May 12, 2023
Dr. Laurene Duke has been happily practicing dentistry for over 30 years. She was first introduced to dentistry as a 5-year-old patient in Dr. Beckman’s practice, with a full garden in the backyard visible from every operatory. While attending Long Beach State University, Dr. Beckman introduced her to his daughter who was attending UCLA dental school. This was the first time Dr. Duke learned that women can really be doctors! During her dental school interviews Dr. Duke was told by the USC interviewer that she shouldn’t attend dental school, that she would be taking the place of a man and she’d practice for a couple years before having babies and staying home. This was 1979; USC was the first acceptance letter she received and the first one she, very nervously, declined.
After graduating UCLA dental school in 1984 she practiced in different clinics and practices, learning the type o dentistry she didn’t want to perform and honing her skills to practice dentistry how she wanted. All through school and the beginning of her career she kept in close contact with Dr. Beckman and started working as his associate in the years after graduating. While in school she married an engineer, Scott, and they became parents in 1985 followed by a second in 1987. In 1989, while very pregnant with her third child, Dr. Beckman casually asked her if she wanted to buy his practice. It was probably the easiest practice sale in history. Dr. Beckman stayed on for a few years, as her associate, seeing patients so Dr. Duke could be a mom to three small children and see patients 1-2 days a week. One of the best things Dr. Beckman told her was to “work hard and enjoy what you do, but it is important to make time for family and life.” She has taken that through her entire career, always sure to make time to be a mom and LIVE. She has always taken time off for school and sport events with her children and family vacations, now averaging about 6-12 weeks a year out of the office. In 1994 the opportunity came for Dr. Duke to purchase the building, which she did and admits it was one of the best professional decisions she’s ever made. In 1999 she navigated her way through a terrible embezzlement and learned more about being a business owner. Dental school introduces students how to be clinicians, but nothing about how to actually practice and own a business.
In 2017 Dr. Duke was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was very little knowledge and resources to find out how to practice post-surgeries and during treatment. There was no timeline for coming back following a bilateral mastectomy. Dr. Duke and her small team figured out how best to do it for her practice and for her sanity. She learned more about how to help herself heal and how best to keep herself healthier, reading every journal and article she could find. She used HBOT and THOR laser religiously following her mastectomy which helped her heal quickly and well. Learning to re-use muscles, following both the mastectomy and then again after her final reconstruction surgery, was difficult and sometimes surprising when the simple act of using an instrument for a routine filling became more difficult. It was a journey that helped her become a healthier person and more understanding, educated doctor.
In her free time Dr. Duke enjoys gardening, hiking, camping, and spending time with her family- especially now
that there are grandchildren.