Now in its seventh year of recognizing exceptional women in the dental industry, Dental Products Report is thrilled to present the Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2016. Past honoree Debra Engelhardt-Nash shares her story, while writer Anna Sachs profiles these 25 exceptional women in the dental industry.
History records women in dentistry as early as the mid-1800s, when Lucy Beaman Hobbs Taylor became the first woman dentist in 1864. She was denied access to education because of her gender, learned dentistry with the help of a mentor, through apprenticeship and eventually graduated from the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. (She later went on to train her husband to become a dentist.)
The first dental assistants were recognized as “Ladies in Attendance” in the same century. Emeline Roberts Jones assisted her husband before becoming a dentist and Dr. C. Edmund Kells hired young Malvina Cueria to help him in his office in 1885. In 1906, Alfred C. Fones trained his assistant, Irene Newman to scale and polish teeth, and titled her dental hygienist. Irene is considered to be the first hygienist, and Fones went on to train others.
152 years since the first female dentist, more than one half of dental school graduates are women and the predictions indicate that percentage will continue to increase. Since 2006, there have been four women ADA presidents and many others in leadership roles at state and local levels, as well as guiding other dental organizations. Women across our industry continue to drive change and deliver success through their professional and personal endeavors.
In 2009, Dental Products Report responded to the increase of women in our profession--those in dental practices, manufacturing, research and education, laboratories and key opinion leaders such as speakers and consultants. DPR established an annual recognition for the Top 25 Women In Dentistry to acknowledge their influence and leadership in our profession.
Four years ago, the process of selecting honorees was generated through nomination by peers, colleagues and others who understood and appreciated their contributions to the industry. This year’s recipients are more than deserving of being named Top Women In Dentistry for 2016. This list is comprised of women who have the passion and skills to be empowered and to empower others through motivation, wisdom and proven success.
Many of them have taken their passion and commitment for the profession beyond their vocation. Some have formed nonprofit organizations for a dental cause, others volunteer for programs such as Give Back a Smile and donate their time and service to missions and local dental vans and clinics.
Among this year’s honorees are program chairs and executive directors for major dental meetings, dental artists and clinical pioneers. They are all thought leaders and innovators who strive to make our work and our world a better place.
And these women are wives, mothers (and grandmothers!) sisters, aunts and friends. I’m certain they seek to live rewarding lives inside and outside of their work. They love and nurture those with whom they live and work--whether it is a colleague, a student or an audience. And they do this while they balance work and family, company meetings and dance recitals, school plays and convention floors. And that makes them a top woman in dentistry and in life.
Many of those listed, I have the privilege to call friends. Being around them makes me be more, and strive harder. They inspire, they collaborate and they seek to grow the profession together. It is an honor to be among their ranks.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook said, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.”
I believe these honorees have done just that. These women have made a difference in the lives of the people they have touched, and made our profession a little better for it. Congratulations to the Top Women in Dentistry for 2016.
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Jenine Arab O'Malley on the next page
Dr. Jenine Arab O’Malley - Dentist
When it comes to cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Jenine O’Malley is at the top of her game and still climbing. After practicing for more than 20 years, Dr. O’Malley has perfected her craft, incorporating a blend of artistic sensitivity and technical ability in order to perform a full spectrum of dental services, from cosmetic bonding to full mouth reconstruction. She also strives to apply new technologies and scientific applications to her practice, which has enabled her to focus on non-invasive restoration of esthetics and attrition.
“The greatest pleasure of my practice comes from seeing the positive changes in patients’ self-confidence when they look and feel better after getting a natural and beautiful smile that blends seamlessly with their dentition,” Dr. O’Malley says. “Most of the patients that seek my care are frustrated and embarrassed, and some are desperately looking for an attainable solution to improve their smile. Even changing someone’s smile in a procedure as simple as filling an undesirable space can change someone’s life. If a patient is unhappy with their teeth, they become self-conscious and reluctant to smile. It can profoundly impact their personal, professional and social life.”
As is true for many dental professionals, finding balance between running her dental practice, raising a family, spending time with friends, and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is a challenge for Dr. O’Malley. On top of those things, she has pursued the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry accreditation process which, however worthwhile, was a particularly rigorous and time-consuming endeavour.
She believes that it is important to invest in herself as a professional in order to succeed, but outside of that she feels it is equally important to be committed to investing in her communities. To that end, Dr. O’Malley has worked to find channels to give back to those in need through dentistry.
“I have launched the Give Back A Smile program where I work with the YMCA to restore extensively broken down teeth of victimized patients, thereby restoring smiles and confidence to these women in need,” she says. “I also advocate the importance of tooth preservation. I have provided humanitarian aid through a Global Brigades mission to needy communities. I brought my own dental material and taught many restorative techniques to mission workers as an alternative to extraction, paving the way for positive, sustainable change.”
Outside of running her practice, her personal life, and her attributions to the dental community, Dr. O’Malley’s day-to-day work can be consuming. Because most of her patient’s smiles are reconstructed with direct bonding, the artistry is performed in the chair and the time required can vary significantly. So scheduling appointments and knowing how much time to dedicate to each procedure can be especially tricky, but she is determined to overcome each obstacle and to let her passion shine through with every case.
“No matter if it’s in profession, family or life, the catalyst for success is passion,” she says. “My most significant accomplishments in dentistry stem from my compassion to provide my patients with the best quality care. Passion empowers me to set a vision, and gives me the motivation, perseverance and determination to make my vision a reality.”
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Tracey Nguyen on the next page
Dr. Tracey Nguyen - Dentist
When it comes to her work, Dr. Tracey Nguyen considers herself to be more than a dentist. She also loves the opportunity to promote self-esteem, and that’s something that makes her even more proud and motivated to come to work every day.
“I love restoring my patients’ confidence and bridging the gap of dentistry and medicine. I want to break the barrier and make the community aware of the dentist’s role in overall health awareness,” she says. “With all the new data on oral health awareness, we should be more involved in the new wellness models; we now have a unique opportunity to educate patients.”
When Dr. Nguyen graduated dental school, she was focused on restoring teeth, but since then her attention has been broadened to the patient’s overall health. With more recent studies linking oral and tooth health to conditions like heart disease, she feels a responsibility to her patients and the health of their entire body, instead of just their teeth. Her relationships with patients and other medical professionals have evolved thanks to the industry’s emphasis on bodily health starting with oral health. Now, she refers children to pediatric sleep centers when she can’t see the back of a child’s throat, for instance, or she conducts DNA testing if a patient’s periodontal condition does not improve.
“I had a female patient with a blood pressure of 180/110. She was adamant that that’s not her normal blood pressure. At her next visit, three months later at her next periodontal visit, it was 169/111,” she recalls. “We had an intense conversation about her risk factors. She went to her primary care physician, and everyone confirmed that she was high-risk hypertension patient. She is currently being treated with medication and under a strict oral health disinfection protocol. I feel like I’m saving lives now.”
After practicing for 14 years and watching the industry change and flow over her 22 years in the field of dentistry, her favorite part of the journey has always been developing relationships with her patients and her team. To her, having a genuine interest in the well-being of your team and patients leads to a connection and rapport that she has come to cherish.
But her job isn’t easy. Keeping up with the ins and out of a busy office, ever-changing health and dental insurance policies, and keeping her patients’ best interests at heart becomes a delicate balancing act. Take those factors and add them to the reluctance of the medical community to partner with dental professionals for their patients’ care, and Dr. Nguyen has her work cut out for her. Luckily, she has a support system of friends and family that make the difficult days easier.
“We all need cheerleaders. I mean, you can’t be perfect all the time,” she advises. “We all have failures. The most successful people in the world have the most failures. You need that group of friends to pick you up. You also need friends around you that are going to give you constructive criticism. You need people around you that will be honest and tell you when you are wrong and how to improve and, most importantly, encourage and motivate you to get back up and do it again.”
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Traci Portnoff on the next page
Dr. Traci Portnoff - Dentist
Dr. Traci Portnoff is a dentist, but that isn’t the only facet of her life she feels is important. She is also a mother, a daughter, a friend, a volunteer and a businesswoman, and to her, this equation has contributed greatly to her success as a dental professional.
For the first half of her career, Dr. Portnoff worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in the dental residency program. While in that position she maintained a dental practice within the hospital while serving as a mentor and instructor for the general practice residents. Then, in 2006, she took a leap of faith and bought a relatively small existing dental practice near her hometown, and she’s been committed to growing her practice and educating her team and her patients for more than 10 years.
“I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels, and I’m always striving to both learn as well as to educate,” she says. “I hold high standards of our ever-growing dental team. Even though I was no longer teaching in a hospital setting, I committed to educating my patients as well as my team. Additionally, I am extremely committed to advanced education for myself.”
In early 2016, Dr. Portnoff purchased another local practice and brought the two practices together to open Cornerstone Dental Care on the Commons in Westborough, Massachusetts. She is proud to have fostered her team of 17 women, three of whom are dentists, into a community of support and encouragement.
Dr. Portnoff is also involved in the Massachusetts Dental Society where she served as the chair of The Women in Dentistry committee since 2011 as well as a program co-chair for the Yankee Dental Congress held in Boston every January. In 2018 she will serve as the general chair for the Yankee Dental Congress and will be able to give her commitment to education and organized dentistry an even bigger voice.
“I believe your thoughts create your reality,” Dr. Portnoff says. “If you focus your energy on what you lack, or can’t do, guess what? You’ll get more of that negativity. So, instead of holding tight to your limits, keep your happiness, your goals, what you really want close to your chest and you’ll get more of it. Nurture and feed your light, not your darkness. You don’t have to do it alone.”
Her advice to other women in the industry? Have confidence. In her career, the ability to take risks has been key in her success. She’s never been one to worry about the judgment and perception of others in making her own decisions. Instead she found mentors to learn from and she built a support network that would lift her up and help her succeed.
“Don’t let someone else’s perception of you become how you see yourself,” she advises. “And, don’t get caught in the trap that everything needs to be perfect, or nothing will ever get done. Don’t be afraid of not succeeding; be more afraid of not trying something and living with regret.”
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Rabab Sabbahi on the next page
Dr. Rabab Sabbahi - Dentist
Dr. Rabab Sabbahi is a dentist, but for her the job means much more than what it looks like on paper. Dr. Sabbahi is a practice owner, a team leader and she takes care of people and helps restore their overall health through their smile and oral health.
“The best part of my job is the ability to serve people,” she says of her work. “The fulfillment I feel when I can take a person in pain or who is deathly afraid of the dentist and take them out of pain, or just make their experience with me more pleasurable, is immeasurable. I love that I can literally change something immediately using my hands. I can have a direct effect on somebody’s life.”
Over the course of her career, Dr. Sabbahi has been able to take her career on the road a few times and take part in mission trips or days of service. To her, that’s been the best part of her career in dentistry. Her missions work inspired her to open their office one day for a “free dental day” event where they saw patients who could not afford to get dental treatment. They saw more than 100 patients that day.
“It was such an incredible event, and to know that we have the honor to offer that to the community is priceless,” Dr. Sabbahi says of the experience.
She also does a lot of work with local refugee families who have very little knowledge about dental health and have not had the privilege of receiving routine dental care. Her staff does its best to inform the patients as well as to treat some of them.
While Dr. Sabbahi appreciates the ability she has in her career to do things like missions and parent her two daughters under the age of three, it isn’t always easy. According to her, staying up to date on all of the new and changing information in the industry is a constant challenge.
“It’s called a ‘practice’ because you are always learning and growing,” she says. “There is so much to learn and so many courses to take. I always want to be the best at what I do. I want to offer the best services and the most precise treatments. When you are working with so many different people you can’t always make people happy and that’s hard to swallow sometimes.”
As a woman in this industry, and as a female dentist in particular, Dr. Sabbahi feels that it’s important to be humble enough to learn from those who are great at what they do, but be confident and fierce enough to stick to what you know is right, especially as a woman. To her, women are sometimes seen as easily manipulated to do things in certain ways.
“As the doctor you are in a position of power and you have a responsibility to your patients and to yourself,” she says. “It’s important to know who is worthy of learning from and when you need to stand your ground and do what you have been taught is right. That takes humility and confidence.”
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Mary Kathryn Shields on the next page
Dr. Mary Kathryn Shields - Dentist
From a young age, Dr. Mary Kathryn Shields knew that dentistry was her calling, and today she considers the first five years of what she hopes to be a long career to have been a challenging but fun adventure. Dr. Shields and her husband own a general dentistry practice in Louisville, Kentucky where the practice has just celebrated its fourth anniversary. While her husband is passionate about implant surgery, advanced bone grafting techniques and full mouth rehabilitation, she herself is more enthusiastic when it comes to the cosmetic cases and treating the pediatric and restorative needs of their patients.
“There has never been a moment I have regretted that leap of faith: starting a practice from scratch in a market that dental consultants advised was ‘saturated,’” Dr. Shields said. “I love the relationships I have built with my patients and staff. I really don’t consider it a ‘job’ at this point; I view my daily routine as a privilege I have worked really hard for.”
Within the dental community Dr. Shields also works to serve a niche she believes is often overlooked and at times misunderstood. She is currently in the process of becoming a diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Odontology. She will become one of only 100 board-certified forensic odontologists in the world. As a forensic odontologist, she works to identify human remains that are either too decomposed or burned beyond recognition, perform age estimations and offer an opinion on patterned injuries as to whether they could be consistent with a bitemark.
As a mother of two, owning a practice and training as an odontologist while keeping time with her family a priority can be challenging, but Dr. Shields was determined from day one to keep the balance, and she has through a few unorthodox practices.
“My son, Stone, was only eight weeks old when I opened my dental practice,” she says. “Fortunately, since I owned my practice, I could bring him to the office when I felt it would be manageable. I did the same thing when my daughter, Scarlett, was born. I worried patients would think it was unprofessional or too much of a distraction but the feedback was so positive. Most patients were actually disappointed once they started going to a childcare center. Now that our family is complete and we have a routine, life is getting a bit easier which is great especially since the practice is in a rapid growth phase.”
As a working mother herself, Dr. Shields looks up to other working mothers as her role models. She herself is a third generation working mother and she’s inspired by her mother and grandmother who both worked hard to provide for their families. Her own mother, who earned her Master’s degree while Dr. Shields was in grade school, set a great example through her life and Dr. Shields hopes to be as inspiring to her own children throughout their lives.
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Beth Silverman on the next page
Dr. Beth Silverman - Dentist
From a very young age, Dr. Beth Silverman wanted to become a dentist-so much so that when her best friend had a loose tooth, she would extract it. She started working in a dental office while in high school as a receptionist, but as time went on she became bored with administrative work and began to train under the doctor as a chairside assistant. From there her love of dentistry really took off.
She attended dental school at Temple University School of Dentistry and afterwards, she worked in a pediatric practice as a general dentist. Today, Dr. Silverman is a dentist at Lakeview Dental in Horsham, Pennsylvania in the suburbs of Philidelphia. She’s been with the practice for 16 years and she’s proud to have had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with both her patients and her colleagues.
“I consider myself to be a true family dentist, treating patients of all ages,” Dr. Silverman says. “I take pride in my honesty and integrity while presenting the best treatment for my patients. I am an upbeat and outgoing person so I like to convey that in my work. I try to make my patients as comfortable as possible along the way.”
As a dentist, Dr. Silverman has always tried to maintain a balance between her professional life and her personal life. She has been married for 27 years to her husband Stewart Finkelstein and she has a 23-year-old son named Lee. She’s happy in her position as an associate dentist because it allows her the flexibility and confidence to maintain a life outside of work.
Dr. Silverman believes that your attitude affects your work and those working around you, so she tries to stay positive. She makes a conscious effort to come to work every day with a sunny disposition that helps those she’s in contact with feel the same way. She’s determined, goal-oriented and always willing to take on a challenge whether it be a frightened child or even a difficult adult.
“I think I have developed this attitude as I am a two-time cancer survivor,” she says. “I have always maintained a positive attitude and definitely believe laughter is the best medicine. I also am very thankful for my supportive family both at home and at the office. They have kept me going all these years.”
As a woman in a male-dominated profession, Dr. Silverman hopes to inspire other women to pursue their goals.
“Over the years I’ve had young women who have shadowed me. I try to instill in them the motivation to follow their dreams and be persistent,” she says. “Some of those people have gone on to become dentists, that really makes me feel great.”
As for that friend whose teeth she used to extract way back when? She remains one of Dr. Silverman’s most faithful patients, as well as a long-time friend.
Read the profile for honoree Dr. Whitney Weiner on the next page
Dr. Whitney Weiner - Dentists
As a periodontist, Dr. Whitney Weiner specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal condition and the placement of dental implants. As a surgeon, she works to reduce the level of inflammation in a patient’s mouth as research continues to show the downstream systemic effects of chronic oral inflammation. She’s studied how genetics contribute to a patient’s risk profile of developing periodontitis and how oral health effects a person’s overall health and she’s dedicated to passing that knowledge down to her team as well as to her patients and their families.
“I know it sounds cliché or corny but truly the best part of my job is helping people,” Dr. Weiner says. “I think that is what drives all of us healthcare providers. Having the ability to impact our patient’s quality, and perhaps even quantity, of life, is what makes me excited when I get up in the morning and head to the office.”
For Dr. Weiner, periodontics is just the right amount of surgical risk. She knows that she will be helping her patients without making life and death calls. This allows her the freedom to be a quality surgeon without sacrificing the other roles she plays in her life as a wife, daughter, mother and friend. Her profession affords her the opportunity to have a healthy balance of professional and personal success and not have to sacrifice too much of one at the expense of the other.
“I can be a great mom and wife and a partner at a high-powered specialty office too,” she says. “This was always my dream, to partner in a premiere practice that provides the highest level of care and compassion to our patients, and it is so rewarding seeing that dream beginning to be realized.”
But, as any dental professional working in a busy office would understand, that balance isn’t always easy to maintain. Dr. Weiner considers this the infancy of her career, so she realizes the need to build a legacy while making herself known in the dental community.
“There are never enough hours in the day to do it all. I could spend a lifetime trying to go out and personally meet every dentist in our referral zone, but that would be at the sacrifice of my family,” she states. “So for me, the hardest thing is delegating responsibility. I am a self-admitted, type-A perfectionist so it is not easy for me to give up the reigns.”
Luckily, with the help of her business partner, she’s been able to create a team that gets the job done and makes her feel comfortable in allowing them to take charge and run their respective divisions of the company.
Dr. Weiner attributes her success to her family and their support. She was inspired to become a dentist by her grandfather, a well-known and beloved part of the community and dentist for more than 50 years.
“Life is all about choices,” she shares. “As long as you believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you and push you to be your best version of yourself, the sky is the limit. It is essential that we all remember this and that really, we have the ability to make these choices for ourselves. It is choice and not sacrifice that should drive our decision making process.”
Read the profile for honoree Jan Babel on the next page
Jan Babel - Lab Technician
Jan Babel leads a medium-sized dental lab in Northern Michigan and she considers it an honor to create smiles for her team of exceptional dentists. For Babel and her team, it’s empowering to create dental restorations that have the potential to be life changing for patients.
“It is a wonderful feeling when a client calls to tell you that they just seated a case for a patient and there were tears and hugs and a beautiful smile,” she says. “You know that you and your team played a huge part in making that happen.”
Babel began her dental career in the administrative arena, performing accounting functions and office management. Then, in 1991, the laboratory she worked for purchased a laboratory management software package and she accepted the challenge of installing and implementing the system. At that point Babel didn’t have a firm grip on the workings of a dental laboratory except for the limited exposure through office management, so she dove in headfirst and has never looked back.
“I was smitten. In a short time I had to learn how a crown was made, schedules, tasks, materials and terminology,” she recalls. “Little did I know how that challenge would play a major role in shaping my future. Through 35 years I watched our little lab of five employees grow and prosper to become an employer of 63.”
In 2004, her lab became part of the National Dentex network of laboratories and then in 2007 Babel accepted the position of laboratory president. Since then, her lab has participated in an industry that is constantly changing and evolving.
“[In] an industry where we know we have to be versatile and willing to meet the daily challenges,” she says, “New materials and new technologies all claiming to be better than the rest. We have seen good times and we have seen lean times, but thank goodness most of society still needs teeth.”
Babel believes her compassion has played a big role in her journey to success, whether that compassion is for her coworkers or those who need care. She considers it an honor to have worked alongside so many caring and compassionate people in the dental community and she loves seeing them rise to the calling and needs of their patients and clients.
“They have given time and resources to helping the economically challenged,” she says. “We have been given a gift, a talent or a venue to give back to those in need.”
As a woman, Babel is proud to receive recognition in an industry that is generally considered to be male dominated. To her, women have different obstacles and concerns to overcome as compared to men, and she loves to see them succeed in the face of those hindrances.
“I believe women make great leaders. They can be strong, confident and still be compassionate,” Babel says. “From the board room to comforting a close friend, many great women leaders balance home life and careers with ease.”
Read the profile for honoree Kimberly Thomas on the next page
Kimberly Thomas, CDT - Lab Technician
As the president of one of the largest dental labs in the country, Kimberly Thomas is proud of the work she’s overseen at Green Dental. Since 1980, Green has been providing quality crown and bridge and removable appliances to dentists all over the United States. Thomas has been with them since 1985 where she started in the denture department. She worked hard to learn every aspect of the department and in 1999 she was promoted to management where she trained with other departments and worked her way up to office/lab maintenance manager and finally general manager/lab president in 2011.
“I love making smiles and improving lives of the patients,” Kimberly says. “I do enjoy the business side of the job but nothing is as fulfilling as getting pictures from our clients showing the transformation of a smile.”
For Thomas, faith, hard work and doing the right thing have played huge roles in her success. While she didn’t start her career at Green with aspirations to one day become lab president, she did aspire to climb, to build a career, and to always better herself as well as serve as a resource for those around her.
As a woman, Thomas believes it isn’t important whether you’re a man or a woman in the workplace, but rather the work you do to deserve your place there.
“If you want a seat at the table, then earn it. Never expect a handout. Always work hard to earn your success,” she advises. “Focus on doing your job to the best of your ability. Embrace change. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake; admit your mistakes and learn from them because that is a sign of strength not weakness.”
When it comes to her own success, she is humble through and through. She doesn’t consider herself a success, but believes she has been successful because of the people around her who have been willing to work hard with her. She believes that she succeeds only when those around her succeed as well.
“Josh Green, the founder of Green Dental Lab, and every general manager after him has been there to support and push me to be the best I could be,” she says. “I have learned so much from each one of them. They all have supported me and been very willing to help me to grow through the sharing of advice and their own experiences while supporting me in my own decisions.”
As a hard worker, Thomas is always on for a challenge, and there are plenty of them in what she does. Working at a dental lab means keeping up and always being on the leading edge of technology, but she embraces the innovation that’s almost constant.
“Our industry has experienced a lot of changes over the past few years with the introduction of CAD/CAM,” she says. “It is my goal to make sure that Green Dental Laboratory is always a leader in the field, offering the best solutions for dental care. We want to be a partner to our dentists and a great choice for their patients.”
Read the profile for honoree Lonni Thompson on the next page
Lonni Thompson, CDT - Lab Technician
If you ask Lonni Thompson what she does, her response is simple: “I make smiles.” But in reality Thompson works very hard to make restorations that look beautiful and function properly in order to help people with their own personal image.
“As a middle child, I was always the peace keeper and it carries into my adult life,” Thompson says. “I am still a people pleaser so when I complete an esthetic case for someone it brings as much joy to me as it does the patient. After all, a smile is the first thing you notice on someone.”
Thompson came from a family of four girls, and her father encouraged her and her sisters to go into the health field so they could always support themselves. Since she was always the artistic sister, Thompson’s father found her an accredited dental laboratory program at Columbus Technical Institute, now Columbus State, where her talents could be put to their best use. Before graduating, she was hired at Ohio State University to work in the dental laboratory. Working there she was also able to continue her education and graduated with her bachelor’s degree.
After teaching at Ohio State, Thompson partnered with three other dentists to work in her dental lab full time, and after eight years she was able to buy them out one by one. That was 37 years ago.
“The best part on my job is the constant change. I embrace change because that is one of the few things I know I can count on,” she says. “Staying on the cutting edge has always been my philosophy but you need to balance that with reality and make sure you stay sustainable. You can’t do it alone. You need really good people growing with you. Knowing not everyone deals well with change you need a system in place that allows productive change without stressing your team members. Change is inevitable but allowing it to happen systematically, you allow your team members to move forward, which is very rewarding.”
Thompson started her business when there weren’t a lot of women around to mentor her, but she’s a survivor, so she sojourned along her road, working harder than her male counterparts at each fork in the way, to be come the successful businesswoman she is today.
“Admittedly it wasn’t always easy. I never wanted to be the biggest laboratory, I always wanted to be the best,” she states. “I had several years of financial difficulty because dentists didn’t always want to pay for quality. But I stuck it out and did not cave to the race to the bottom and built a niche for high-quality esthetic functional work. That determination paid off.”
Today, Thompson knows her craft inside and out, and she prides herself on being a good leader, a mentor and a role model to other women in the industry hoping to reach success.
“As a woman it is important to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. Don’t be a man or a woman, be a person that cares about our community,” she advises. “This is a very complicated world. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.”
Read the profile for honoree Gina Durkin on the next page
Gina Durkin (KaVo Kerr Group) - Industry
Gina Pristo Durkin is the North American Marketing Manager for KaVo Kerr Group’s imaging brands, including Instrumentarium, Gendex, NOMAD and SOREDEX.
“At KaVo Kerr Group Imaging (KKGI) we implemented ‘transformative marketing’ when I started over two years ago,” Durkin says. “Every tactic we develop and deploy must have a meaningful action in it so that we can quantify the value we offer to the dental professional and their engagement with those tactics. It is what I love about my job: The everyday challenge of developing that ‘next best action’ and then ultimately seeing how it performed. When I was little, my father taught me the saying, ‘Good better best, never let it rest, until the good is better and the better best.’ This is how we structure our daily work at KKGI and I love it.”
One of the strongest examples of Durkin putting that ethic into action happened after the tsunami hit Japan in March 2011, while she was working at GC America.
“Working for a ‘restorative’ Japanese company, I pushed to create, coordinate and deploy a campaign to help provide funds to aid dentists and their families through the Japanese Dental Association (JDA),” she recalls. “The ‘Restore Japan’ Campaign turned into a global collaboration with GC operations around the world. That may be one of my proudest moments in my career.”
Durkin’s family was the first to encourage her, but she’s been ultimately successful thanks to outstanding colleagues spanning her career. People who she believes deserve special recognition include Dave Bogusz, Errol Edwards, Mari Ogura, Dr. Brian Novy and Susan Boyden, RDH.
“Having built this beautiful circle of industry experts, clinicians, media partners and co-workers has enabled me to keep taking one step forward and now my journey at KKGI has given me the gift of expanding that circle to the equipment side of the business,” she explains.
It was a former dental agency colleague--Gary Piper, Creative Director at KKGI--who brought Durkin to KaVo Kerr Group, where she now works with Filippo Impieri, VP Marketing, North America, someone she considers a valuable role model.
“Filippo took a bit of leap in hiring someone with a ‘goo’ background (cements, restoratives, materials), and has been instrumental in teaching me and patiently allowing me to bring my ideas (serious and not-so-serious), and enthusiasm to the world of imaging,” she says. “He has a natural leadership style that brings out the best in me.”
And Durkin, in turn, is inspiring a new generation of colleagues.
“I find myself surrounded by such talented younger colleagues and they continue to keep me on the cutting edge with new digital and social media applications that help to communicate our story,” she says. Her advice to them would be to focus on not only modes of communication, but better communication. “If you can’t really talk and listen to your customers or colleagues, you are going to have a difficult time in this industry and taking it a step further in this world.”
Read the profile for honoree Michelle Gabrielson on the next page
Michelle Gabrielson (RevenueWell) - Industry
In Michelle Gabrielson’s line of work, it’s important that the dentists are not only surviving, but also thriving. As the Strategic Alliances Manager for RevenueWell, an automated practice marketing and patient communications suite that helps foster the relationships between the dental practice and their patients while also enhancing revenue growth, she is grateful for the opportunity to meet some of the most brilliant minds in dentistry. This includes Joe McGonigal, VP of Sales, whom she considers an impeccable leader.
She came into her current role with more than 15 years of experience in the dental industry. She’s been a certified EFDA, office manager and owner of DDS Solutions, an organization that aims to provide a Certificate of Dental Assisting Training to women who have struggled to find their career path thanks to factors like divorce or a troubled past.
“My journey helped me evolve into my current role through many stumbles, triumphs, choices between career and family without any hesitation or regret of my decisions,” Gabrielson says. “I have trusted in myself to keep going even during the toughest storms in my life.”
Gabrielson attributes her success to her grateful heart, her family, the hardships she’s had to endure and the determination she learned to have through those tough times. She believes that the key to success is finding the positive in every negative and finding ways to appreciate the small things in her life.
“My passion and determination have definitely played a key role in where I am today,” she says. “My middle name is ‘perseverance.’ I recently came face to face with health hiccups as so many people often do and I don’t let those obstacles detour where I am going or dictate who I am. I often have others ask, ‘how do you do it?’ I usually just look at them and wonder, ‘how could I not do it?' ”
As a woman in business, as well as a student and a single mom of three, Gabrielson strives to lift other women up through her work and through sharing her experiences. She encourages women to see their self-worth and reminds them that every person they come upon has a story of their own. To her, that story is pivotal to who that person is.
“Our character evolves from our adversities. I believe that every time that I have fallen or have been faced with adversity, that inner flame burned brighter than any fire in my path. Be true to yourself, kind to others and never give up,” she advises. “I have a saying that I keep in our kitchen on a ceramic white board that says, ‘No matter what your day brings at the end of the day, it is your day. Own it, love it, embrace it and share it.’ ”
For the future, Gabrielson hopes to keep inspiring other women and RevenueWell clients alike in hopes that they are able to better their business and their relationships with others in every aspect of life.
“There are no coincidences in life. Our reflection is mirrored in every moment and we are always a teacher and a student, therefore, always appreciate the lesson and teach by example no matter what your role is in life,” Gabrielson states.
Read the profile for honoree Kim McQueen on the next page
Kim McQueen (AADOM) - Industry
Kim McQueen is the Executive Director of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) and she considers herself very lucky to work with a team of professionals who bring much needed resources, education and opportunities for networking to who she considers to be an underserved group of professionals, the dental practice management team. In her specific role, she oversees the membership services side of the association as well as managing the planning and execution of AADOM’s annual conference.
While there are many aspects of her position she enjoys, the part she loves best is working with members and future members of AADOM.
“I’ve watched our members grow personally and professionally, watched them build lifelong relationships and watched them build a bond and network where they lift each other up,” McQueen says. “Our members strive not only to better themselves but their practices and their peers. There is a sense of pride that comes with providing the platform to make a difference in the lives of the people you work with. Every day I am amazed that I have been given the opportunity to do what I love.”
In addition to her work with AADOM, McQueen is also the founder and president of Common Sense Dental Advisors (CSDA), a business focused on helping dental practices with their marketing strategies.
Within AADOM, she works virtually in order to allow members to access resources on their own time. While she considers this to be one of the association’s greatest strengths, it can also be very challenging because that virtual space has come to replace much of the face-to-face contact she once had with members. Thankfully, along with virtual assistance came social media, which has helped to fill the gap from person to person and local chapters have gone out of their way to make up the rest.
Growing up, she always worked hard and earned what she wanted. Her parents were hardworking people who instilled a sense of drive and passion in her from a young age. These traits have helped guide McQueen down the road that has brought her to success and she’s glad for the opportunity to make her parents proud. She does admit, however, that she never would have found that road without the support network she’s formed as well as the tremendous amount of support she’s received from her husband.
“When I began to look at the prospect of starting my own business, he was encouraging me to take that next step,” she recalls. “He provided, and still provides, the calmness and non-emotional side to the process; always asking the questions and making me think. When the opportunity came to work within AADOM, he was right there again. He saw the passion I had for this association, its team and its members and encouraged me to think about how I could share that passion.”
McQueen believes that to be successful you have to overcome fear.
“Don’t be afraid to try anything, ask any question and don’t ever feel that you’re too good for any job,” she advises. And she plans to see that advice through in her own career while helping to lift others as well.
Read the profile for honoree Jan Myskowski on the next page
Jan Myskowski (KaVo Kerr Group) - Industry
First and foremost, Jan Myskowski is a passionate dental hygienist with a love for education. In her current role she is the Training and Operations Leader for KaVo Kerr Group Dental Imaging. Outside of her position, she has the unique opportunity to collaborate with several facets of the ever growing company.
“Loving what you do comes easy when you have a great team to work with,”she says. “I am lucky to be surrounded by some pretty amazing people who get as excited about dentistry as I do. Being an integral part of a company that drives innovation for dentistry is powerful. Putting this technology in the hands of dentists and hygienists and watching the world of dentistry change for the better is even more astonishing.”
Working in the arena she does has also given her the opportunity to give back and share with those less fortunate. She is thrilled to work closely with those who coordinate and organize events like Give Kids a Smile, TeamSmile and Mission of Mercy, as well as providing assistance to DMORT teams in the face of disasters. To her, being involved in these programs is both fulfilling and rewarding while often times also serving as a sobering reality check.
In her line of work, communicating with dentists and their staff all over the globe is a very special part of what she does, whether it is having a hand in developing a new product, marketing that product or educating dental professionals on how to use the product.
“I speak their language, I know their fears of new technology, I can relate in many ways to help them understand the benefits of providing exceptional care for their patients, grow their practice and succeed in being the best dentist they can be,” she says. “Seeing that process come full circle is the best part of my job.”
And while she loves her job it can, at times, be difficult to balance her work and her life at home. With the evolving technology that is constantly being introduced to the market, it can be almost too easy to bring work home and Myskowski has to stay on top of that in order to have a good work-life balance.
“Family and friends are an incredibly valuable and essential part of my life and yet work is also an important and integral part as well. Giving myself permission to stop and unplug is extremely liberating yet always a work in progress,” she admits.
While attending dental hygiene school at Temple University, Myskowski came in contact with a woman in the program who inspired her to become a successful woman. Betsy Alden, the director of Dental Hygiene at Temple University, once told her, “Don’t let someone dim your light, simply because it is shining in their eyes.” And that is advice she has always tried to follow.
“There is no end to the possibilities that surround us and learning never exhausts the mind, I have been fortunate enough to grow and mentor under incredibly talented people. I take a little bit of each experience and tuck it away for future reference. So many more possibilities ahead,” she says.
Read the profile for honoree Briana Obranovich on the next page
Briana Obranovich - Industry
Briana Obranovich believes our journeys are shaped by the choices we make. “If you want something bad enough, you take the risk and you go for it,” she says.
As a founding member and managing partner of Imago Group, Obranovich is proud of the work she does, as well as the company she helped form. She credits her passion and work ethic for getting her where she is today. And as a dental consultant, Briana acts as an advisor, speaker, advocate, trainer and champion to the dentists she works with, teaching dentists about new technologies from practice management to digital impressioning systems and beyond.
In addition to lecturing on the different manufacturers within the dental technologies, she mentors dentists, helping them improve their practices and their workflow through the use of various technologies. She then steps in as a trainer and helps the dentists she works with implement and integrate new technologies into their practices.
Briana first became interested in being a dental practice advocate after spending the first 12 years of her career in digital and CAD/CAM technology sales and management. While in that position, she was exposed to a vast amount of technology while working with two of the largest distributors in the industry, and that’s where she discovered her true passion for supporting dentists at work.
“My role as an advocate within the practice is my favorite part of what I do,” she says. “I’m grateful that I can help dentists overcome the challenges of making large purchase decisions. I can work through the choices to offer them the best option to fit their current and growing needs. Being there through the paradigm shift of integrating any new technology to make it less daunting to the entire team is what I love to do.”
“I am so grateful that I can help inform and educate dentists, enabling them to take the stress out of making monumental decisions,” she says of her work. “I give every ounce of effort I have to everything I do. If I didn’t believe in what I did, I wouldn’t be able to invest myself fully, and I wouldn’t get so much out of it.”
Briana draws inspiration from her father, a disabled veteran of the Korean War. She also considers herself lucky to have a husband who motivates her and supports her in each undertaking.
“As my partner and best friend, he reminds me of what I’m capable of whenever I start to question myself, and I’m so grateful for his support and encouragement. It’s what pushes me towards future goals,” she says of her husband.
Briana encourages women who are seeking to take their careers to the next level to take on challenges. “We only grow when we are outside of our comfort zone, so say ‘yes’ to things that scare you, but know when to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t right for you at that moment,” she suggests. “Above all, don’t spend time regretting your decisions. It’s more valuable to take each experience and learn from it. And never let failure define your future.”
Read the profile for honoree Natalie Westfall on the next page
Natalie Westfall (Henry Schein Financial Services) - Industry
Today, dentists are coming out of school with more and more student debt and dental technology is growing and evolving at an impressive speed, so it’s important that those dentists have access to capital in order to operate a successful practice. That’s where Natalie Westfall comes in. Westfall works for Henry Schein Financial Services where she manages a team of finance professionals to set up various practice loans in order to help clients start and grow their practices. While her work may seem cut and dry, she is proud of the company she works for and the team she’s helped build.
“I am inspired by the Henry Schein leadership team, and incredibly proud of my HSFS team,” she says. “You will be hard pressed to find a more passionate and dedicated group of individuals anywhere. The partnership and collaboration that we have with the Henry Schein Dental team makes doing what we do so much easier. A good majority of us have worked together in some capacity for many years. Even at a company as large as Henry Schein, it feels like we are a family, and we have fun.”
As a company, Henry Schein is changing and growing day by day, so Westfall has the responsibility of managing different lenders in different countries, to help find solutions that meet Henry Schein’s clients’ varying financial needs. And while some might crumble under the pressure, Westfall thrives.
Growing up, she didn’t live an especially privileged life. She started working when she was 14 years old and she’s been committed to working hard ever since. Today, she draws a lot of motivation from her son and the life and opportunities she hopes to provide for him.
Throughout her career, Westfall has built a network of people in her personal and professional life who she can rely on when she needed advice or support, and she’s grateful to those individuals for helping her grow.
“As I look back at the pivotal, game-changing moments in my career, the most impactful changes took place when I was working for people who gave me the freedom to make decisions, take risks and even make mistakes,” she says.
As a woman in business, Westfall believes that women often undersell and underestimate themselves. She sees other women looking for validation or permission to proceed and she feels that that is unnecessary by today’s standards.
“The most important advice I could give any young female is to value and be confident in her abilities and her contributions to the company,” she says. “Confidence is an underrated skill and I think it is so important.”
Over the years she has learned first hand that hard work and dedication can give you the circumstances you need to achieve greatness. She recognizes that she has evolved personally just as much as she has professionally, and she is proud that she can achieve anything she puts her mind to.
Read the profile for honoree Charmaine Davis on the next page
Charmaine Davis, RDH - Clinical Team
Charmaine Davis is a woman of diverse talents. First and foremost, she is a Registered Dental Hygienist who works tirelessly to advocate for patients to have access to quality oral healthcare.
Second, she is a Patient Navigator and Community Health Worker who seeks to engage, educate and empower the community she serves. Davis develops and implements effective solutions to frequently encountered barriers such as financial barriers, communication barriers, medical system barriers, psychological barriers like fear and distrust, and situational barriers like transportation and childcare.
Third, Davis is founder and executive director of the Wings of a Dove Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a wellspring of innovative services to those affected by oral cancer.
Early in her career, she felt a strong desire to be involved in community outreach. Davis became passionate about caring for the underserved population after seeing her mother face a litany of barriers to oral health care. Sadly, Davis’s mother passed away in 2009 after battling stage-three squamous cell carcinoma (oral cancer). “She passed the baton; I will finish her race,” says Davis, who draws inspiration from her mother’s journey and keeps her memory alive through helping others to realize the importance of good oral and overall health. Davis believes that her family support coupled with her own passion, compassion, drive, ability to overcome hardship and faith in God have become her winning combination.
A staunch proponent of oral cancer awareness and a reputation for a judicious use of resources, Davis crafts strategic vision to achieve the goal of good oral and overall health for all. Her intent is to increase awareness of oral cancer to the general public and build alliances within the dental and medical profession. Davis says, “as a dental hygienist, we are at the frontline to detect early stages of pre-malignant abnormalities and educating our patients to reach optimal health.”
“My mom is my role model. She has taught me value a strong commitment to community, [to] freely give my time and talent to benefit others,” she says. “As I witnessed firsthand the devastation that comes with a cancer diagnosis and the effects it has on families, the process taught me how to overcome obstacles. As Booker T. Washington once said, ‘Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome.' "
Today, Davis is determined to further her cause and the mission she so passionately pursues. In addition to practicing dental hygiene with the Smile Programs in New York City’s public and charter schools, Davis was honored to be named the program coordinator for the ADA Foundation “Give Kids a Smile” Program as well as regional coordinator for the Oral Cancer Foundation. Davis says, “As much as I have accomplished with the Wings of a Dove Foundation, I still have a long, challenging but optimistic road ahead of me. It is a journey of personal growth and commitment to serve others. As a dental hygienist, community health worker and patient navigator, my ultimate goal is to engage, educate and empower all New Yorkers to reach optimal health.”
Read the profile for honoree Laura Hatch on the next page
Laura Hatch, M.S., FAADOM - Clinical Team
Today, Laura Hatch is an office manager and the owner and founder of Front Office Rocks. But she has worked every position at the front desk and knows all the ins and outs of how to make a front desk team effective and efficient. Her background in human resources, recruiting and training helped her develop Front Office Rocks, where she creates online videos that employees can watch on demand in their offices to help them develop or improve in their positions.
“I am all about helping front office employees be more successful in their positions and help their offices grow,” she says. “I understand that training is the key to success so I developed a training program that can be used easily from their own computers, anywhere or anytime in any dental office across the country.”
Hatch met her husband in college, and when she asked him what he wanted to be when he got older, he told her a mechanic or a dentist. Today, she’s grateful that he chose dentistry because she’s unsure she would enjoy running an auto body shop nearly as much as she enjoys dentistry.
While her husband attended dental school, he learned to be a fantastic dentist, but when it came to the business side of things, they don’t necessarily teach that in dental school so they both decided it would be best to let Laura run the business side of the practice. She and her husband started their dentistry practice from scratch and Hatch is glad to have worked from the bottom to become the successful businesswoman she is today. Now, she works to close the gap between dentistry and business for other practices just as she was able to with hers.
“The best part of my job is that I have developed a resource that addresses this challenge in most offices,” she says. “I believe that many times the doctors want something out of front office employees, but they don’t know exactly what that is, how to communicate that to them and how to train them on it. Now with Front Office Rocks, I become that resource. The best part for me is when someone who works at the front desk of a dental office comes up to me to thank me for the training.”
In a previous job, Hatch’s boss told her, “If it’s not fun, don’t do it” and those are words she has come to live by. To her the meaning is twofold: First, it means that if you don’t like what you are doing, then maybe you need a change--when she sees employees who don’t enjoy their jobs, she tries to work with them to find a position in the office that they will look forward to day in and day out; secondly, it means everyone has things to do that might not be fun but you can make anything fun. This meaning inspires her to find ways to make the things that are considered mundane more gratifying.
“A passion to help dental team members be successful in their jobs is the main reason I get up each day and do what I do,” Hatch says.
Read the profile for honoree Dee Dee Reid on the next page
Dee Dee Reid - Clinical Team
As a consultant and coach for dentists, dental teams and patients, Dee Dee Reid wears many hats. Reid’s specialty is in impactful communication and increasing profitability by illuminating people’s natural advantages and using them to foster bigger possibilities in their careers and on a personal level. To her, everything is personal. It is all about relationships and all relationships in business are personal.
Another aspect of her coaching at her company Amplified Dynamics is in creating systems that are all relationship-centered. She bases her coaching on ambition, achieving dreams, making a deep connection from the heart. Reid teaches these techniques through non-traditional learning and out-of-the-box system development and communication with her patients and staff.
“I believe anything is possible and that we limit ourselves daily in thinking based on the past,” Reid says. “I am able to shine the light on these self-limiting underlying conversations that hold us back from what we want and frankly deserve so that people achieve results that are mind-blowing and life-altering both for my clients and patients.”
As you can imagine, Reid finds a lot of encouragement in her job but to her, the best part is making new friends with patients and team members every day. Making a difference in their lives is important to her, and her ability to create hope or giving those people their own “ah-ha” moments is where she draws a lot of inspiration.
“I know from the deepest parts of me that this was the reason I was put on this earth, to make a positive difference in people’s lives by having them see and take action into becoming their more expressed and biggest possible version of their true and authentic self,” she adds.
What keeps her going? A little bit of stubbornness from her dad, a little bit of competitiveness from her mom, and a lot of confidence in herself that she honed at a young age thanks to a lifetime of pageantry. Reid was coached for decades on stage, and she believes it has made her comfortable in her own skin as well as enthusiastic. These traits, along with those she learned from the many successful women in dentistry who have mentored her have helped her find the success she enjoys today.
“My very best and most impactful mentors and coaches have been women in dentistry that I’ve respected greatly,” she says. “Inspiration came from their commitment, perseverance and confidence and from the fact that they were willing to make me their friend.”
As a woman in dentistry and a mentor herself, Reid takes pride in her ability to instill her message in other women hoping to find success. Her advice to them is to allow yourself to be vulnerable and curious, to be courageous and to lead with your heart while constantly learning along the way. Confidence is key, according to Reid, along with enthusiasm and trust, but you can do whatever you set your heart and mind to, as long as you’re unwilling to give up.
Read the profile for honoree Courtney Roberts on the next page
Courtney Roberts, FAADOM - Clinical Team
When her journey began, Courtney Roberts was inspired to be a dental hygienist. Right after high school she started working as a dental assistant while she went to school to pursue a hygiene career. A few years later she found herself at a practice in need of a practice manager and she was the only person in the office who knew how to use the Dentrix software. Soon it became clear to both herself and her boss that the front office is where she thrived.
“Leading the office just felt so instinctive for me and it was the first time I held a position that I absolutely relished,” Roberts explains. “Needless to say, I readjusted my goals, took a gamble and kissed that future in hygiene goodbye. Experiences in time are usually past or future, where a fraction of a second can hold a lifetime of opportunity. With my perspective enlightened, all of the sudden a bold new separation occurred where dental hygiene was the past and office management was my future. I then put every ounce of energy chasing down this new dream.”
Now, Roberts not only manages an endodontic practice full time in San Diego, she is a published author and the owner and creator of Roberts Dental Logistics, a front office training program for dental students. She works hard to ensure the success of her office and one of her most rewarding moments in this industry is watching that hard work pay off.
Managing a busy practice is definitely fulfilling, but it isn’t always perfect. Like all office managers, Roberts wears a lot of different hats. One minute she is the entire HR department, the next the HIPAA security officer and another insurance guru, all while maintaining her role as team cheerleader.
“As office managers, not only do we have to juggle the positions that require the dental practice to succeed, we still have to stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing world of dentistry,” she says. “It can all be daunting, but the challenge is entirely worth the reward.”
As a successful woman in dentistry, Roberts believes that the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) has been one of the largest contributors to her success. As an accredited AADOM ambassador, she has completed their prestigious Fellowship program and she was a nominee for the 2015 and 2016 Office Manager of the Year. Roberts also serves on the board of directors for the San Diego Chapter for Dental Office Managers.
Roberts understands that as a woman it’s easy to be pressured into a career where you’re put into a box. “If you’re out there trying to make something of yourself, always stay true to who you are and before you know it, you’ll be slaying those goals left and right,” she advises. “Dreams don’t work unless you do. There will be doubters, there will be obstacles and there will be mistakes. But with hard work, there are no limits. It’s the vehicle to success.”
Read the profile for honoree Julie Varney on the next page
Julie Varney, CDA, RDA, COA, FAADOM - Clinical Team
When Julie Varney got her start in 1993, she was a struggling young mother who was looking for a career to support her family. That’s when a friend suggested she give dental assisting a chance.
“Little did I know at that time how life-changing that decision would be for me,” she recalls. “That journey has brought many wonderful dental experiences from patients, to team members, dental industry colleagues and dental assistant graduates that have shaped me into who I am today.”
Once she got her first position, she learned the ins and outs of dental assisting and patient care from two very accomplished dentists, Dr. William Forth and Dr. Peter Procopio. They, along with Dr Brent Bradford, have shaped her career. She feels fortunate to have received great on-the-job training.
“I quickly absorbed anything and everything that I could get my hands on,” she says. “I spent much of my down time reading the latest dental periodicals, attending continuing education classes, and joining professional associations, such as the ADAA.”
As her journey went on, she was able to experience different aspects of the dental profession under the supervision of a number of qualified dental professionals within different practices. In 2000, Varney took on more front office managerial tasks and ultimately became practice manager for Dr. Bradford.
“Dr. Bradford has continued to allow me to grow my knowledge of dentistry by empowering myself to come along with him to all the CE that he attended, and he continues to support my ongoing education,” she says. “Enough so that I am currently working on my Fellowship for the ADAA in Dental Assisting and I have completed my Fellowship for the American Association of Dental Office Management.”
Day-to-day, Varney appreciates the ability to have an impact on so many different people. She is proud to help practitioners give patients their confidence back through their smile and she’s glad for the opportunity to address the needs and concerns of each patient. She loves collaborating with her colleagues in the profession both inside and outside her practice. As Director of the Dental Assistant School of Syracuse, and as a Dental Assistant Coach, she takes great pride in facilitating the development of her students so they are ready to go out and successfully embrace the world of dentistry.
“I often see myself in their eyes--a young, bewildered student looking to make their mark in life,” she says. “Many have gone on to be certified dental assistants, registered dental hygienists and even a dentist. It’s so rewarding.”
While there are many joys in what she does, there are often frustrations too. She loves patients and often looks at them as extended family members but that makes it difficult when a patient is unable to afford that perfect smile she believes they deserve. Along the same lines, it is equally challenging when one of her dental assistant students is unable to land their first job in the field, merely because they struggle to sell themselves during the interview process.
“Even though there are new challenges every day, I stay passionate about dental assisting [and] continue to learn, not only for my career but for the growth of other dental assistants, the success of my team and the goals of my patients,” she says.
Read the profile for honoree Lois Banta on the next page
Lois Banta - Researchers / KOLs
Lois Banta is a savvy businesswoman, and her work is inspiring office administrators, consultants and speakers all over the country. As the owner of a practice management consulting company, Banta focuses on the business side of dentistry, specifically communication, team building, identifying trends and setting goals. She is also the owner of The Speaking Consulting Network, or SCN. SCN is the number one learning lab for speakers, consultants and writers hoping to enhance their own businesses as well as the business of their clients.
As someone whose focus is constantly on the inner workings of other people’s businesses, Banta finds her work extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. She considers her job a “get to go to work” job instead of an obligation that pays the bills.
Within the two businesses, Banta is constantly finding reasons to be grateful. To her, teaching and witnessing those “ah-ha” moments of other professionals’ success is something she considers a privilege.
“I get to witness the success of individual practices taking on changes to better their practices and improve their bottom line,” she says. “I love seeing teams work together toward a common goal.”
The best part of her work within The Speaking Consulting Network is linking meeting planners, VIP guests, members and sponsoring partners together to grow and develop networking opportunities for their businesses.
“It is so rewarding to have an organization where the sole focus is on networking and improving the dental profession,” she elaborates. “The egos are checked at the door and spirit of abundance is evident every day.”
As a successful woman in business, Banta is proud of her ability to foster success in those around her. She believes it is important to lift others up in order to help them achieve success, but to also help them find balance in their success. The most important advice she was ever given was to take care of herself personally as well as professionally; to plan her calendar out to promote equilibrium in her work and life at home.
“Carve out balance in your life so you don’t burn out,” she says. “This business can be very seductive. I recommend literally blocking off time on the calendar for personal time. I try to take the day after returning from a business trip as my ‘Saturday.’ ”
Three things have gotten Banta where she is today: hard work, tenacity and not accepting failure as an option in her life. To her, it’s important to learn from mistakes and try new things instead of accepting something as a failure and moving on. These three facets of her success have always been complemented by a positive attitude and the ability to always see the good in people.
“I have learned that life is full of surprises; you don’t get to repeat yesterday and you cannot predict the future,” she says. “Life is short, enjoy the journey and don’t overthink things.”
Read the profile for honoree Dayna Johnson on the next page
Dayna Johnson - Researchers / KOLs
After 24 years in the industry, Dayna Johnson has seen her career change and evolve more than she had ever originally expected. Johnson started out installing computer networks into dental practices. Now, she’s the owner of Novonee.com, the premier Dentrix online community, and helps dentists and team members around the country make the transition from paper charts to electronic health records.
Johnson loves helping the dental team create efficient, productive and stress-free systems so they can manage the business side of the practice and the doctor can focus on what he or she does best, taking care of the clinical side.
“I have worked in two very successful dental practices and I know what it feels like to be given the tools and resources necessary to perform your job well,” Johnson says. “It feels good to be one of those resources and knowing you are helping that practice create their happy place.”
Her journey may have been unexpected, but it isn’t without a bump or two in the road. Currently, Johnson is trying to reach a target audience of 40,000 Dentrix users across the country through Novonee.com and as the national office manager blogger for Dentrix. Managing her work and goals in the face of such a large population can be quite daunting at times.
“It’s okay to get uncomfortable,” she advises. “When you are uncomfortable you are learning and growing. When you are uncomfortable you are taking risks--just make sure they are calculated risks.”
So, what fork in the road did Johnson have to follow in order to get to this successful place in her life? She chose to leave her dental practice of 18 years to pursue her dream, thanks in part to the dentist with whom she was working at the time, Dr. Bob Giswold.
“I kind of jumped off the cliff hoping there was a net to catch me,’’ she says. “In 2011, I was in a position where I had to choose between turning away work doing what I love and the security of staying at the dental practice that I loved. It was an extremely difficult decision and I knew that my decision would change my life forever. My choice was to take the leap and get very uncomfortable. My husband, Kevin Henry, was there holding the net so I wouldn’t fall.”
Johnson draws inspiration from a variety of people in her life, from colleagues to friends but first and foremost is her daughter, Lauren. Lauren was diagnosed with epilepsy and other special needs when she was in the first grade and she never let it get in her way. Instead, she worked even harder and stayed motivated in the face of difficulty.
Today, Lauren is 24 years old, lives independently and works full time. Lauren keeps Johnson grounded and helps her to remember what is important in life.
“What I have learned is being unique and doing things that others are not doing has lifted me up and people have taken notice,” Dayna says. “I have been very uncomfortable over the years and now very excited about where I am both personally and professionally. I have learned to say yes to things that make me uncomfortable and not take the easy road. Even though this road has been financially and emotionally tough, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Read the profile for honoree Linda Miles on the next page
Linda Miles - Researchers / KOLs
For the last 36 years, Linda Miles has spoken in all 50 states and on four different continents on practice and team development, and she considers her job a privilege. She’s worked with more than 1,000 private practices as a management consultant and she’s been speaking and networking since she started the Speaking Consulting Network almost 20 years ago. This networking community takes some of the top dental speakers, consultants and authors and gives them a place to enhance their own speaking and consulting businesses.
“I consider speaking and consulting the best job in the world due to the long-term friendships developed with clients and their teams, meeting planners and audiences as well as the wonderful relationships with my own team and dental colleagues over the past 36 years,” Miles says.
It all started in 1976 when Miles was working as the business coordinator of a start up solo-dental practice in Richmond, Virginia. When one of her former boss’ classmates asked her to help train their new administrative team, she took the opportunity and started working with a small group of dentists.
“One of those early clients said I should hold a seminar and share my expertise with groups,” she recalls. “I created my first practice management seminar in 1979. I was one of few dental speakers at the time speaking on the non-clinical business of dentistry. Today there are hundreds.”
As a member of the National Speakers Association, Miles has come in contact with a number of inspiring individuals who have helped and mentored her while she grew her business. She learned a lot from these mentors, including two fundamental priorities every dental office should have. The first, and maybe the most well known, is to always put the patients first because a patient who feels like they’re a priority is a happy patient. The second priority, above all but patient wellness, is the health of the practice. If these two priorities are met then all of the other emotional and financial things will fall into place.
“In great work environments, very ordinary employees flourish with the right leadership and encouragement,” she says. “Younger dentists are not as involved in organized dentistry and CE. They are not as interested in the management side of dentistry they must have to succeed. Training your employees and having them leave is not nearly as expensive as NOT training them and having them stay.”
Miles believes that success is a team effort for her clients as well as her own business. Her advice? No one gets to the top of the ladder without support.
In 2016, Miles retired from her role as a speaker and consultant in dentistry after 55 years in the industry. While she is looking forward to some well-deserved time to herself with her family, she is intensely proud of the impact she made on the industry throughout her career.
Read the profile for honoree Nancy Miller on the next page
Nancy Miller, RDH - Researchers / KOLs
As a dental hygienist, educator, consultant and speaker, Nancy Miller is proud of the pleasant, educational and practical experiences she shares with her patients and her clients that make them want to come back to her again and again. While she started her journey solely in the clinical arena, her love for all aspects of the dental industry grew and she expanded her presence into other facets of business.
“How I got to my position turns out to be a journey through stepping stones in my career that led me to the lily pad I sit on now, or hop off from,” she says of her vocation. “I am blessed to have a unique situation in that I am a clinician, educator, lecturer and consultant, all at the same time. This variety of activities and workplaces keeps me active and engaged in my career to this moment.”
While keeping up with the ever-changing research and technologies can be a challenge, Miller embraces the changes and takes them in stride. The constant research, updating and reading are worth it to her when she gets to witness that light bulb go off. She gets a great deal of satisfaction from helping those individuals understand something and put it to use.
When you work in a field that is ever-changing, it’s important to keep an open mind to new ideas as well as a natural curiosity as to how things work, and Miller does both in order to be successful. She draws inspiration from her father, who was a teacher and coach. She grew up watching him refuse to settle for anything but the best effort.
“When he retired, he had countless students who would look him up just to come and thank him for how he inspired them and taught them in their journey to become an engineer, teacher or whatever career they had chosen,” she recalls. “I wanted that same feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment he got when they took the time to thank him. Even today when a patient thanks me or asks me for further information, or a client tells me my information changed their life, I get a lot of satisfaction.”
Miller teaches her students to always keep learning new things while perfecting the things they already know. She advises them to be willing to volunteer, to take on new projects and to keep developing relationships in every arena that touches their career. In her experience those relationships and connections have paid off, and that’s something she hopes to inspire in others.
“You never know who will see you or when, and that can lead to opportunities you never imagined,” she said. “Always do the best job you can and remember you may be auditioning for a new role you can’t even imagine when you least expect it.”