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Now in its eighth year of recognizing exceptional women in the dental industry, Dental Products Report is thrilled to introduce the Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2017.
Now in its eighth year of recognizing exceptional women in the dental industry, Dental Products Report is thrilled to announce the Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2017.
This year’s honorees come from across the dental industry, including dentists, industry leaders, office managers, educators and lab technicians.
See last year's winners: Meet the Dental Products Report Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2016
“There are so many amazing women pushing the dental industry forward, and every one of them deserves recognition for their hard work, passion and dedication,” says Laura Dorr, managing editor of Dental Products Report.
“The dental field would not be where it is today without the forward-thinking, visionary women who have contributed to its growth and success. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to every woman dedicated to furthering dentistry, and also recognize these 25 women whose contributions stand out. “
Click a name below or go through the following pages to meet the women and learn about their contributions.
Dr. Heidi Dickerson
Dr. Karen D. Foster
Dr. Maria Maranga
Dr. Pamela Maragliano-Muniz
Dr. Candice Sullivan
Dr. Jana S. Winfree
Mary Beth Bajornas
Researchers and educators
Dr. Heidi Dickerson
The Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies is among the premier postgraduate institutes for continuing education in the world, and Dr. Heidi Dickerson is proud to be LVI’s president. LVI works to educate thousands of doctors, hygienists, team and lab technicians a year and professionals travel from all over the world to learn at LVI. To date, LVI has more than 10,000 alumni from 48 different countries, and Dr. Dickerson is determined to help the organization grow in every way she can.
“I do whatever it takes to educate them on physiologic dentistry,” Dr. Dickerson says. “Being a patient of physiologic dentistry is what propelled me to teach it. I was a lifelong migraine sufferer and my husband, Dr. Bill Dickerson, treated me with physiologic dentistry and I have not had migraines in close to two decades. Once you know the power of what you can do to help your patients, there is no turning back.”
Within her role at LVI, Dr. Dickerson is a featured lecturer in 10 courses, oversees two clinics with a total of 20 operatories, produces and edits VISIONS magazine, and is the creator and producer of LVI TV, the institute’s YouTube channel. All that while traveling and giving lectures worldwide and helping run the business side behind the scenes.
“I am proud of the unique ways I have tried to educate the doctors and the public,” she says. “For example, the LVI TV videos are quite funny and informative. The public needs to be educated as much as the dentist and education needs to be fun.”
Dr. Dickerson believes the biggest challenge to dentistry today is adapting in the face of change. She believes that everyone in the industry wants change but no one is willing to change when it comes to themselves; they would prefer to remain comfortable in what they know. To her, it can be frustrating to see a way for dentists to help their patients and to hear them say they want to help their patients but then not follow through or embrace new ways to help their patients.
“Innovation by definition is a new method, idea or product; herein lies the issue,” she says. “We can have all these awesome new things out there, but if we do not know how to use them, or how to present the need for using them with our patients, they mean absolutely nothing. That is one thing we specialize in at LVI-training. We believe in hands-on training because once you use something or do a procedure, you will remember it.”
One of her personal missions is to demonstrate to dentists the impact they have on their patients, and to show them that no other doctor in any other profession can help patients the way they can. Dr. Dickerson believes dentists have a power they don’t realize because annually they see their patients more often than any other health profession. Therefore, they have the ability to see changes, diagnose them and prevent conditions that could become pathologic otherwise.
“Once you understand how a human develops, and how we as their dentists can guide and enhance that growth so they have proper facial development and a functional airway, now that becomes exciting stuff,” she says. “When you are actually prolonging someone’s life by using these principles, it is very powerful and rewarding.”
Dr. Karen D. Foster
“With my young patients, I hope they develop excellent life long oral health habits, recognizing the connection between oral health and overall health,” she says. “In my 15 years being a dentist, I have seen an increased value given to oral health as a function of overall health and I hope to continue to see access to oral health care for all as a priority to allow the establishment of a dental home for everyone.”Dr. Karen Foster is an educator and pediatric dentist who strives to share her knowledge of oral health with patients, parents, team members and other dental professionals while simultaneously working to serve as a role model for those interested in a career within the dental industry. She heard her calling early in life, specifically after writing a report on a local dentist at 8 years old. As someone who works with kids, finding her passion early on helps her connect with her patients and see that kids have big dreams at an early age, and their fervor to achieve them runs deep. Foster is able to then use that connection to educate patients and help them develop the best habits young.
Dr. Foster started her practice from scratch, and while that came with its own hurtles and challenges over the years, she’s proud of how it’s grown and the success she’s found within the realm of small businesses. To her, it’s gratifying to go out within the dental community and share her experiences as well as advocate for improvements benefitting patients as well as the dental profession.
Dr. Foster also serves the dental community as an educator and she’s the first to say she’s learned as many new lessons as she’s taught.
“Innovation is embracing new ways of doing things,” she says. “I am always open to learning new techniques. As a dental educator since 2004, I have come to appreciate the importance of research to identify and instruct as to a ‘best practices’ approach when treating special needs patients. By surveying fourth-year dental students before, then after, their rotation through the special needs clinic, my colleagues and I identified needed curriculum changes.”
Dr. Foster is able to relate to her patients thanks to common ground and her own personal challenges. Since the end of 2012 she has been fighting the joint damaging effects of psoriatic arthritis, a chronic condition she works to overcome every day.
“Marketing gurus often tell you to humanize yourself to your patients and potential patients-I guess I am taking that advice to heart; I am a medical patient,” she shares. “The knowledge I have gained through this journey as a medical patient has made me better able to work with patients who have dietary issues as well as other health issues.”
As a woman, she is confident in her skills and isn’t afraid to challenge stereotypes, specifically those that categorize her as a “female dentist” or “young dentist.” Instead of letting herself be boxed into those stereotypical roles throughout her journey she has sought out mentors who would guide and encourage constant development as a practitioner as well as a member of the dental community.
Dr. Maria Maranga
Twelve years ago Dr. Maria Maranga was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she did not let it take her life or her ambition. Dr. Maranga beat cancer and came back stronger and fiercer than ever. Today, she is an educator, an endodontist, a wife and mother, and an activist in the breast cancer community. She believes that each role has helped to define her and make her better as an overall practitioner and citizen.
“A survivor is always busy; you were chosen to be saved for a reason and sometimes you just don’t understand why,” she says.
Within her career, she believes it is of the utmost importance to educate and re-educate herself on the most up-to-date techniques, to harness them and implement them slowly in order to constantly hone her expertise. This is a trait she works to instill in the students she mentors-especially females, who may be at a disadvantage right out of the gate.
“Females represent less than 10 percent of all dental school deans and our medical counterparts are also only slightly higher as deans and department chairs. As a specialist, many vendors still ignore women at dental conventions and choose to overlook our potential business,” Dr. Maranga says. “Women are now 50-55 percent of the freshmen class of most U.S. dental schools. That in itself is a big game-changer. In the beginning of my leadership roles, women and diverse groups had to wait longer to be promoted, but not anymore.”
Dr. Maranga comes from a family that strongly encouraged hard work and earning what you get in life. Her mother and father were not college-educated, but she believes that their work ethic took them further than any degree could have. She works hard to emulate that attitude, especially as a woman in a male-dominated field. She has persevered and pursued every leadership opportunity she could, she has made sure she is educated and stays up to date with current technologies, and she has learned to ask for help and never takes “no” as a final answer.
“When I struggled at times with being singled out as a female, my dad would point to my mom and say, ‘Look at her, she doesn’t get upset over the baby things. Get up and find another way to fit in.’ He may not have used the word ‘adapt,’ but that concept became my cornerstone forever,” she shares. “I adapted my style to whatever needed to be done to keep moving forward.”
To Dr. Maranga, to innovate is to adapt on the go. Whether she’s working with a patient or helping someone endure the trials of breast cancer, she is constantly working to adapt and understand in the face of new knowledge, technology or unfamiliarity.
“I think that the innovation I represent has to do with your own self as a human being,” she said. “I adapt and come up with new and exciting ways to be original, encourage others and provide a sounding board for many. I use innovative ways to teach by taking a problem, applying sound biology coupled with the latest techniques, add a dash of common sense and run with it.”
Dr. Pamela Maragliano-Muniz
Dr. Pamela Maragliano-Muniz first became a dental hygienist because her parents didn’t think that pursuing a professional career in ice hockey was realistic. Luckily, she fell in love with dental hygiene upon entering her program and never looked back. Today, Dr. Maragliano-Muniz is one of the leading prosthodontists in her field and she is proud of her career, grateful for the opportunities she’s been able to take advantage of, and thankful to the mentors who helped her get where she is today.
“I was working for a prosthodontist and if I was going to go to dental school, I wanted to be the best dentist I could be, and it seemed to me that being the best dentist meant becoming a prosthodontist,” she remembers. “I always thank dental hygiene and my dental hygiene instructors for changing my life and inspiring me.”
Outside of her work as a prosthodontist, Dr. Maragliano-Muniz is also an instructor. She loves seeing dentistry evolve as technology and digital media become more readily available and bend itself to the will of the dental industry.
“I’m excited to see how technology continues to change the dental industry,” she says. “I think it is an exciting time to be in the industry and I am constantly blown away by new technology and materials to allow us to provide the best care to our patients.”
When it comes to challenges within her career, she welcomes them with open eyes and an open mind. To her, it’s what you do in the face of a challenge that is most important. She believes that one has to stay positive, keep moving forward and learn from setbacks in order to be the best. For her, new opportunities mean new experiences and things she can learn in order to be better at what she does.
“I am motivated to provide the best care to my patients, and it is an honor to be able to share my practices and opinions with my dental and dental hygiene colleagues,” she says. “I am constantly met with new challenges and it certainly keeps things interesting.”
Dr. Maragliano-Muniz finds herself inspired by products, lectures and publications that motivate her to make her practice better-and to be a better prosthodontist. She believes it is of the utmost importance to keep her practice current for her team, patients, and lectures and publications. That is what innovation means to her-educating her team on the newest practices and technologies in order to ensure the best outcome for patients while also doing everything she can to contribute and give back in order to encourage the next generation of dental professionals.
“I am very proud when I see my students happy, successful and enjoying their careers,” she says. “That really sparked my lecturing and writing career and I enjoy sharing my ideas and practices. I enjoy sharing my trials and tribulations with new products with my readers. I am always humbled and proud when I am recognized for my work.”
Dr. Candice Sullivan
As someone who believes that children are the greatest gift to humankind, Dr. Candice Sullivan found the perfect position to cater to her passion of making a difference in their lives.
“They are our present. They are our future. Being able to gain their trust at an early age makes my heart smile,” she says. “It’s not an easy job, but it’s a job of constant gratification. After 19 years of practice, I honestly cherish my job and I love my babies.”
Dr. Sullivan is glad to have seen a plethora of changes in dentistry when it comes to children’s oral health while she’s been in practice. The biggest of those changes is niche dentistry, where each dentist is able to create his or her own style of practice. As for her own practice, it is a style of boutique dentistry where she can spend real, quality time with each child, first building trust and then working with the parent to soothe any worry her or she may have. While helping the kids is the most gratifying part of her job, helping the parents comes as a close second; when she gets to help both, it’s a good day.
“Most recently, my proudest accomplishments are helping mothers who are having difficulty nursing their newborns,” she said. “Using a CO2 laser, I am now releasing infants’ frenums to help them breastfeed more successfully. Once the lip and/or tongue is released, the babies can successfully nurse and the mothers can begin to enjoy nursing instead of dreading it. It is so rewarding. It is so self-gratifying. We can truly make a difference in these infants’ lives and I love it.”
In order to be the best dentist she can be for her patients, Dr. Sullivan is constantly learning and striving to educate and re-educate herself. Attaining more knowledge through continuing education classes is a huge motivator for her. She believes her patients deserve the very best version of her.
“How should we expect that we learned everything about pediatric dentistry in school? I attended LSU in New Orleans, a highly accredited dental school, but technology and knowledge change, just as people change,” she says. “I am humble enough to admit I don’t know everything. I am a forever student and always will be. Regardless of the time and money exhausted, once again, my patients are worth it and deserve it.”
When it comes to the future of pediatric dentistry, Dr. Sullivan would like to see oral health become a bigger priority to insurance companies. To her, it’s difficult to see parents struggle to get a child the care he or she needs based on what their insurance will or will not cover. She hopes that dentistry and dental insurance will make a turn back toward allowing dentistry to make those decisions instead of the insurance companies. As for herself, she will keep moving and learning and growing her practice while building lasting relationships with her patients and their families.
“Hanging out with those precious children put a smile on my face that has lasted 19 years,” she says. “The innocence in a child’s eyes is something that speaks to your soul in a way nothing else can.”
Dr. Jana S. Winfree
Working within the government means you have to see the big picture, and as the Oklahoma State Dental Director, Dr. Jana Winfree does just that. Her duties include dental public health efforts for the state like community water fluoridation, oral health surveillance, dental education, acting as subject matter expert and administering the state dental loan repayment program. As if those responsibilities aren’t enough, she also practices dentistry on a limited scale for uninsured children and pregnant women in a county health department.
“Innovation involves turning an idea into an action to meet a need,” Dr. Winfree says. “Although utilizing dental hygienists for oral health surveillance and using public health nurses to deliver fluoride varnish are not new ideas, these actions had not been done before by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. It was under my leadership as state dental director that these needed efforts were accomplished.”
Dr. Winfree recently obtained a master’s degree in public health. Thanks to her education, she is able to view disease through the ecological. She learned to recognize social determinants of health and she became increasingly aware of the relationship between oral health and overall health.
In the last two years alone, Dr. Winfree has accomplished great strides within her position. In October 2015, she oversaw the implementation of the Oklahoma Fluoride Varnish program for public health nurses. The focus is children under age 5 who are enrolled in the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutritional program. The program, which began in a few county health departments, has expanded to 39 clinics. In the almost two years since inception, almost 6,000 children have received fluoride varnish applications from public health nurses and the program continues to grow.
“Nurses have embraced the service, commenting that applying fluoride varnish opened a whole new conversation with mothers that they never had before,” she says. “I’m proud of this accomplishment because it is a successful medical-dental collaboration that benefits our youngest children.”
Then in 2016, she oversaw the Oklahoma oral health needs assessment. During this assessment, seven dental hygienists screened almost 1,300 third- graders at 36 different elementary schools. With a 60-percent participation rate, they had the most contributors in the history of the survey.
“I’m proud of this accomplishment because the state health department had not used hygienists before as screeners, and they proved to be excellent as examiners and as dental health educators,” Dr. Winfree says.
The fact that dental diseases are mostly preventable motivates her to initiate programs that will decrease tooth decay and periodontal disease for Oklahomans. This aligns with the mission of the Oklahoma State Department of Health: creating a state of health.
“I hope to see oral health recognized as essential to overall health and a key component for quality of life,” she says. “Oral health is related to mental, physical, systemic, social and economic health.”
Category: Team member
As a self-proclaimed nerd within the dental industry, Alessa Allen had an interest in the dental industry from a young age. As a child she never missed an appointment with her dentist and would even go as far as to say she looked forward to them. Later, when she became a young mother, she found her motivation and inspiration to start her career.
“A lot of people were concerned when I became pregnant at a young age, thinking I would struggle in career choices and everything else that comes into play with being a young mom,” Allen says. “But if I want something, my passion drives me. I’m very focused on what I want, how I can achieve my future goals and I strive to be the best I can be.”
Allen started out as a dental assistant after attending Dental Careers of the North Shore-and attaining radiology licensing from Boston University-and her drive and perseverance allowed her to climb the rungs of her ladder quickly. Her boss recognized her leadership potential early on and was eager to present her with a managing opportunity. Today, she is the office manager at Dr. Dental, Methuen, Massachusetts.
Since she took on the responsibilities of managing a dental office, Allen has observed some meaningful and encouraging changes within her staff and she’s proud of the environment she’s created.
“My motivation truly comes from my staff. I can honestly say I love the people I work with and I love being able to help them in any way possible,” she says. “They know that even [during] off-hours, I’ll be there for them regardless of the situation. We are all like a family here, so we love hard but we fight hard too.”
Within the scope of the dental industry, she is constantly amazed at the innovations and technological advances being rolled out every year, and as an avid learner, her mind is always working on ways to better the care of her patients and the work of her staff. “I love seeing how the technology is advancing and becoming familiar with all [the] new instruments and procedures,” she explains.
To Allen, innovation means being creative, and that’s something she’s familiar with no matter what hat she’s wearing day to day. She believes it’s important as an office manager to maintain an atmosphere that is open and honest in order to satisfy every person individually as well as the staff as a group.
“In most offices, there’s a constant turnover of employees, but we have had the same employees for a number of years,” she says. “Being personal can go a long way; that’s the secret to keeping a happy staff. There aren’t many bosses out there who connect with you on a personal level and sincerely care for you like I do. Some professionals may say that business and pleasure don’t mix, but in this office it does, and it clearly works.”
Even on the hardest days, Allen’s staff and the gratitude of their patients make it all worth it. While she understands that challenges with a patient’s financial responsibility or dental insurance are a part of the experience, she works hard to ensure that both parties come out happy and healthy in the end.
“The most rewarding thing in this field is hands down when people walk out of here crying for joy that they can smile again. We change lives daily and that is what gives us more than satisfaction,” she shares.
Category: Team member
Patricia Delauretis grew up with a need to help others with their oral care thanks to being raised in a dental office-her father’s dental office, to be precise. Delauretis’ father owned a dental practice before she was born, and the fascination borne out of being raised by dental professionals has served her well. Today, she is a registered public health dental hygiene practitioner in her father’s general dental office and she is thrilled to have found the place where her family, passion and drive meet.
“Hearing my dad brag about his daughter and tell others how proud he is of me means the world to me,” she shares. “He’s been the greatest teacher I could have. When my patients tell me that I am just like him in my mannerisms, demeanor and overall care and they are so happy still have a Delauretis care for them, it makes me unbelievably proud. He always put the care and comfort of patients before the business of dentistry, and it is my pleasure to carry that on.”
Throughout her career, Delauretis has observed a variety of changes within the dental field; from dipping X-ray film to converting to a digital platform, technology has allowed the field of dentistry to cover leaps and bounds in a minute amount of time.
“I remember sitting with my mom at the front desk while she penciled in patient appointments in the scheduling book that was as big as me at the time,” she says.
Practices are adapting and adopting new technologies at record pace both chairside and in the front office and it’s making everyone’s experience easier and more pleasant than ever before.
Delauretis is also excited to see a huge surge in knowledge when it comes to the whole body connection to health because the more she learns, the more she is able to educate her patients and make their lives and health better. In the future, she hopes to see the continual change in the scope of practice of a dental hygienist.
“I have hope that more states will join in on allowing unsupervised, direct access care,” she says. “It would allow us to get more involved with the people of our communities and provide care to all. I want to get out there, to those who need the care the most. So many people don’t have the access to care, whether it be lack of transportation or limited financial ability. I simply love helping people, and that motivates me.”
As for running the family business, she hopes to keep things a little old school. She believes that many practices are losing their best dentists to either retirement or large dental factories, causing people to lose touch with one another. Her hope is to stop the degradation of the relationship that’s forged when working chair side.
“It’s all about profit anymore and I refuse to let that happen,” Delauretis says. “These aren’t just patients to me. I’ve grown up with most of them, they are more like family and that is how I will treat them. With love, respect, compassion and the utmost care.”
Category: Team member
When you’re a full-time practice administrator for a practice managing three separate entities, you would think there isn’t much time for any other activities-but Colleen Huff would prove you wrong.
By day, Huff manages the office for her dentists, and after work she is the president and founder of the Buffalo/WNY AADOM chapter as well as an independent consultant and trainer on understanding dental insurances and the Affordable Care Act. Huff created one of the only courses available that breaks down the Affordable Care Act for offices to understand on their unique level. It took her over seven months to develop the class and she continues to adapt the course as legislation changes.
“My seminars are one area that I’m really trying to branch out to a little bit more and I have doctors that are very supportive of that so I’m very lucky,” she says. “The doctors I’m working with encourage me to continue to grow professionally when other doctors at another practice might not necessarily be so supportive.”
Huff has been able to speak both nationally and locally. She considers the knowledge and education regarding dental insurance right now to be lacking and she believes that many staff members don’t have the training and information they need to do what’s best for their patients. In the years since she started managing a practice, she has seen a huge jump in how detailed dental insurance has become and thus an even bigger hurdle to jump over for those in the office who have to understand the insurance process and what they can accept versus what they cannot.
“When I’m doing seminars, its refreshing to see the dentists willing to send their front office team for training and I’d like to see that expand and develop even further,” she says of her hope for the future. “AADOM has started a fellowship program and that’s a huge step. Dental assistants have schools, hygienists have schools, but there’s so little representation from the administrative side and I think we need to be given a voice. We’re a key part to the success of the office.”
For Huff, innovation has been at the forefront of her mind since the start of her career, even before she started working within the realm of dentistry. When she was working for MetLife, she realized that innovation was simply finding a solution to a problem instead of complaining about it. She put that into practice when she started her local AADOM chapter. She began at the national level but knew she needed more, so she went out and she made sure she had what she needed to succeed.
“Over the years, I’d find myself working with somebody who would just resign themselves to not knowing how to do something,” she says. “My answer to that is ‘well, how can we fix it?’ Educate yourself as much as you can. Early on, I learned to pay attention and to take advantage of every resource you have. That’s what’s going to give you an edge.”
Category: Team member
For Lauren Kroh, dentistry is in the family. She grew up watching her parents work together to build a dental practice that would treat patients while creating and building relationships. Eventually Kroh grew up and moved away from home to live her own life and have her own adventures, but two years ago she felt called back home to help build upon the practice her parents had worked so hard to start-and she hasn’t looked back.
Since her return to her hometown of Cleveland, Kroh has spearheaded the efforts to take her parents’ practice from one office to three. Today she is proud to lead a team of dentists, dental assistants, EFDAs and front desk staff in continuing education and successful training in hopes of providing the best dental services to their patients.
“I have always been familiar with dentistry; it has been all I have known,” Kroh says. “Seeing my family so involved in the dental industry and seeing doctors being able to help so many people made me want to get involved in this industry. Each and every patient that walks into our office becomes part of our family.”
One of the biggest hurdles Kroh has worked to overcome is making the practice’s patients comfortable, even the ones who hate going to the dentist. To her, being able to take a patient who is afraid of being in the chair and giving him or her an outcome and experience so positive that he or she looks forward to coming back is especially gratifying.
Kroh is proud to be a woman in charge, but she also understands how other dental professionals, specifically dentists, can perceive her as a woman. Instead of accepting that and moving on, she strives to change that perception.
“Working with mostly male doctors, you need to know to stand your ground and be knowledgeable,” she advises. “Even though I am not a dentist, I try to study and be knowledgeable within the field. In return, I have found that I gain the respect of my doctor peers.”
As the one in the driver’s seat, Kroh has taken it upon herself to ensure that the three offices are up to date on the newest advancements that could benefit patients. Whether those developments are within implant dentistry, digital dentistry, online marketing, social media or maintaining an online presence, she believes the only way to be successful is to innovate and educate.
“Innovation to me means to think outside of the box,” she shares. “We are always trying to stay educated on the latest technology, involve ourselves with the newest patient relation methods, or provide more training than any other dental company in the world. We have a very fast-paced dental practice and I believe all of our innovation is what makes it run smoothly.”
She is proud of how far she’s brought the business her parents started and one that is so near and dear to her heart and she hopes in to see continued success in the future.
Category: Team member
Change is hard and it can be daunting as well as intimidating-but Claudia Paye chooses to concentrate on change in the face of those feelings in order to better her practice and help it stand out from other offices. As the practice manager, she is responsible for making sure that the support staff’s and dentist’s schedules are both running smoothly. However, that is a pretty broad definition of what she does; on a day-to-day basis, she constantly has her mind running on a variety of different platforms to keep the practice running. It may seem like a lot of responsibility for one person, but Paye takes each duty on with confidence and poise. In short, she gets it done, no matter what.
“We have the opportunity to make a life-changing experience into a comforting and positive experience for our patients,” she says. “Not only should the doctors be passionate about what they do, the entire team should be just as passionate about providing the ultimate care to their patients. No matter how experienced you are in billing, insurance coordinating, providing treatment, or completing procedures, none of it matters if you are not personable or passionate about each individual as an individual.”
Since the beginning of her career, Paye has observed many changes she’s grateful for within the realm of managing a dental office. The industry has lent itself to more support to the office side of things, allowing for more efficiency and open communication as well as the ability to learn from one another.
“We have the ability to network and meet other office managers,” Paye shares. “We have the chance to learn different skills that I may have never been able to learn if we didn’t have these advances in social media, networking, AADOM, webinars and seminars. I find that the ability to connect will only make the industry stronger and it is both wonderful and inspiring.”
According to Paye, her office is constantly working to be better, more efficient, more affordable and more successful, and she takes on those innovations as a personal challenge. Thanks to that work, a spark in her office was lit encouraging the staff to seek out new learning opportunities and showcase what they’ve learned.
“We try to keep moving forward and we try to learn a new skill each day,” she says. “We point out to our patients new events we have been to and what we have learned from [seminars]. I set higher goals for the practice and get the team excited to reach them. I pride myself in never settling.
For the future, Paye hopes to continue to innovate within her position and to help and learn from those in the industry. She looks forward to seeing the changes that are to come and what improvements are made on all fronts-office, practitioner and patient -in order to best serve the patients.
“I’m driven by results. I like when I have a concrete goal to meet and enough time to figure out a strong strategy for accomplishing it,” Paye says. “Our yearly goals are very aggressive, but I’ve worked with my team to figure out a month-by-month strategy for meeting the year-end numbers. We are looking forward to accomplishing that.”
Mary Beth Bajornas
Category: Industry leader
WIn the early part of her career, Mary Beth Bajornas spent a lot of time seeking the place where her passion lay. She had started out in the banking industry but set out to find something more. That’s when she found herself in an unfamiliar but fascinating place. A good friend had helped find her an opportunity working in a dental office as an admin team member and she knew immediately that she had found a career that resonated deeply with her.
“It felt so natural. I was able to take the organization style and meticulous attention to detail from banking and incorporate those skills into the dentist’s office with the added bonus of developing personal relationships with the dentist, the team and the patients themselves,” she says. “I loved helping patients feel good about their experience at the office while at the same time allowing my dentist to maximize his time and talents. It was my calling, so to speak. I found my passion.”
Today, Bajornas is the founder and CEO of Dental Support Specialties, a business that provides administrative outsourcing services to dental practices across the United States. To her, it’s just as important that the office side of the practice is taken care of so the clinical side can run smoothly. She makes a point to stress exceptional customer service and she strives to deliver excellent results while working hand in hand with practices, coordinating each office to keep production scheduled, collections smooth and systems solid.
“It is my mission to underscore the importance of exceptional customer service with every patient, every time,” Bajornas says. “As technology and automation bring positive changes and expedite procedures, it can be easy to overlook personal interactions. It is my goal to improve the human engagement level and build those long-term relationships and loyalty that practices thrive on.”
To her, innovation means approaching problems head on and coming up with feasible and comprehensive answers to those challenges. She is proud to have started a company that is in and of itself the answer to a problem. She understands the struggles of the dental office and her niche is finding resolutions.
“Innovation starts with finding better solutions, more manageable solutions, more result-producing solutions to accomplish everyday tasks,” she says. “Innovation is about exceeding expectations and trying new things.”
Since her company’s conception, she has observed a variety of changes and advancements within the dental industry, especially within the technological realm. She is eager to implement new software and programs that enhance her team’s knowledge while allowing them to make custom reports, predictions and market analyses. She is also glad to have embraced technology in order to improve the means of communication between office and patient.
“They say the bigger the boat, the harder it is to turn,” she shares. “Dentistry is a huge industry but the turn toward technology’s role in office management is in full swing. I don’t think the boat is straightened out quite yet though and I look forward to even more innovation to come.”
Category: Industry leader
When a dental owner is looking to increase progress and prosperity within their practice, they look to Hollie Bryant for help, guidance and support. As a practice consultant, Bryant’s main focus is growing practices, whether they need strategy coaching, team training or they are ready to add a doctor, add another practice, or even create a transition plan for retirement.
“I pride myself in my business creativity and the ability to dream with my clients and even for my clients sometimes,” she says. “I am very invested in what I do and the teams I work with. I want them to love what they do and go as far as they want to go in their career.”
When she started Bryant Consultants seven years ago, she knew she would be starting from scratch with no clients and no independent experience. However, she also knew she had had a group of fantastic mentors throughout her career and a strong sense of faith in her abilities and determination. Once the business started to pick up, it grew into something more than just herself; it became a marketing and business consulting firm with the help of her husband, brother and sister. Bryant Consultants went from a one-woman song and dance to a successful family production, and she is so proud of the work her team has been able to do since the company’s inception.
“This is a true rags-to-riches-type accomplishment,” Bryant shares,“considering I started with no experience and no money and now I have my own consulting and marking business that is thriving. It gives me daily satisfaction when I get a text or email from a team member who has finally realized the potential I said they had, they have finally realized it their self.”
Bryant believes that innovation is the key to keeping businesses moving forward as well as the best way to keep your own business growing. It takes constant advancement and modernization to create the best possible outcome for practice owners.
“Innovation keeps us striving for better ways to do procedures, serve our customers, engage new customers and be profitable at the same time,” she says. “I do not have a stamped-out process that I fit all my practices in. I have some systems that I whole-heartedly believe in and we adapt them to the demographic, the practice and to the team.”
Looking back, Bryant is well aware of how far she’s come and the hurdles she’s had to overcome, but the work was well worth it considering where she is today. Starting from nothing and building her own independent reputation and network took some vigorous legwork, but through it all her family and peers made the hard times worth the effort.
“Being a business owner and practice coach has been the best thing I have ever done, but the hardest one too,” Bryant shares. “The relationships that I have built and invested in have sustained me through the difficult disappointments and supported me through the highs of my career so far. Never forget to thank everyone that got you where you are because you didn’t do it on your own.”
Category: Industry leader
When Marna Erlich entered the dental industry, it was almost by chance-but since her introduction, her decision to move exclusively into the industry has been intentional. Erlich fulfills a specific niche within the dental industry as a transactional attorney. She has represented a number of dentists either in the sale or purchase of a dental practice. To her, it’s amazing that the primary focus of her dental clients was less on price and more concentrated on finding the right person to carry on their legacies. Most of her clients prior to her position within the dental industry were primarily motivated by the money, so from the beginning, her dental clients were a breath of fresh air.
“The focus of my dental clients was on the continuity of care for patients and of continued employment for their staff,” Erlich says. “A buyer being the right fit for taking their place in the practice mattered, and I knew I wanted to pursue my career in the dental industry because dentists know that people matter. I also love it that dentists provide healthcare and are entrepreneurs and that comes with a lot of responsibility. My focus is to help dentists transition their businesses more effectively, so they can focus on patient care.”
Erlich leads a team of more than 70 dental practice transition consultants nationwide. They work to ensure the most favorable outcomes possible for dental practice owners who are transitioning the legacy of their dental practices to help them ensure continuity of patient care. She realizes that over the years the growing consolidation in the dental industry elicits a struggle for individual dentists when they’re faced with the growing trend toward corporate ownership and dentistry as more of a business than ever before.
“In my role, educating dentists and aspiring dentists that the investment in themselves is worth it, and that buying a practice is in their best interests, remains my biggest challenge,” she says. “The perception associated with the cost of education in the dental industry is very problematic, and the financial burden causes dentists and even those considering dentistry to make decisions that may not be in their best long-term interests.”
Facing those challenges has motivated Erlich to innovate and strive to stay ahead of the game in order to predict where the industry might be going. She stays ahead of current trends by remaining a lifelong learner and challenging herself to step outside of her comfort zone to seek growth.
“As a consultant, your customers rely on your knowledge and expertise, so make sure you know what you are talking about,” she advises.
As a team member at Henry Schein, she finds her inspiration and motivation from the leadership she works under and the programs she’s able to take advantage of.
“I am fortunate to benefit from a mentoring program and was paired with an incredible female executive on the senior leadership team who inspires me,” Erlich says. “I look forward to paying it forward.”
Category: Industry leader
Within the dental industry, there’s the practice and the patient, and it is Joanne Klempner’s job to facilitate the care of both in the most fluid, natural and effective way. As the business development manager at Dentsply Sirona, Klempner works to help bring Dentsply Sirona’s products and services to customers through Henry Schein Dental.
“I help to foster partnerships between the two companies and develop strategies to achieve our respective goals,” she says. “Dentsply Sirona’s corporate mission is to provide better, safer, faster dentistry. Henry Schein Dental’s mission is focusing on practice care so the dental professional can focus on patient care. Dentsply Sirona’s products and services can facilitate both and I seek to find ways to help our teams partner together to achieve that.”
Klempner has been with Dentsply for almost 20 years and she is confident that the company was the best and right choice for her. During her tenure, she’s observed a variety of changes, both on the chair side and on the manufacturing side. Email and cell phones have changed the game for her and made communication much more efficient. She believes that technological adoption within practices has evolved the most within dental practices and across the industry as a whole. She is also glad to see the growth and impact of dental service organizations and industry consolidation across all spaces.
“I have accepted professional changes over the years that I was terrified about, and not one of them do I regret,” she says. “The only regret would have come from not trying out of fear.”
As a woman in the industry, it makes her proud to see more women and diversity in leadership positions within dentistry.
“With roughly 50 percent of our graduating dentists being women, it is critical that the industry which supports them is reflective of the demographic,” she shares. “I know today it is almost unheard of for someone starting out in their career to stay with a company for 20 years, but I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have been given and believe I need to continue to earn those opportunities going forward.”
Personally, Klempner has found success by balancing her work and professional relationships and her life outside of the office. Within both realms she is fierce and driven. She believes in order to make the greatest contributions-in your life, in your work, to your family, in everything-you must start within yourself.
While she is proud to have fostered many relationships and strides within Dentsply Sirona, she is most proud of the overall contribution she’s made to the Dentsply Sirona-Henry Schein partnership. She recognized that both organizations wanted to bring innovation to their customers to improve patient care and help dentists build successful businesses, so she took that common ground and cultivated its growth. Thus, a very close and successful relationship was created between two large and influential establishments.
“I am extremely proud to be part of the team that built the foundation of success, partnership and trust that exists today between Henry Schein and Dentsply Sirona,” Klempner says. “I am even more excited to be a part of where we go from here.”
Category: Industry leader
If you were to ask Jennifer Naylor what she does, her answer wouldn’t be simple because her day-to-day job is far from simple-but her passion and drive show in every task she completes and every team she manages. To her, managing within Hu-Friedy Manufacturing, LLC, where she’s worked for 15 years, means working to bring the industry together with the practitioner to help with the advancement of patient health by creating and providing innovative new products and education.
“I love working for a company that is passionate about providing high-quality products and education that improves the quality of care for practitioners and patients,” Naylor says of her work. “What motivates me the most is working with incredible colleagues and creating products and programs that hopefully make practitioners’ jobs more predictable and rewarding.”
Every day Naylor is presented with challenges within her work, specifically when it comes to the amount of information and products being presented to practitioners. This challenge motivates her to create programs and products that are truly beneficial and will make a difference for the dental office and in turn the patient.
“I am very proud of the product portfolio that has been created and planned, coupled with a strong educational component globally,” she says. “I love hearing from practitioners how much they have learned after attending our education programs.”
Throughout her career she has seen many changes within the dental industry, and the ones that impact her work directly have been substantial. She is happy to see heightened awareness of compliance and requirements around infection prevention as well as a major increase in access to education for both the patients and practitioners. She believes that this has allowed the industry and patients to become more knowledgeable on dental therapies, requirements and products. She has also observed the impact of digital access to education and information leading to faster adoption of procedures and products in the dental industry. While she’s proud to have seen these changes, she knows there are still hurdles for the industry and many of them come with the embrace of complete health instead of simply oral health.
“As the industry grows and changes, I hope to see increased access to high-level care for all patients in dental settings that are complying with the highest standards of infection prevention,” she says. “Oral health is so important to the overall systemic health that we should all have access to the same levels of education and treatment.”
As for personal challenges, Naylor is determined to face them head on and give her all in her whole life, from her profession to her personal life. She’s determined to innovate with the help of her mentors and her Hu-Friedy family.
“Innovation is never settling for the status quo and always looking for how to improve or leap frog your current product offerings or programs,” she says. “It is important to not get caught up in the day-to-day business and set aside thinking time and brainstorming time so that innovation stays in the forefront of your strategy.”
Category: Industry leader
When it comes to innovation, Shawn Shorrock has what it takes to transform and adapt both herself and the company she works for. As the global director for Solvay Dental 360™, a new business line from Solvay Specialty Polymers, USA, LLC, Shorrock is proud to have led the Solvay entrance into the implantable polymers market with Solviva biomaterials back in 2007, and she’s kept a mind for modernization and advancement ever since. That eye for opportunity helped her again in 2014 when she led her team to create and launch their first product for removable partial dentures.
“I am extremely proud to have launched Ultaire™ AKP for removable partial dentures with the Solvay Dental 360 team,” she says. “I’ve been involved with this business and this product since its inception. While I’ve launched other products and another business in my previous experience, I’m most proud of the potential for Solvay Dental 360 to truly impact patients’ comfort, quality of life and overall health.”
Shorrock has a degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, so she’s familiar with the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. To her, the challenges with her job and throughout her career had more to do with moving everyone forward for the sake of business and her company instead of simply working to move women forward. For Shorrock, it isn’t about gender, but instead work ethic and knowledge.
“I have always challenged that innovation can apply to every aspect of a business and not just product development,” Shorrock says. “For example, we are utilizing social media to create and connect a community of patients, clinicians and dental labs. We’ve had incredible results with this approach, allowing patients, dentists and dental labs to learn about a new product in a nontraditional way.”
To her, it’s important to first be authentic in everything she does. Second, it’s vital to know and understand her strengths and work to them, but to also know her weaknesses and use them as an opportunity to grow.
In the end, her day-to-day work is all in the name of and for the sake of the patients she is so proud to help. For her, the motivation comes from seeing the reactions of patients who use Solvay products and how those products make a lasting impact on the lives of the patients.
“We have seen patients put their Ultaire AKP RPD in and suddenly break into tears of joy when they look at themselves in the mirror for the first time,” she says. “They talk about the comfort and the fit, but they also love the way it looks. It’s incredible motivation to actually give people back their smiles.”
In the future, Shorrock anticipates continued innovation within her company and throughout the dental industry. She hopes that innovation is focused first and foremost on improving patient experience, quality of life and overall health, and esthetics second. Personally, she would love to continue to innovate within the dental industry as the needs of doctors and patients change and grow.
Category: Industry leader
Julia Yelevich is hailed as one of the most effective and convincing individuals in the business of growing dental practices and bringing them into the 21st century. Her main goal is to truly transform the practices she assists and to train them and inspire them to learn.
“So many dental practice management gurus or business-savvy dentists crowd the marketplace, yet few, if any, have a true understanding of what true inspiration, aspiration, value proposition and value delivery really is,” she says. “They all know formulas about how much production should come from hygiene per day, but those are just boxes: defined, old, proven formulas that work for average practices who just want to have a ‘good business.’”
When she started her business, the Natural Dentistry Center, she was inspired by the monumental need she interpreted within the dental industry. She saw dentists, young and old, struggling to run their businesses and she decided to put her expertise in business and finance to the best use. In Yelevich’s eyes, dentists, just like physicians, are trained to heal, cure and optimize health and not to run profitability sprints or cost effectiveness campaigns or six-sigma operational workflow. That is where she found her niche.
“A real, thriving, growing and effective practice that isn’t just covering overhead but delivering on its mission, vision, value and driving extraordinary patient experiences,” she says. “If you don’t think big, you’ll stay mediocre, maybe even mildly successful, but I am not one to settle for just another dental practice.”
However, she believes that practices rarely look for substantial change or the real transformation that her services bring. She’s observed many dentists and practice managers who ask for her help but are afraid to learn new ways to talk to patients or to try new methods in business.
“I push boundaries and achieve results,” she says. “While these seem like ethereal concepts in an industry of crowns and gingival grafts, bonding resins and diagnostic scans, I believe in letting the value creation process focus on customer enrichment and brand experience guide the profits.”
As a young and fiercely determined woman dealing with predominantly baby-boomer aged male dentists, Yelevich knows that her every move and decision is scrutinized and judged. She embraces the opportunity to showcase her expertise and ability to help make these businesses better in both earnings and service to their patients. Her hope is to leave a lasting impression on the businesses she works with and their staff.
“I want to set precedent for other powerful, confident and intelligent women in the dental industry. We can own and grow companies, we can invest and we can be successful,” she says. “Women often don’t expect to be heard, so they either speak louder or not at all. I teach women to change the conversation if they aren’t being heard. Information is the most valuable resource.”
When Vanessa Emerson started working with professional speakers, she didn’t realize that she had found her true calling. Her first position came at a time of transition within her career, but she’s so grateful for the timing. Today, Emerson helps event planners find and work with speakers through the Directory of Dental Speakers and Dental Speaker Bureau. She also works through the Dental Speaker Institute to offer an educational curriculum through which dental professionals gain the skills and knowledge to grow successful speaking and consulting businesses, all while speaking at events herself.
“Knowing that the work we do benefits speakers, planners, meeting attendees and, ultimately, patients drives me to do more and be more,” she says of the many hats she wears. “I enjoy seeing our speaker clients growing professionally and when our event planners receive rave reviews after working with our speakers. I’m honored to be a speaker on the national and state speaking circuit, helping dental professionals learn how to transition into and grow a dental speaking business.”
It all started in 2001 when she found herself on the hunt for a job after the medical office she was managing closed. She answered an ad for an assistant to a dental speaker and consultant. That’s when she started working with her mentor and close colleague, Katherine Eitel Belt.
“Katherine encouraged me to provide coaching and design services to help other speakers and consultants,” she says. “I will be forever grateful for her abundant mindset and mentorship. We worked together for a dozen years and until her business went in a new direction and mine required me full-time.”
Emerson is proud to have helped introduce something valuable and new to the dental industry with her business. She saw a need and she decided to fill it. Over the past 10 years, she’s developed a vigorous offering of products and services that bridge the gap between event planner and speaker and help both meet their business goals.
“I believe that dentistry is home to the most generous, kind people on the planet,” she says. “I have received many opportunities and experienced few challenges. Networking has been a major factor in my businesses development and growth. Organizations such as Speaking Consulting Network and Academy of Dental Management Consultants offer networking opportunities that skyrocket a business and create supportive, lifelong relationships.”
Throughout her tenure as a speaker and organizer, Emerson has observed many shifts and changes within the industry. While she sees fewer young dental professionals at traditional meetings, she is happy to have adopted online education and digital means of communication. She also believes that corporate dentistry has introduced many new opportunities within the industry.
“Meetings are more important than ever,” she says. “Dental meetings, whether large or small, are where dental professionals can meet face-to-face with industry experts and mentors, where new ideas are heard and born, where brainstorming occurs, challenges are resolved, decisions are reached and knowledge is expanded.”
In the future, she hopes to see more dental professionals embracing the opportunity to share their unique experience and knowledge from the podium.
Dr. Sigal Jacobson is a dentist and a lecturer who is proud to also have “inventor” on her resume. She is the creator of the Uveneer system-used by dentists all over the world-and more products currently under development. As a 22-year veteran of the dental industry, Dr. Jacobson has taken it upon herself to invent simple methods and products that aim to make the general dentist’s work more efficient and more predictable, while simultaneously making it easier and more affordable on patients.
“Innovation means improving the quality of work and makes the dentist’s life less stressful,” Dr. Jacobson says. “I always have been open to trying new materials and technologies. There is so much to be gained from utilizing the latest and greatest in dental materials and innovations; there is very little reason for us to not take advantage.”
That openness and adaptability has helped her throughout her journey to success, and she is grateful to her family for instilling a strong sense of passion in her. Dr. Jacobson has been in practice for 22 years across three different continents working as a restorative dentist with a passion for cosmetic dentistry. She has witnessed many developments in all areas of dentistry.
“As a restorative dentist, there were many changes that improved the way I worked, including the improvements in adhesive technology, new generations of state-of-the-art composites, bioactive materials and CAD/CAM systems, along with ceramic materials, caries detection devices and more,” Dr. Jacobson shares. “Those improvements enable me preserve the healthy tooth structure and keep the pulp vital, which in my opinion is the most ethically correct treatment approach.”
For the future, Dr. Jacobson can already see the gears of change turning. The way companies will provide educational information to dentists about new technologies is already changing and those changes can be seen in the decline of the traditional tradeshow in favor on online learning and exploration. She believes the availability of information and the convenience of being able to learn from your own home ultimately leads to more affordability and ease. The use of webinars, dental forums, dental websites and social media are giving dentists the opportunity to interact, communicate across a variety of platforms and share their experiences with one another.
“I believe the companies that will endorse these changes and learn how to do it effectively will flourish in this market,” she says. “This is a whole new game that I am excited to see take shape in the not-too-distant future.”
Not many people can say they found their calling at 8 years old, but for Kris Johnson it always felt like her natural path to success started with her fascination with dentistry. She followed her heart and became a dental hygienist, and through continued education and a passion for helping her patients, she became a prosperous RDHAP, educator and mentor.
“I have reflected many times about how blessed I am to belong to a profession that has so much to offer to health care,” Johnson says. “The more I learn about whole-body health, nutrition and whole-plant healing, the more I see how oral health is key to total body health.”
Johnson is currently working to educate others about incorporating a more holistic approach to how chronic diseases are treated, including periodontal disease. She is also on a constant journey to educate herself about nutrition and functional medicine.
“We still have so much to learn about how the human body achieves and maintains wellness,” she says of her studies. “Innovation means something new or different, like taking preventive oral health care beyond the mouth.”
While she may have found her passion early on, Johnson’s journey hasn’t been without its hindrances and obstacles. The first of her hurdles was finding her way to higher education. She was the child of teenage parents and the only one in her family to finish high school and go on to get a college degree. In the beginning of her career she thought her path would lead to finding a husband and settling down, but as her career evolved she came to the realization that her calling was in further educating herself so she could go on to educate others.
“Thank goodness for the evolution of women in dentistry,” she says. “In my 24 years as an RDH, and seven years as an RDHAP, I’ve been able to take advantage of this evolution and share what I learn with others. I educate yet also get to learn so much from my students and fellow colleagues. I like to inspire others to believe in themselves.
Throughout her tenure within the dental industry, Johnson has observed many changes. Some of those changes are thanks to a more digitized world, like text and email appointment confirmation or paperless offices, and some thanks to advancements in dentistry, such as digital X-rays with immediate images and improvements in the ease of use for periodontal probes.
As an educator, she believes the industry has a long way to go. She has made it a personal mission to advocate for online, accelerated programs as well as a Ph.D. program in dental hygiene. She is also dedicated to encouraging her students to pursue interprofessional collaboration so they come out of school as well-rounded as possible. She feels this is her way to give back to an industry that has made her so proud personally as well as leave a legacy that impacts both practitioners and patients.
“Never give up,” she advises. “Keep climbing, keep setting new goals and reaching them.”
When it comes to innovation, Dr. Carolyn Primus is a familiar face within the dental industry. While she has worn many hats within her career, many of the opportunities she’s had come from her eye for invention and modernization. When she started working within research and development of medical and dental devices, she really found her niche. After being awarded an SBIR grant from NIH based on her ideas for bioactive materials, she was inspired to open her own business, Avalon Biomed Inc., a medical device corporation to manufacture bioactive materials.
“In my corporation, our mission was to help people in developed and developing countries have access to the newest, bioactive dental materials at affordable pricing for all,” Primus says. “Inventing cost-effective materials to save teeth from extraction or restoring teeth with reliable, durable and esthetic materials is a big motivator for me.”
One of the innovations she is most proud of is her NeoMTA root and pulp treatment material. This bioactive material is now used in many countries as well as within veterinary dentistry.
“Innovation for me is the synthesis of one’s knowledge to improve an outcome,” she says. “I read articles from many sources, in- and outside of dentistry, to learn what others have invented or thought or need. Sometimes those ideas can be used in my current research.”
Primus has three engineering degrees in materials science and engineering; she’s glad to see her field and the growing field of biomedical engineering opening up and welcoming more and more women.
“Women of my age in science and engineering have faced many obstacles for our ideas being heard and appreciated. I joke that my career would have been easier if I were a few inches taller and had an operatic alto voice. It’s nice not to be the only woman in a meeting anymore.”
In 2016, Primus sold Avalon Biomed Inc. to NuSmile Ltd. Since then she has served as an adjunct associate professor at Augusta University and Texas A&M dental colleges for research and lecturing opportunities with great minds in dentistry. She also works part-time doing consulting within the dental industry.
In the future, Primus foresees that dental education of children and their parents will reduce caries and that more bioactive dental products will be commercialized.
“We must emphasize prevention and minimally invasive care and affordable products globally,” Primus says.
She also believes in the importance of mentoring students or junior researchers when you can.
“Interacting with dental students to enhance their appreciation of dental materials has been enriching for me,” she says.
Her advice to those students?
“Do more of what inspires you, although it may take time to come into focus. Learn about the materials you use to enable you to make the best choices for effectiveness for the patient.”
Originality, confidence and drive come naturally to Debra Zafiropoulos because her family instilled them in her at a young age. Thanks to those facets of herself, she is a respected and pursued key opinion leader, adviser to many corporations in health and wellness as well as a published author and founder of NationalCancerNetwork.org.
“I guess if I have to define my daily activity and what, at times, I receive a financial exchange for, [it] is to lead a passionate life by example; my daily [work] encompasses my passion to help others, and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. “I am humbled and proud to have earned the respect of my colleagues and continue to find ways to better myself in hopes of being the best for humanity.”
When she says she started her career young, she isn’t kidding. She began her career in dentistry at 13 years old when she mentioned to her father that she wanted to be a dentist. Back then, most Greek daughters were not encouraged to think of careers outside the home. Luckily, her father encouraged her to follow her dreams and, with the help of a dentist from their family church, she started working in her first dental office.
“I loved it,” she says. “The patient interaction, the equipment and the smells, I can close my eyes and still smell orange solvent and rubber impression material.”
Unfortunately, Zafiropoulos suffered a career-ending injury in 2006. After going through three surgeries that didn’t give her back the mobility and sensation she needed to work chairside, she decided to take her experience and put it to new use.
“Some may have left dentistry to pursue other modes of employment, but I could not,” she recalls. “I figured if I was successful clinically and comfortable with my ability to educate and communicate with my patients, then I could put my experiences into action by learning the corporate side of dentistry. I was a quick learner and rose through the ranks of success in sales and consulting with several companies in the industry.”
That is around the time she started speaking and writing as well, and she is thrilled to have each aspect of her new undertakings find success in some way. While she’s the first to recognize that not every road led her to success, she continued to move forward unafraid and to continued to grow from every experience, good or bad.
“My career has taken on many journeys and I have been exposed to so many different opportunities,” Zafiropoulos says. “Some have been great, fun, educational and productive, others have been disappointing, draining and yet still a learning opportunity. I love to see and be part of the profession’s opportunity to lead the charge in health care. I love being involved in ground floor opportunities for product development, education, marketing and training. I love the one-on-one conversation with people who attend my programs and building relationships with them as they find the ‘why behind their do.’ I love my passion, and my passion is people.”
As for the future, Zafiropoulos hopes to continue spreading her infectious attitude and working with her fiery appetite for knowledge to educate, impassion and support people in every aspect of the dental industry and beyond.
Category: Lab technician
The technology surrounding dental implants has been transformed in recent years, and the innovation just keeps on coming. Jessica Proctor is one person who is very familiar with those immense changes-and is a bit of a visionary herself. Proctor is the CEREC inLab Specialist and Implant Coordinator for an implantologist’s busy practice. The office’s specialty is referred to fondly as “teeth in a day,” where full-arch, implant-supported prostheses are completed in one day. She started her journey with the same dentist she currently works under, and she considers it a blessing to have had the sustained on-the-job training from the day she started to her work today.
“Dentistry has completely changed in my 16 years here,” she says. “We used to wax, cast, finish, apply porcelain and then fire crowns. Today, most everything we design is on the CAD/CAM computer and milled. The field of dentistry is constantly changing; you have to be a full-time technician and a full-time student.”
Proctor’s start was a bit of a rocky one; she dropped out of high school due to a teen pregnancy, but later was able to go back and get her GED. Since then she’s made herself a strong, independent woman with a successful career. She’s proud to say she has worked to become a valuable part of a team that provides state-of-the-art dentistry and in return makes a good living.
“Don’t be afraid of going the extra mile,” she advises. “Study on your time off to be the knowledgeable resource that your boss needs. Realize when you are wrong and admit it. Do better the next time.”
She finds motivation both intrinsically and externally. To Proctor, seeing what she and her team can do for their patients’ lives is wholly rewarding. She loves her office and her ability to have one-on-one contact with patients and being able to see cases from start to finish. To further serve patients, she hopes to see innovation within her office as well as the dental industry as a whole.
“Innovation is the ability to think outside of the box,” she says. “I work hand-in-hand with my dentist to help solve problems, improve quality, save time, save money and achieve superior results.”
Proctor believes a big factor in the success she’s found is the great mentorship she’s received over the years. For her, having a mentor focused on providing high-quality dentistry who was unwilling to accept anything but the best results has helped her to understand what the best is, and why staying up to date and knowledgeable of the best technology available is so important.
She is proud to have started as a model technician and then to have climbed the ladder of success by working harder and smarter. In the future, Proctor hopes to continue to find solutions that will benefit her patients.
Category: Lab technician
Earning the respect of your peers in a male-dominated industry is hard enough for a woman, but add to it living as an immigrant with no ability to speak English and you’ll start to understand the hurdles Kamilla Siekierski overcame. When she moved to the United States, it was just herself and her young daughter. While Siekierski had a good education in dentistry from her home country, the language barrier and the fact that she was a woman offered challenges, but her hard work and perseverance over the years resulted in success for herself and her family.
“I worked a minimum wage job for the first three years while living with my small daughter, but we managed live decently and we were never a burden to anybody or society,” she says. “I made it my goal to earn the respect of dentists, but not demand it, and throughout my career I have worked to educate both dentists and technicians on what they need to do and how to do it in hopes of satisfying their mutual patients.”
Since the days of her humble beginnings, she has observed many monumental changes within the dental industry, especially pertaining to women. She’s thrilled to see women working as professionals and being respected for what they do by doctors and their clients. She is also happy to have had the ability to see the industry revolutionized by digital dentistry, basically eradicating the imperfections that naturally occur from hand working.
In 1963, one week after arriving in the United States, Siekierski started working for a dental lab as a professional dental technician in Connecticut. According to Siekierski, back then there were no women in that capacity either at the bench or at dental shows, but she knew it was the position that fit her best and allowed her the life she dreamed of.
“My contribution is giving training and jobs to men and women in the dental technology field, which has always been male-dominated. What I learn, I teach others,” she says.
Siekierski is proud to have been the first female to serve in leadership roles within many aspects of the dental industry. Whether it was on the job or within local organizations, her goal was to leave her unique mark and help others. After six years in the U.S., she became a dental lab owner herself, where she worked until recently, when she sold her lab and retired.
“Now I enjoy life every day doing what I want, when I want and where I want, however much I want,” she says of retirement. “That translates to lectures and consulting for doctors and laboratories worldwide. I’m giving back in concentrated form what life gave me in education and experience. When you think big, you become big, too.”
Today, Siekierski has concentrated her efforts on helping those less fortunate in Afghanistan build labs and dental clinics by advocating within the dental community. To her, giving is the biggest pleasure and she hopes to continue to make a difference in the lives of those in need.