GUILDERLAND — When 18-year-old Anastasya Prigorodova moved to the U.S. from Uzbekistan 10 years ago, she learned to speak English by writing new words onto cards that she posted around her room. She would leave each one up until she knew the word and how it was spelled. Within a year, she said she was able to converse in her new language.
Now going into her senior year at Guilderland Central High School, the National Honors student spent the summer learning the ins and outs of a career she hopes to pursue upon graduation, one which was ranked by U.S. News & World Report as 2016’s “Best Job.” Her boss said its a career path in high demand here in the Capital District.
Working as a paid intern for Dr. Sergey Berenshteyn of Adirondack Orthodontics, Prigorodova has gained experience in nearly every aspect of his Latham practice — from the front desk, to the x-ray room, to the patients themselves.
Prigorodova’s father, a dental technician from Belarus, inspired her to pursue a similar line of work and helped her find the internship. Having worked with Berenshteyn previously, he reached out to see if he would have room to take on an intern for the summer.
The office in Latham is the third that Berenshteyn has opened in the Capital District in five years, he has others in Albany and Clifton Park. The Latham office opened in February and Prigorodova began her internship in June.
“As we were growing, I needed more help,” said Berenshteyn, explaining that Prigorodova is the first intern ever employed by his practice. “And, this summer, Stacy (Prigorodova) was looking for things to do! It really arose organically and turned out, I think, mutually beneficial.”
Standing next to the front desk in the still-new waiting room of his office, Berenshteyn described the work his new intern has been doing. She works the front desk and has learned to schedule appointments, take payments and talk to new patients. “She’s very friendly when she greets new people,” he said, smiling at his young protégé.
Prigorodova also takes new patients back to consult with Berenshteyn, handles patient records, helps with x-rays, sterilizes equipment, and is even able to assist with procedures. “Even though she’s just an intern, she’s the only one who works all the way from the front to the back,” Berenshteyn pointed out.
Describing recent advances in orthodontics, Berenshteyn explained that there is more to the practice than fitting adolescents with braces. New Invisalign® technology has made it possible for adults to surreptitiously straighten their smiles, he said, and many are choosing to do so. Adults over the age of 30 make up approximately 20 percent of his fast-growing practice. Patients, it seems, are never in short supply.
“I love it,” said Prigorodova, who explained that her father had hoped she would pursue a career in dentistry. “I didn’t really want to do that, so I started doing some research,” she said. “And this appealed to me.” According to the her, there is less need for novocaine in orthodontics and the atmosphere is, by and large, friendlier and more relaxed.
The profession, in fact, just overtook dentistry for the number one job on the US News list, which is based on factors such as salary, employment opportunities and work-life balance. An orthodontist in the U.S. can expect to earn between $90,000 and $250,000 annually. Yet, according to Berenshteyn, they are difficult to find in the region. He is looking to hire someone and has employed a headhunter, but still guesses it will be several months before he hires someone.
“It’s hard,” he said. “Not a lot of people are dying to come to Albany. But they should; it’s a great place.”
Prigorodova’s family moved to the U.S. ten years ago to join their extended family and to find more opportunity, she said. They spent the first two years in New York City before moving to Guilderland. While she admits the initial culture shock was not easy, Prigorodova has clearly acclimated well and is active in her community and school. She belongs to the school’s dance team, participates in its annual cultural fair (representing Russia, which lies immediately north of Uzbekistan), belongs to the art and badminton clubs, and gets good grades. She said that she’s also a big fan of winter sports.
Currently, she’s not receiving school credit for her internship — as it’s something she pursued on her own — but Prigorodova said she might pitch the idea to her high school counselor.
Upon graduation, the Guilderland senior plans to stay local to complete her undergraduate degree and then hopes to go to New York City for dental school. Berenshteyn said that he would like to see Prigorodova return to the area once she does.
“I hope she goes through the process so I can get her in a few years,” he said, laughing. “That’s my secret plan.”
Until then, he said she is welcome to continue working in his office as long as she would like.