The vista of dentistry has changed over the past 30 years, and I may say, it is a wonderful time to be a woman in dentistry.

"/> The vista of dentistry has changed over the past 30 years, and I may say, it is a wonderful time to be a woman in dentistry.

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    Top 25 Women in Dentistry 2014

    25 Women who have impacted the dental industry

    The vista of dentistry has changed over the past 30 years, and I may say, it is a wonderful time to be a woman in dentistry.

    Since my graduation in 1983, women are on the road to being equity partners in this profession. My dental school class had 29 women out of a class of 151 graduates. Fast forward to 2014 to see a completely different class composition, with more than 50% of the predoctoral candidates now comprised of women.

    Looking over just the past 20 years, the percentage of women dentists has increased over 210%. Today, 37% of all practicing dentists are women. Remarkably, according to Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin, the executive director of the ADA, in a recent presentation to the Dental Trade Alliance during this past Chicago MidWinter meeting, the market of women dentists continues to rise where as the market for male dentists is decreasing. The number of total women dentists in the U.S. has risen from 10.9% in 1993 to 26.2% in 2012. Over 79% of all women practitioners are practice owners. In addition, it is only getting better for us. Those are all great numbers!

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    Here are some thought provoking facts: in the next several years, since women are now 50% of the graduating classes, more women will be out in practice. Graduation surveys have shown that over 50% of women plan to own their practices. As many of the male baby boomer dentists sell their practices, there are now women to purchase them. The practice model may be two women working part-time in one practice, therefore covering the practice full-time or a woman buying the total practice outright.

    Regardless, women will be in control of a good portion of practices, making many more major administrative and purchasing decisions. Shortly, 80% of all practices may be 100% women. Why, you ask? In a dental office, there are four “chairs” to fill: more women graduates translate to more women dentists. Well over 97% of dental office managers are women, as are dental hygienists and assistants.  With all four chairs having women in them, the offices will be trending towards women owned/women controlled in the near future.

    When I started my practice life, it was impossible to acquire a business loan without the guarantee of my parents and my husband. Banks would not look at me. I was a doctor with a potential long-term business and earning power. Now, many more banks are willing, and even competing, to give money to women dentists as they definitely feel we are a good, stable investment. We repay our loans. Interestingly, although dental school indebtedness is always high, women are trending towards slightly lower indebtedness at the end of school, although the total amount is definitely significant.

    Click here to keep reading about how statistics have proven that women dentists do practice.

    There have been many myths about women in practice. Statistics have proven that women dentists do practice. We may work slightly fewer hours than our male counterparts, but we do work! Women are purchasing practices, although some women prefer other practice options initially than full ownership. I have owned my practice for the past 30 years. I had always wanted to be a practice owner. I also had both of my children while I was in dental school, a feat many of my women dentist sisters may not have attempted. Women, as we have been doing for many years, do tend to balance our professional and personal lives strategically. This has not changed, as many women today are working, running their businesses, while raising children and sometimes caring for elderly parents.  

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    Thirty years ago, women in dental school used the same equipment as the men and “liked it.” Once we graduated and entered into practice, we were not given any options with regard to a different hand size or body shape. Now, some forward thinking manufacturers are assessing the different ergonomic needs of the various dental end users by offering alternative options for handpieces, seating, and instruments. Women no longer have to enter into a “one size fits all” for capital purchases, office design or style; we now have options. Moreover, we know that women represent the largest purchasing market; hence, even though many manufacturers continue to market mainly to men, those who focus on women will be strategically placed for success.  

    Although looking at the leadership of many of the dental organizations we see a vast majority of males, women are definitely on the rise. Women do have some impediments professionally, as we are now attempting to gain the same leadership roles as our male counterparts have had for decades. It takes drive and perseverance to break through the glass ceiling. Women are increasing their representation in national, state and local leadership in addition to dental school deans. Our current ADA president, Dr. Maxine Feinberg, is a perfect role model. It is not parity, but it has come a long way over the past 30 years. The American Association of Women Dentists, an organization approaching its centennial anniversary, is the only group that is comprised solely of women leaders. I am proud to be installed as the next president for the year 2015, 31 years after my graduation from a very male orientated class. AAWD is uniquely more diverse than any other dental organization by the virtue of its representing the wide variety of women currently serving in dentistry. Many of our members do go on to leadership roles in various local, state and national dental organizations.

    Even though we have come a long way, women do still have some barriers in starting up a practice. There are major concerns for long-term practice longevity and comfort due to the current design of much of the equipment we are using. Men tend to use what they are given; women tend to create a more comfortable, ergonomically balanced workspace. Finally, even though 30 years has passed, women are still mistaken for “staff” at dental meetings. This may truly be a disincentive to attend these meetings if it continues into the future.   

    One of the most interesting statistics about women dentists is that we are still making 75 to 80 cents on the dollar as compared to our male colleagues, a number that has plagued women throughout any industry. We may have to work on this one. But, for the most part, the scenery is beautiful now for a woman in dentistry. I am very happy to be enjoying the view.

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Maritza Alford (Henry Schein)

    Image of Maritza AlfordMaritza Alford recently celebrated 20 long, fruitful years working in the dental industry. Currently the National Sales Director for Henry Schein Surgical Solutions, she works closely with sales, marketing, finance and support teams to build a comprehensive customer experience for dental surgeons.

    “I am proud of the specialized division and career opportunities Henry Schein Surgical Solutions has brought to our valued customers and Team Schein members alike,” Alford said.

    There are many aspects of her position that Alford loves, like the people she works with. She and her coworkers call themselves, TSMs or Team Schein Members, and they share a special bond over the work they do as well as the opportunities that work affords them. She most appreciates the resources she gets to tap into thanks to her coworkers and their talents. She also loves the impact she gets to have on the dental industry as it grows and flourishes in a changing world.

    “Modern medicine and social media have brought so much education to the importance of dental care,” she said. “Technology enhancements are improving the lives of patients and I get to drive part of that through the support I lend to customers and the overall industry in the various leadership and sales roles I have had in my career.”

    Alford has always been able to pull inspiration and strength from her family. From a very young age, her parents instilled a strong sense of independence in her. Her father in particular was a big source of that independence. He always helped her to help herself and search for her own answers, and she attributes much of her early success to his teachings.

    Her most influential mentor however, was the company president at her first sales job in the dental industry. As an individual obsessed with the ins and outs of human dental anatomy, Alford soaked up the science of teeth. The opportunity to work alongside the company’s president made a huge impact on her.

    “He was very tough on me and forced me to find answers to solutions. Little did he know that I had many years of training from my Dad,” she remembered. “He challenged me to create business opportunities for myself which resulted in company opportunities. “

    As a woman, Alford loves that she can use her job as a way to mentor other women in business. Whether she’s teaching them the ways of the dental industry or learning from them new ways to go about problem solving, being that resource is very valuable to her.

    “Business can be intimidating and you have to believe in yourself and trust your decisions. When you make mistakes, pick yourself up, learn from them and move forward, to help you and the people around you grow,” she said.

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Hilary Brown (DenMat)

    Image of Hilary Brown In her 14-year tenure at DenMat, Hilary Brown has held several positions, but each taught her the lessons she needed in order to end up where she is today. As Senior Product Manager for all of the impression and restorative materials, Brown is most proud of the work she is currently doing.

    “Managing DenMat’s Impression & Restorative product portfolio is a tremendous responsibility, which I am honored to take on,” Brown said. “To have the opportunity to work in a medical field and manage and develop products dentists use to help people live healthier, happier lives is rewarding and inspiring. It is what makes me passionate about the work I do.”

    Brown is responsible for new product development and product management from concept to launch. For the past several years, she’s led the annual marketing plan including strategies, packaging development, R&D, forecasting, advertising and marketing collateral creation. Ongoing acquisitions and integration of new products into DenMat’s portfolio have added to her growing responsibilities.  

    “The best part of my job is that every day brings a different challenge and with it an opportunity to learn something new,” she said. “Learning is key to personal growth, so I’m thrilled to have a job where things are constantly evolving. The daily challenges promote a work environment where collaboration with co-workers is critical to success, one idea sparking another idea. Teamwork is one of my favorite things about working in Marketing.”

    However, in today’s ever changing world of new technologies and innovations, keeping current with industry trends and adjusting marketing strategies to provide DenMat’s customers with valuable information is a constant challenge. Brown works hard to ensure that her customers know she has their best interests in mind. She strives to share the passion she has for providing dentists with the support they need to be successful.

    “I believe my drive to succeed at whatever I do and my passion for people is what has advanced me to this point in my career,” she said. “I also believe my relationships both within DenMat and the dental industry have shepherded me along the way. I’m thankful for management’s support and the talented team at DenMat.  I believe we can do much more when we all work together to accomplish goals.”

    As a female professional, Brown feels that her self-confidence has contributed to her success and she advises other professional women to maintain confidence throughout their journey, no matter how difficult the outcome looks. Having that confidence allows one to take chances and try something new, and those opportunities are what eventually lead to success.

    “Self-confidence is so important, yet many people struggle with this,” she said. “It is paramount for people to have confidence in themselves, their workplace abilities and life in general. People are only confident when they are true to who they are. New experiences build confidence and prepare people for dealing with the unexpected.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Carrie Cliffel (District Sales Manager, Komet USA)

    Image of Carrie CliffelAs the main face that doctors and offices see representing Komet USA, Carrie Cliffel has a huge responsibility as the company’s district sales manager. It is her job to represent the company as well as the products they sell.

    “The products I sell are a necessity for dentists to perform their job,” Cliffel said. “I believe that I sell the best rotary instruments on the market because we carefully manufacturer and inspect every detail in order to make a superior product. What this means to doctors is less time in the chair, saving cost and making their job easier. In order to do any dentistry, you need rotary instruments, and that’s what I sell day in and day out.”

    Cliffel excels in a multitude of aspects when it comes to her job, but her favorite part is forming, nurturing and maintaining the relationships she’s built with the doctors and their staff. Over the years she’s formed life-long friendships with professionals in the industry and those relationships have been as useful to her as they are meaningful.  

    “I love when I get a phone call or an email from offices that I have helped that show their gratitude because I was able to make them feel comfortable,” she said. “I also enjoy getting to know people and their story. It forms the relationship needed to gain their trust with me and my company.”

    Though her job does come with many joys and benefits, it’s not without it’s challenges. Cliffel strives to distinguish herself and Komet among the numerous other companies selling similar products. In her competitive field she’s proud to have overcome obstacles and persevered. She set her focus on creating a need, and then maintaining that need in order to create loyalty in today’s media driven, digital world. She picked up her sense of drive and perseverance from her parents, who adopted her as a child and have always been her unending source of love and support. “Had it been any other way, I know I would not be here doing what I am doing today,” she said. “I am extremely fortunate that I had the parents who taught me respect, hard work, dedication, passion, strength, and love to become the woman I am today. I am forever thankful.”

    Her best advice to anyone looking to follow in her footsteps? Be strong and confident. The dental community is constantly changing but it remains a male dominated industry, which can be intimidating for young women. She uses the tools she’s been given to ensure her success through remaining flexible while also learning something new from each experience.

    “Females are becoming more involved in dentistry than before, which is such a great sign,” she said. “My job is a hard, hit the pavement, type job. So I would tell her to have fun, embrace the challenges, form the relationships, and use your knowledge to sell the product.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Dr. Anne Eiting Klamar (Midmark Corp.)

    Image of Dr. Anne Eiting As the president and CEO of Midmark Corporation for the last 14 years as well as a physician by training, Anne Klamar loves that her position gives her the opportunity to work with great people. She also enjoys the fact that she’s in a leadership role where she can encourage people to be better dental professionals than they ever thought they could be.

    For Klamar, working in healthcare and the different healthcare markets has been a learning experience that she embraces with both enthusiasm and curiosity.
    “I think the most challenging part of my job is finding areas where we can continue to grow,” she said. “We’re just always looking for opportunities to grow and to better understand the market as well as the needs of our customers.”

    While she admits that some of the opportunities she’s gotten on her way to a successful career have been through luck, she said most of those chances she’s made reality through hard work and dedication. She attributes the bulk of her success to her passion for working in healthcare as well of her love for working with people.

    “My dad taught me to work hard and always to be ethical and honest, and I think that’s a good foundation to start from,” she said.

    Throughout her life, Klamar has had a series of mentors that she has learned from, and she’s grateful for each experience they’ve shared with her and each lesson she’s learned along the way. Through their teaching she learned to stay true to herself, while also learning who she is and who she wanted to be.

    Today she looks up to her board of directors most as a model for the professional woman she wants to be.

    “I have an incredible board of directors,” she said. “It’s eight other people who are incredibly smart and successful and who hold me accountable and I really look up to all of my directors because I have such tremendous respect for them.”

    Networking with other professional women is a key element in finding success according to Klamar. It allows you to get to know other people in your field and to learn from their experiences as well as those you have to share.

    “I think it’s really important, especially in the dental industry for women to mentor other women,” she said. “I’ve found that the women in the industry that have been role models to me have been tremendously helpful and I’m very grateful to them.”
    For any woman looking to follow in her footsteps, Klamar advises her to trust her gut first and foremost, as well as to be true to her values. She believes that every woman should maximize on the strengths that women naturally bring to business as well as to bring her best to every position and relationship that has the potential to make her better and push her.

    “Be who you’re meant to be, don’t try to be somebody else, don’t try to be a guy,” she advised. “Be who you are and be the best at it.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Jeanne Hurlbut, RDH (ORMCO/Kavo Kerr Group)

    Image of Jeanne HuributJeanne Hurlbut is the manager of New Owner Support for Ormco’s Lythos digital scanner: Product Launch. In her position she has set up and trained beta sites for FDA clearance, developed the Train-the-Trainer course, and helped hire and train full-time employees as well as contractors, and trained the company’s international teams. Currently, her day-to-day tasks include in-office trainings for initial offices and the company’s top doctors along with re-training offices and providing them with remote support for consistent and constant scan feedback and customer service.
    “The best part of my job is working for an amazing company, Danaher,” Hurlbut said. “The talented people they hire and employ are all on the top of their game, sharing the same passion for life my parents instilled in myself: strive to be the best in all that you do, do it right the first time (because) it takes less time to do it right then to redo, treat others in the same manner and respect you would like to be treated. Pay it forward.”

    In her position travel is constant, which to Hurlbut can sometimes present a challenge. For example, travel plans can so easily go awry, leaving both Hurlbut and those waiting at her final destination scrambling for a solution. Flights get delayed, weather happens and it can create some frustration and hardship on all involved. However, she knows the end result, her ability to finally pass on the usable knowledge to doctors, is worth the wait every time.

    Hurlbut is most grateful for the support of her loving family as they’ve played a huge part in her journey to success. She acknowledges that some facets of her career have been a struggle, but by leaning on each other for support she and her family have come through each challenge with new knowledge and a strengthened love for one another.

    “We leaned, learned and loved each other in the good and bad times, proving to each of us if you put your heart and soul into something you believe in and love, it can and is possible,” she said. “They all bring out the best in me. No one gets to where they are alone. We all need the love and support of others. Surround yourself with these people and toss the others aside as chaff.”

    Besides her family, Hurlbut attributes her success to her dedication and unending vigor. She does not settle for mediocre. She knows it takes hard work to be great, yet she refuses to be anything less. She knows if she keeps her eye on the end goal she has what it takes to get there, no matter the hurdles she has to get over.

    “I have always strived to be a lifelong learner of the profession of dentistry and be exceptional at what I do,” she said. “There is not a person in the world that doesn’t have hardships. It’s what you make of your hardship that gets you where you’re going.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Jo Hayes (Hayes Handpiece)

    Image of Jo Hayes Over 25 years ago, the Hayes family started Hayes Handpiece Company based on the idea that dental offices needed local, personal service for handpiece repairs. Today, Jo Hayes manages the administration of the corporate headquarters for Hayes, and trains and assists the franchise locations with the adminstration of their businesses­­—everything from billing and shipping to human resources and personnel management.

    Hayes Handpiece offers ongoing education and staff training for the proper care and maintenance of handpieces, instruments, the operatory, sterilizers and other small equipment. The company works to help doctors make informed decisions about purchasing new handpieces while having created a convenient, state-of-the-art website that allows customers easier access to products.

    “The best parts of my job have always been working with family, finding new ways to grow the business, and making sure Hayes remains an important asset to the dental office,” she said. “It’s challenging but fun to figure out how our company can continue to provide top-notch service to our customers, the type of service that makes them want to choose us rather than the competition.”

    As a woman in business, Jo has always drawn inspiration from her mother while watching her work hard day to day. This was during a time when everyone was expected to participate in the jobs inside and out of the home in order to make it financially, and her mother’s work ethic made a huge impression on Jo, one that has stuck with her throughout her journey to success.

    To her, knowing the significance of a united family, working together as a team to deal with the big issues and the stresses is very important, and thus Hayes Handpiece started as a family business and has continued successfully as one.

    “We are where we are today due to the dedication and hard work of all of us as a family,” she said. “John and myself, our children, David, Jeanne, Diane and Joe, worked very long, and many times very stressful, hours. Our daughters-in-law, Kristy and Donna, along with our nephew Casey, my sister Mary and all of our grandchildren have been part of our success. We’ve also had many loyal employees and dedicated Hayes franchise owners across the country who have all helped us to achieve our goals and grow the business every year for the past 25 years.”

    Jo attributes much of her personal success to her willingness to take a chance on an idea along with her strong work ethic and her ability to problem solve. The most important advice she’s gotten in her career came from a former boss, who told her that no one is irreplaceable. This advice was especially meaningful to her because it served as a reminder to work to the best of her ability, appreciate the job you have and never take a job for granted.

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Therese Long (Executive Director, OSAP)

    Image of Therese Long Working with a non-profit organization is hardly ever a walk in the park, but for Therese Long its rewards far outweigh its trials. Long works as the executive director for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP,) a non-profit with a vision of safe dental care for people everywhere. OSAP’s mission, according to Long, is to be the world’s leading advocate for the safe and infection-free delivery of oral healthcare. Long is proud to work with a group of dedicated and committed people who represent every facet of oral healthcare from clinicians to lab workers to educators and beyond.  

    “OSAP has a strong leadership team and it is so energizing to work with them and with other organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, International College of Dentists and others on strategies to advance the organization’s goals, amplify the mission and contribute to the health and safety of patients and the oral healthcare community,” she said.

    Long’s role in the organization is to help keep the team focused on OSAP’s mission and goals through the delivery of superior education designed to raise the bar on performance with authoritative infection control standards. Her professional philosophy includes what she calls the four P’s: purpose, people, passion and prevention. Through these driving factors she finds inspiration, motivation, and the source of her seemingly unending ambition.

    “I deeply believe and support the purpose of OSAP, I am inspired by the people who are involved in the organization. The passion of the OSAP community to protect their patients is unparalleled and the purpose, people and passion creates an amazing capacity to help prevent the pain, trauma and heartbreak of disease,” Long said. “This is what drives me.”

    Throughout her life, Long has always envisioned the next hurdle or goal she wanted to achieve, and then she would focus her energy on making it happen. She is a strong believer in hard work and “sweat equity.” There are a lot of innovations to be had in the dental community, especially in the non-profit realm, but none of those innovations will replace passion and a strong willed work ethic.

    “It’s energizing and sometimes overwhelming to do whatever one can to marshal the resources required to accomplish one’s goals,” she advised. “Surround yourself with good people. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from a long list of fantastic colleagues, friends and family members. Life matters. Don’t squander it by frittering it away on things that don’t matter to you.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Barbara Nordquist (VP of Academic & Professional Relations for Kavo Kerr Group)

    Image of Barbara NordquistBarbara Nordquist is the Vice President for Academic and Professional Relations for KavoKerr Group, the dental business unit for Danaher Corporation and the largest manufacturer of dental products in the world. She is responsible for the business and professional relationships with all 65 dental schools in the United States for the 19 operating companies of KavoKerr.

    “By partnering with dental schools, our mission is to align sales, marketing, communication and technical support to help establish, nurture and expand our relationships with dental schools,” Nordquist said.  “As such we not only help schools fulfill their product needs efficiently and cost effectively, but we also develop unique solutions to support their individual approaches to the education of their students, their delivery of better patient care, and their support of their faculty and health care associates.”

    In her career spanning more than 28 years, Nordquist has worked closely with dental schools, their deans, faculty and students as well as having been involved with and participated in many of the significant changes that have occurred in how dental education is delivered. She’s proud to have had a hand in those changes and to have touched the lives of so many budding dental professionals and their mentors.

    “I love working with very smart individuals to advance new ideas and education approaches, to develop new products, and to better address relationship issues, all while working on widely differing projects,” she said. “I believe that I am very good at inspiring and motivating teams, and building and supporting relationships, at both the corporate and institution levels.”

    Her position is one filled with complex processes and obligations, many of which are routine when heading a large corporation, and others are more specific to a business that caters so strongly to institutions of education. Nordquist attributes her accomplishments in her career and her life to her desire to be successful as well as her intense drive and leadership instincts. She began her journey chair-side as a registered dental nurse in England, but soon found that sales was a better fit for her personality as well as her future goals.

    “I was always highly motivated and wanted to achieve more,” she recalled. “When I was given the opportunity and the encouragement to have higher expectations and achieve more, I succeeded.”

    If she’s learned one important thing on her journey to success, it’s that people are the most important factor when it comes to success in both business and life. Not the technology or products she innovates and sells, but the people she comes in contact with every day who inspire her and constantly teach her new things.

    Nordquist has made many friends and nurtured many relationships in her career, and she strives to learn something new from each person and to get to know what is most important to them whether it be at home or at work.

    “Everyone has their own story and they are all important,” she said. “I love being able to share their stories and delight in my relationships.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Lori Paschall, CDA, FADAA (Hu-Friedy, President of ADAA)

    Image of Lori PaschallAs a Regional Account Manager for Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co., Lori Paschall’s job in technical terms is to sell dental instruments, sterilization and infection control products and ancillary instrument products. However, she considers her job to be much more. According to Paschall, it entails educating and training both the dealer reps  and the end-user regarding products and best uses. Then, working with the practice’s dealer rep to recommend the best options for the practice, she continues to support their needs, and the dealer’s, long after the sale.

    “I love the relationships that I build with my customers,” she said. “As a manufacturer’s rep I have had the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with both practioners and dealer reps. Through my many years of involvement with the American Dental Assistants Assn. on the local, state and national levels, I have been blessed to cultivate relationships with so many people both on the sales as well as clinical sides.”

    As a formally educated and clinically trained dental assistant, Paschall considers it very important, on both a personal and professional level, that a practice has what is necessary to take care of the needs and safety of the patients and staff. “I think one of the biggest challenges that I experience is when I am unable to communicate to a practitioner that my suggestions are in the best interest of the practice either by increasing efficiency, safety or compliance,” she said.

    She hasn’t let any challenge stand in the way of helping practices and their patients, and that is one of the reasons she has been so successful. “I do what I do because I love my job and profession, not because there may be a reward attached to it,” she said. “I have been blessed over the years to have been touched by so many influential and talented people in the dental industry and my successes are merely a reflection of those experiences.”

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Carolyn Suh (BISCO Corp.)

    Image of Carolyn SuhCarolyn Suh has been working with BISCO for over 15 years serving in a variety of positions since 1997 before settling into her current position as the Director of Professional Relations. In her position, Suh has a lot of different roles both within the company and within the dental industry but her primary focus is on the development of the BISCO brand within the industry, working with the industry's key opinion leaders who educate dentists through lectures and hands-on workshops, by sharing BISCO's research and product information with educators so it can be disseminated to clinicians around the world.

    “The best part of my job is definitely that I get to travel and meet BISCO customers around the world who are loyal to the BISCO brand and our products,” she said. “Seeing the impact that BISCO has had globally makes me proud and passionate about working at BISCO.”

    In her position, Suh travels one to two times per month in order to attend meetings, speak with customers about products and attend seminars regarding trends and changes in restorative dentistry. All of her travel is done to help BISCO implement new ideas as well as to incorporate the input and feedback from key opinion leaders and customers to help develop new and innovative products, that way the company can continue to thrive and grow as the dental industry changes.

    “The most challenging part of my job is definitely figuring out how to be seen and heard in the big dental industry,” she said. “We directly compete with some of the industry’s biggest corporations. Being a niche company, we are able to focus on what we do best, and service the industry successfully, even as a small company.”

    Suh attributes much of her success to her ability to maintain an optimistic outlook. She believes that things have a way of working themselves out and that the journey of life is filled with opportunities to learn and grow from the challenges she’s had to face along the way.

    “I think keeping an open mind regarding every challenge and decision I have faced has gotten me to where I am today,” she said. “I have never faced a challenge or decision and thought to myself, there is no way I can do or achieve that. This applies to both my professional, as well as my personal goals and ambitions.”

    Another strong factor in Suh’s journey to success has been her sense of respect for those she works with, as well as the passion she shares with those individuals. To her, the best ideas are found through appreciating and considering the opinions of her peers and those she works closely with. Collaboration is not always smooth, but it’s buffing out those rough patches that help facilitate innovation and create growth that is multi-dimensional and sustainable.

    “The most important thing I have learned from my journey is that I don't have to conform to society's or other people's views, but that I can achieve my own success as defined by me,” she said.

    Click here to check out the 25 women who have impacted the dental industry.

    Laura Gutierrez, Office Manager

    Image of Laura GutierrezLaura Gutierrez is the dental clinic manager for NSO dental clinic, a low-cost clinic for the uninsured, as well as a licensed dental assistant. She takes a lot of pride in planning, directing and coordinating the daily operations of the clinic for the dental team, while being on hand to assist chair side when it’s needed. In the last year alone, her clinic performed almost 6,000 procedures on more than 2,000 patients. It takes impressive skills and much effort from Gutierrez to be able to play such a big part in making sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently at the clinic on a daily basis.

    “The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help other people,” she said. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a patient smile for the first time in years.”

    Still, an endeavor like that comes with its own heavy set of challenges. Some of those challenges are expected, like finding and maintaining enough funding and others are more specific to a unique project like this one, challenges like dealing with the at-risk population and preserving open and transparent lines of communication with funders.

    “I believe that God has a plan for each of us and even though we have our own idea of what we want to be doing, God guided and directed my path to work in dentistry,” she said. “I believe He has led me to this mission and has blessed me with skills and abilities to operate our clinic efficiently, and continue to secure funding for our mission.”

    Family and faith are two very important factors in Gutierrez’s life and her success. Her first role model and biggest supporter is her mother, who has always showed her how to be a good person. Her mother made sure she was a good example of female strength to her daughter, putting herself through school as well as making her way up to management at work and all while supporting her family as a single mother.

    “My mother has always inspired me to be the best person and the best business woman that I could be,” she said. “Throughout the years, my mother never told me how to be, rather showed me how I should be and for that I am grateful.”   

    To Gutierrez, education is a huge factor of importance when it comes to her success. She strived to never stop learning and never stop asking questions because without those things her evolving success would become stagnant. She maintains a healthy sense of curiosity that always keeps her busy.

    “Education and learning, even if it’s not formal is extremely important to keep you interested and enthusiastic about what you do,” she said. “Even after 12 years I can say that I still have so much to learn. It’s okay to push your limits, and move out of your comfort zone. This is how great things will happen to you.”

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    Trish Jones, RDH

    Image of Trish jones As the Technical Accounts Manager for Aurum Ceramic Dental Laboratories and a humanitarian for helping others have a better life, Trish Jones has got her hands full, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She enjoys the versatility her position entertains because of the multiple areas of dentistry she has her hands on. As a registered dental hygienist she has the technical and clinical knowledge of dentistry while also possessing the operational and technical knowledge of working in  and representing a dental laboratory.

    “I can effectively communicate with offices with an enhanced understanding of dental materials and the skills needed to create an end result, which is a happy patient with the best fitting restoration and a functional beautiful smile,” she said. “I have empathy on both sides.”

    To her, understanding the dynamics of the dental team and how the office operates is of great value to any laboratory. This is because dental teams and dental technicians think differently, so she has taken it upon herself to fill the gap while working to make sure the laboratory is meeting and exceeding the expectations of the office.

    As a humanitarian, Jones has taken advantage of many philanthropic opportunities during her career. She’s been involved with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation: Give Back a Smile for the past 14 years. In that time she has held a position on the board of trustees as well as been honored as the first RDH to hold the position of Chair of the Board of Trustees. The organization’s mission is to pair volunteer cosmetic dentists with domestic abuse survivors to be able to have their smile zone restored at no cost to them. The goal of the project is to not only restore the individual’s smile, but also their confidence; in some cases, a new smile helps them secure a job or return to school.

    “I can honestly say it is extremely rewarding to help someone get not only their smile back, but their life,” she said. “It is empowering, life changing and so fulfilling knowing I am a small piece of the puzzle that a helps increase someone’s quality of life. It has been a truly rewarding blessing and I have been so honored to have been part of this organization.”

    Jones’ journey through life was a turbulent one, fraught with familial problems, custody battles, and a plethora of childhood traumas. As a young adult she made choices and mistakes that taught her many useful, while sometimes painful, lessons but she never let her difficult past define her. Instead, Jones uses her experiences to inspire change as well as personal motivation.

    “If I fail or succeed, it will be because of me,” she recited as her own personal mantra. “Do what you can, while you can, otherwise you will wish you had. It has been a tough journey for me in my childhood, but it has formed me to who I am today.”

    Today, Jones strives to be a positive example to women of all ages and she will continue to do what makes her happy, whether it agrees with the expectations of others or not.

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    Noel Kelsch, RDHAP

    Image of Noel KelschNoel Kelsch is a registered dental hygienist, but for her no two days are the same. She works to explore every opportunity dentistry has to offer her through clinical research, writing, public speaking, teaching and consulting. In her career, she has helped to facilitate the opening of a free clinic, seen end of life patients for comfort care, and provided preventative treatment to patients who are unable to access care in a rather unorthodox fashion, on the streets with a backpack of supplies. She considers her work to be an unending source of inspiration and she is grateful for the opportunities that work has afforded her.

    In her opinion, the best part of her job is three fold:
    “Being able to take a concept from research to application to sharing it to clinicians and the public and impacting people’s knowledge of safe dentistry. Being able to cradle patients in my lap and making a difference in their smiles and lives. Bringing the field of dentistry to new levels in different venues, creating access to care for all.”
    But like many other clinicians who work to aid those who do not have access to regular dental care, funding is always a challenge. Though she advocates for the industry in every aspect of her career, she acknowledges a lack of recognition and prioritization in healthcare when it comes to dentistry. She even jokes that one day her husband expects to see her on a street corner holding a sign that proclaims, “Will work for fluoride varnish.”

    Even in her weakest moments, Kelsch knows she can always count on her faith to support and satisfy her, and that faith is very significant in her life. Her family is another important facet of her life. She recognizes her husband in particular as a great source of love and support. “No matter how big my dream is he has cleared the path to make it possible. He is willing to rearrange his life to make my vision a reality,” she said. “He has moved his Harley and ’Vette a zillion times to fit one more box of donations into the garage. This man drives back to the airport to bring me the laptop that I forgot and still kisses me goodbye. He is my hero and best friend. I could not have accomplished anything without him.”

    As a woman in dentistry, Kelsch advises anyone looking to follow in her footsteps to make sure to take care of herself because you are the greatest tool in dentistry. She has also found that a personal mission statement helps to keep her on track, and that doing things that don’t match up with that mission statement aren’t going to be useful in the long run­—follow your passion, and the money will come.
    “Life is filled with unlimited possibilities. Believe in your dream, pay the price and follow your dream.”

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    Anastasia Turchetta, RDH

    Image of anastasia Turchetta Anastasia Turchetta is a registered dental hygienist with a vigorous sense of ingenuity. To her, being a successful dental professional is about being resourceful, building strong relationships and creating an excellent experience for her peers and her patients. To Turchetta, affectionately known by her colleagues as “America’s Dental Hygienist,” the world is rapidly getting smaller thanks to social media, and those technologies have allowed her to connect dental professionals around the globe to consumers and patients.

    “With social media, we can take a video or a post and create valuable content for our patients to access or raise money for a charity in our profession, such as oral cancer, which also creates awareness,” she said.

    Turchetta has always believed she had a responsibility to tackle the difficult topics many dental professionals shy away from. Since she started practicing more than 27 years ago she has had the opportunity to witness first hand the taboo, the forgotten, and the cutting edge with her patients. Through those experiences Turchetta has developed a voice in the dental community and she uses it to bring attention to those who usually remain silent.

    “The most challenging part of my job is making certain my message is clear and relevant because sticking my neck out there in social media exposes me to the risk of being misunderstood with my video blogs or comments in interviews or posts,” she said. “I have found that I’ve got to really dial into my responses as text has zero emotion, we never know how it is received.”

    As most leaders can attest, their journeys to success have often times been turbulent, full of loss, resilience, sense of humor and gratitude. Whether she is bouncing back from the loss of loved ones, or working through her ADD diagnosis, Turchetta remains determined and driven in the face of any hardship.

    “All of these things have presented me with the opportunity and obligation and sensitivity to what people deal with. Information has helped me deepen my awareness and has helped me move through these challenges,” she said. “My commitment is to provide information that is useful and helps others understand and improve their lives in anyway I can through the vehicle of dental health.”

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    Dr. Cynthia Brattesani

    Image of Cynthia BrattesaniAs the daughter of a strong woman with a vibrant and genuine personality, Dr. Cynthia Brattesani is proud to be able to say that her upbringing is what got her where she is today. Her Italian culture and class pushed Brattesani to always strive for excellence and to stand out with her own style because mediocre wasn’t good enough. Her father was also a huge contributing factor when it came to building stepping-stones to an endless sense of drive and laying the foundation for success. As a restaurant owner for 50 years, Brattesani saw his hard work and dedication every day and asked herself, how can that be? This question was her inspiration and out of it was born her need to be great in everything she took on.

    “Dad taught me in his own words that attitude is a choice, not a reaction,” she said. “I think of that every day. In the typical dental day always facing challenges and situations from every angle, this mantra helps me get through it. As so many have said before, it is the way you approach life that makes the difference on how you live it. My dad’s lesson was that you might be tempted to veer off that thought, that’s normal, but take a deep breath, and quickly bring that thought back in.”

    Along with lessons learned from her parents, Brattesani says she gained a lot from many other mentors along the way. Whether it was her professors pushing her to be her best every day because that’s what her patients deserved, to her first employer who reminded her that she was always treating a person, and not just their teeth, she had been constantly learning in her career.  

    Dr. Brattesani, who wears many hats, including leader, professional, businesswoman and mother, said “In this terribly complicated world, we are surrounded by examples of shortcuts and temptations of people manipulating situations. The No. 1 thing I’ve learned from my journey is to do what is right, not what is easy.”

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    Dr. Carolyn Ghazal

    Image of Dr. Carolyn GhazalCarolyn Ghazal has always been a dentist who strives to connect with her patients in order to gain trust, and her people-centric approach to dentistry is something that has helped make her carerr successful. It’s important to Ghazal to take care of both the immediate dental needs as well as long-term care of her patients. As a mentor, her goal is to coach young dentists she works with in a way that supports their development and helps them gain confidence to be great clinicians.

    “It is clear that today’s dental education prepares young dentist to gain their dental license, but given all the recent changes to dentistry much development must take place post-dental school,” Ghazal said. “I treasure this time with associates.”
    Happy patients are the most rewarding part of Ghazal’s work because she knows then that she’s made a positive impact on that patient’s life. To her, the improvement in their quality of life and the positive results are two things that bring her both pride and joy. She also draws pleasure from her ability to impact patients indirectly through her training of the next generation of dentists.

    “Learning from my clinical mentor was the single most influential aspect of my development,” she said. “The education and guidance that I received from my mentor impacted many decisions that I have made as a clinician, so I carry it forward.”

    She is proud to provide those in her area with the dental care they need, sometimes in spite of their status or financial ability. She learned the importance of such generosity through her parents, who made many sacrifices in order to giver her the opportunity to pursue higher education and ultimately her career.

    “As a result of the civil war in my home country, my parents moved my siblings and me to the United States to secure a better future for us,” she recalled. “They set an example of hard work and courage and that has inspired me to forge through life the same way they did.”

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    Dr. Tracie Keller

    Image of Dr. Tracie Keller Tracie Keller’s journey into dentistry began very early in life, in the seventh grade to be exact, thanks to a career day her school hosted. Keller recalls very vividly that the hygienist there was a pleasant, outgoing, confident person who was excited about dentistry and her enthusiasm made Keller want to take part in the profession. After some inspiration from her father, she set her sights on dentistry, not as a hygienist however, but as a dentist who owned her own dental practice.

    “I began my dental practice by convincing a bank that I was going to be a great success in Colorado Springs,” she recalled. “As a loan laden dental student, I offered a 10-year-old Volvo, well used snow skis, and a color television set with a fuzzy picture as collateral. The hard work on that business plan convinced the bank to take a risk on this junior dental student of extreme confidence and without a business record. Fortunately, the five-year monthly cash flow projections were proven accurate. Without hitting those projections my life would have taken a different direction and during these times I proved to myself that I am an optimist with confidence.”

    She attributes much of her success to her adamant refusal to remain stagnant as well as her active passion for dentistry and her own growth in the profession. Today, Keller is proud to be a member of an array of dental organizations as well as the owner of a successful practice that utilizes many types of dental technologies across a patient range of three years old to almost 100.

    “Being a business owner has been a learn-on-the-go proposition with the experiences of stress and fulfillment,” she said. “These experiences have allowed me to set my own schedule and be there for my children as they grew up. Business learned as a necessity was hard, but the pay off has been a healthy family and a fulfilling life.”

    Keller is grateful to her family for always being by her side to push and support her. Her husband, son and daughter are all successful individuals in their own chosen professions and she is proud to have set a strong example in her family as well to have had the opportunity to share in that journey with them.

    “My husband and dental partner has always been supportive in my life and dental endeavors,” Keller said. “This has allowed our children to see that success comes from doing, exhibiting kindness, having compassion, demonstrating conviction, and developing the patient’s trust in your care.”  

    Keller is a passionate advocate for women seeking the best things any profession can give. Her advice to any professional woman in a male dominated career field is to be confident, because you will be embraced through that confidence. “Confidence is found in knowledge acquired through learning and preparation,” she said.

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    Dr. Alisa Kauffman

    Image of Dr. Alisa Kauffman In the dental community, there are a number of patient populations that are considered underserved. Alisa Kauffman is working to provide care for one of those underserved communities, the elderly. More specifically Kauffman treats geriatric, home bound patients in their homes as well as in nursing homes across New York City. She relishes the opportunity for constant change and movement as well as the opportunity to work in a variety of different and new offices on a daily basis. To some, house call dentistry may seem like a foreign field, but Kauffman has been practicing successfully for the last 29 years. Kauffman is also the Clinical Director of Faculty Practices at The University of Pennsylvania, her alma mater, where she’s helped develop the Living Independently For Elders (LIFE) Center within the school of nursing.

    “I created this project from the ground up, everything from building out the room to developing the curriculum,” Kauffman said. “The LIFE members could virtually have any treatment necessary for them to maintain the best quality of life. This program would also bridge teaching between the disciplines of nursing and dentistry.”
    In the LIFE program students rotate on a weekly basis, learning to work in a different environment with different materials and using different instruments that they don’t get to try in dental school.

    “I show them reality videos that I made of me treating geriatric patients in their apartments and at the LIFE center,” she said. “I can tell you that they really are paying attention to them and I know I have inspired a few to become geriatric dentists.”

    Since she first created the LIFE program from the ground up, it has become a very successful project that Kauffman is very proud of.  Between all the center has accomplished and the quality dentists it has produced who are now well versed in the ways of geriatric medicine, the LIFE program has been a force for good in the geriatric community.  

    “I also love the students I mentor and it makes me so happy that they are all becoming so successful,” she said. “My advice to my students is to do what you love, and you will never work another day in your life. If you can find that love, you will find happiness at work.”

    Kauffman is most thankful to her family for the support they’ve provided to her over the years. Between her parents who always kept her on the right path and encourage her to keep learning and growing, and her husband who is the glue that holds everything in her life together for the past 26 years, Kauffman considers herself very lucky. She also has a daughter whom she is very proud of and who she divines inspiration from daily as a young woman entering adulthood while working to accomplish some very lofty goals.

    “I think that the number one thing I’ve learned from my journey is that I am still on a journey,” she said. “I believe in myself and know that there are many achievements and goals that still need to be fulfilled on my work bucket list before I retire.”

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    Dr. Beverly Largent

    Image of Dr. Beverly LargentBeverly Largent started her practice 30 years ago and her work as a pediatric dentist has always been both enjoyable and rewarding. As a solo practitioner Largent strives to stay involved in the dental community through organized dentistry. She is currently the president of Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children, the Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry where she constantly advocates for and educates on the importance of a dental home early in life.

    “The best part of my job is working with young children,” she said. “They are all beautiful, and most are very trusting and loving. You do your best everyday, and just when you think you may have failed, you get a big hug from the child who was reluctant to be your patient.”

    The most difficult part of working with such a young patient population is actually working with her patient’s parents. Asking a parent to change their lifestyle is always a challenge.

    “Our society consumes too much sugar,” she explained. “Asking parents to limit their child’s intake of between meal sugars is quite challenging. Parents are open to the suggestion, but it takes a lot of energy to change a lifestyle.”  

    There are a multitude of factors that have contributed to Largent’s professional success. She was initially educated as a dental hygienist and she practiced for 10 years before she decided to embark on her career as a dentist, and without the support of her husband she would never have gotten where she is today. She considers her success a team effort thanks to him as well as her father, who is a constant source of inspiration to her and who has always taught her that she could do anything she wanted.

    “Women in business and leadership roles were not present when I was growing up,” she recalled. “The women in my life were my mother and the nuns who taught in my parochial school. My mother was an incredibly strong individual who survived many hardships. The nuns always expected great things from me, and constantly pushed me to do better.”

    For any women looking to emulate her success, Largent advises them to have goals, be humble, and to be in the know about their community. She said it is also important not to compromise her beliefs while treating everyone with constant respect and to be conscious of the usefulness of her input and the value of what she says.

    “Know your weaknesses, and surround yourself with people who can offset your weakness,” she advised. “Prioritize your life so that those things dearest to you come first. Remain open to education from any source. Do your best. Analyze your mistakes, and take away lessons.”

    Largent is most proud of her accomplishments as an advocate for children’s health. Whether she’s working with congressmen to change their stance or she’s rooting for change through one of the many organizations she heads, Largent stands behind her work with each and considers herself blessed for each experience she’s had on her journey.

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    Dr. Laurie McCauley

    Image of Dr. Laurie McCauleyAs the Dean of the School of Dentistry and as a Professor of Dentistry and Pathology at the University of Michigan, Laurie McCauley is a very busy woman, and she wouldn’t want it any other way. As the daughter of a highly dedicated and talented clinician, McCauley grew up with a passion for dentistry and the dental industry. Today, she is proud to have a hand in the quality of care the patients of her former students receive.

    “I have the opportunity to interact with the future of our dental profession, the best and brightest dental, dental hygiene, and graduate students in the world,” she said.
    Her role is not without trials, however, assuring that students and faculty have the financial resources for them to excel is a constant struggle, but having her father as such a positive role model helps McCauley over the hurdles.

    “My father is a continual role model of optimism, professionalism and compassion,” she said. “Working in his office as a dental assistant, I learned how to treat patients with empathy and respect. My parents provided me with the core values that have guided me throughout my life. They were my first teachers and led by example from my earliest memory.”

    McCauley holds herself and her students to a very high standard, whether she’s setting rigorous goals or working hard to accomplish them. She also strives to show those around her the appreciation she feels they deserve. To her, success as a team is much more rewarding than the same success individually.  

    “I have had the good fortune to have mentored many young men and women and to help guide their career paths,” she said. “It is delightful to watch them develop their skills and to identify their unique strengths. My advice is to; set goals, work hard, appreciate others, and enjoy yourself.”

    Cooperation is very important to McCauley, in both her career as a dental professional, scientist, and administrator. Working in a team allows for better growth and cohesion, something that is much more difficult to achieve when one is working solo. The most important part of teamwork to McCauley is listening. In order to facilitate the maximum amount of success one must work with open ears and an open mind. Setting goals and achieving them in concert with others is a rewarding experience, but it cannot be done without the ability to consider each different person as well as their individual opinion and ideas.

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    Teresa Duncan, MS

    Iamge of Teresa DuncanTeresa Duncan is a big asset for any dental practice to have when it comes to the business side of things. She works very diligently with both start-up and established practices to evaluate practice metrics and make sound business decisions based on evidence. In its simplest form, Duncan is there to work with doctors and their managers to prepare their practice to succeed, and to her it’s a rewarding and exhilarating line of work.

    “The dental management industry is big enough for an educator to find his or her own niche,” she said. “If you want to work from home, find a way to do that. If you want to speak but not consult, then find a way to do that. It’s easier now than ever to differentiate yourself. Do it with style and let them see your personality. At the end of the day if I forget a statistic during a presentation I’m okay because I’ll always be able to leave them with a laugh and a good feeling.”

    Duncan has found a lot of success though trial and error, but her techniques are sound and they have gotten her where she is today. In her career, it is very important to watch what neighboring industries are doing and their reactions to changes in healthcare because physician trends tend to become dental trends, and in order to remain prepared for her clients and audiences she must constantly keep an eye on those trends and when they occur.

    “I’d like dentists and managers to make business plans and strategies just like Amazon does,” she said. “The small business practice has market forces just as a large business does. If I can help offices understand this so they can succeed then we’re all winners.”

    It helps to have a deep love of learning, and to Duncan, her love of acquiring new knowledge and then passing it on to others is the number one factor that has gotten her to where she is today. “It’s our privilege as educators to take knowledge and share it with others that could use it to spur change in the lives of others,” Duncan said.

    She hopes to pass that love of learning on to her family and her son, and she does that by living by example.

    “My family’s support is the foundation upon which my career is built,” she said. “I know they have my back no matter what. My need to research the heck out of everything is to thank or blame. I remember not being able to research enough about dental management, in particular dental insurance, and then I realized that I could start helping others navigate through their insurance issues. Once I began speaking on the topic I was hooked.”

    For Duncan, following your passion and knowing yourself are two things that will lead you to success without fail, and as long as she is doing what she loves and helping others to succeed then she will always be happy.

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    Debra Engelhardt-Nash

    Image of Debra Engelhardt-NashAs a team trainer, Debra Engelhardt-Nash works to develop the teams she works with into progressive, exciting and creative forces that are passionate about what they do and how they support and enhance patient care. She loves her job because it gives her the opportunity to educate doctors and their business partners how to communicate effectively so they may provide the level of care that is their passion.

    “In the end I am a possibility thinker, and I train doctors and their teams to be possibility thinkers,” she said. “I want to help them develop a culture in dentistry that creates an impact for their practice and their patients.”  

    Nash loves that her job enables her to facilitate growth, whether she’s helping doctors and their teams to develop a deeper level of excitement for what they do or she’s teaching them new skills, her own personal passion is present in every lesson.
    “The best part of my job is that it doesn’t feel like a job, ever. I can’t imagine waking up every morning and going to a job I hate,” she said. “Life is way too short. No matter what I am doing in the profession, I am happy to be doing it, I feel lucky to be doing it.”

    Her job does come with it’s own set of obstacles, the biggest one being time, or the lack thereof. She likes to keep her career multifaceted and she has a very full and prosperous life. “I’ve learned to prioritize more effectively and I’ve put more personal time into my life,” she said. “Whether it is the wisdom of age or my brain tumor that was diagnosed and removed three years ago, reminding me of mortality, I make different decisions about time management than I did in the earlier days of my career.”  

    To Nash, working with dentists isn’t just a happenstance career choice; she had a lasting learning experience as a teen involving a dentist that taught her a lot about her attitude towards life, and it stuck with her through her entire journey to success.
    “Here I was a teenage girl working through all of these life logistics pretty much by myself when one day a chair fell and hit me in the face, breaking my front tooth. I went to the nearest dentist as an emergency patient,” Nash recounted. “The doctor explained because of my age and the limitations of welfare coverage he couldn’t do anything but smooth the rough edge on my tooth. I pleaded with him to do something and told him if he would allow me to make payments, I’d pay for the restoration myself. I am convinced that if I had not had that tooth repaired I would not be here today. Isn’t it great for those of us who focus our work in the dental profession that we work with those people who can make that sort of difference in the lives of the people they touch? And isn’t it great that we make a difference in their lives so they can make that difference?”

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    Judy Zirkle

    Image of Judy ZirkleJudy Zirkle has been making a difference in the lives of Cumberland County residents her entire career; some would even go as far as to say her whole life. As a native to the area, Zirkle knows first hand the extreme need and oral health concerns in the region, and she has been working to provide quality care to those who would otherwise go without.

    “The county I grew up in and still live in, Cumberland County, is one of need,” she said. The need pertains to the oral health and overall welfare of all ages, especially our children. This was a very important driving force for the implementation of a dental assisting program. The program offers free dental care to our children through the Give Kids A Smile event every year.”

    Zirkle implemented a Dental Assisting Program at Cumberland County Technical Education Center 23 years ago. The program, which is accredited through three different state boards, has helped hundreds of children and adults receive the dental care they so desperately needed. The programs Zirkle works through involve dental professionals across multiple levels of their careers. Whether she’s working with a local dental school or the dentists and dental hygienists in the region, she wants each event to be a learning experience for everyone involved.

    “The best part of my job is educating students in what I love to do and fulfilling the needs of the dental community by supplying respectful and educated dental assistants,” she said.

    Today, each patient she is able to help inspires her, but her first source of inspiration can be found within her family, specifically her mother. To Zirkle, her mother was the driving force at the beginning of her career.

    “Beginning my senior year in high school, my dentist called me and offered me a job. I told him I had to go to school the full day and turned him down,” she recalled. “My mom overheard the conversation. You see, my mom was the secretary for the Superintendent at my school and knew I was eligible for a half-day work release during my senior year. She made me call my dentist back and take the job.”

    The rest is history, and Zirkle’s journey is one she will never forget. Each person she came in contact along the way has made an impact and taught her something, making her stronger with each encounter. The things she saw as struggles and negative experiences she has since embraced as lessons in strength and patience, and they have given her more positive opportunities and skills than she could have known had the path always been smooth.

    “Skills can be taught, but a positive attitude will help you succeed in a career and life in general,” she advised.

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    Elizabeth Curran, CDT, RDT

    Image of Elizabeth CurranElizabeth Curran defines herself very simply, as a working technician who teaches, though her career is far more complex. Curran is a Board Certified Dental Laboratory Technician with a ceramic specialty, and a professor at A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health.  

    “Every day, I see the bright future of dentistry reflected in the eyes of my students,” she said.

    Integrating advanced technologies into the clinical experiences of dental students, though rewarding, has challenges. Traditional faculty are older and not digital natives, so mastering new technology while teaching can be daunting. But Curran takes each change in stride and finds satisfaction in being able to teach while she is constantly learning.

    “Dental technology is changing at the speed of bandwidth, our scope of practice is fluid and she (a new technician) needs to prepare herself to remain relevant across a spectrum of opportunity that will continue to morph during the career,” Curran advised.

    In the latter half of her career, Curran has put a lot of work into getting technicians invited to the table, where their input and opinions can make a difference.  She’s been inspired by a myriad of individuals in her quest, many of whom have the same goal, saying “all these folks are raising the bar and it’s a heavy lift.”

    Education has always been very important to Curran, and she’s proud to be able to share the lessons she’s mastered over the years with future generations. Of the many things she’s learned along her journey to success, one thing has always stuck with her.

    “Patients matter the most and everything we do should be in their best interest,” she said.

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    Marta Lizza

    Image of Marta LizzaAs a dental technician, seeing patients’ transformations is the best part of Marta Lizza’s job. Knowing she’s had an impact on their well being after their smile has been radically improved is the gratifying factor that keeps her coming back. Lizza’s career has been full of opportunities to collaborate with brilliant minds to make a difference in patients’ lives.

    “I have been fortunate to work with well-grounded dentists who welcomed me as an extension of their practice and helped shape the way I function as a dental technician and lab owner,” she said. “I am not a behind-the-scenes entity; I am very involved with patients throughout the restorative process.”

    Lizza first entered the field unconventionally. She took a semester off from school to get an idea of what she wanted to do, and took a job with a dental laboratory as a delivery person.

    “ I would sketch between deliveries, and the lab owner said, you have talent, would you like to learn? In that moment my life changed,” she recalled. “I fell in love with dental technology. It was the perfect balance of artistic creativity with technology and science, and it provided an avenue for continual learning.”  

    Today, Lizza enjoys creative stimulation through various avenues of social media and is inspired daily by the level of talent she sees from all over the world.

    “It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with and learn from people you may not have  otherwise met, like the Dental Technicians Guild and the “Damaged Goods” group," of which she cherishes her affiliation.

    "They are an amazing collection of highly talented, well-educated technicians and dentists committed to the pursuit excellence and sharing knowledge within a unique spirit of brotherhood!”

    In both her career and her life outside of work, Lizza is proud to set her own standards. “Believe in yourself and never forget that, regardless of who signs your paycheck, you are always self-employed.”

    Dr. Sheri Doniger
    Dr. Sheri B. Doniger is a leading dental clinician, author, educator, and consultant who practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Ill. She ...