Baylor where I earned a BS in Biochemistry in 2012.”
After she graduated, she started working in a biochemistry research lab at UT Southwestern.
“During that time, I visited the dentist for a regular checkup where she told me about how dentistry combines art and science,” she said. “I was so excited to find a career path that combined everything I loved. I enrolled for a the last few prerequisites I needed and applied. I recently graduated from Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry and am loving what I do”
Griffey met her husband, Matthew, at Baylor, and we they married in 2012. They have two sons, Pinson, age 5, and Rollie, age 2. Griffey’s husband is a mechanical design engineer for a biomedical company. Her parents are both physicians and have lived in Waco for many years.
“I attribute growing up in a medical family as a factor in my desire to be in the healthcare field,” she said.
Griffey said Vanguard’s small school atmosphere gave me the opportunity to not only be involved in but take on larger rolls in a variety of organizations and activities.
“This gave me the confidence to act as a leader in future rolls in college and beyond,” she said. “The teachers were all fantastic and could focus on us individually. The quality of education was top notch, while also having a relaxed atmosphere that allowed students to express themselves and pursue their own interests.
She said she never felt forced to follow a certain path at Vanguard, which was good for her because she had so many interests.
“Since Vanguard is so small, you can be on the basketball team and play in the orchestra and not be boxed into a particular stereotype,” she said. “Vanguard was like a family, and the teachers and staff expressed genuine interest in us as students and as people.”
Science teacher Paula Marshall was her all-time favorite.
“Her classes were so much fun,” she said. “She took complicated concepts and made them interesting. The projects we did in her class were a blast. Somehow, she was able to explain things in a way that would actually stick in your brain rather than in one ear and out the other. She understood how people learn differently and catered to those different styles. Seventeen years later, I still remember her explaining electron shells.”
“Within your class, you have some classmates that are your friends and some that are acquaintances, and that’s okay,” she said. “But treat everybody like a future friend, even if they aren’t one right now. Vanguard seems small, but the connections follow you everywhere which is a good thing as long as you follow that advice. You might find yourself moving to a new city someday knowing nobody except a former classmate, and that single connection can open up a whole network for you. Your shared Vanguard background gives you a head start on a new friendship. “
One of Griffey’s best-loved Viking traditions is senior the parking spaces.
“I love that the seniors still paint the parking spaces there, not many people can say they got to do that,” she said. “My little claim to fame is that part of my painted parking space from 15 years ago is still there because the ramp/stairs to the gym were built on top…so nobody else painted over it and a little pink section of it is still going strong!”