Now in its sixth year of recognizing exceptional women in the dental industry, Dental Products Report is thrilled to present the Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2015.
Now in its sixth year of recognizing exceptional women in the dental industry, Dental Products Report is thrilled to present the Top 25 Women in Dentistry for 2015.
The Top 25 Women in Dentistry award was designed to recognize women who excel in their fields. The honorees come from across the dental industry, including dental professionals, industry leaders and practitioners.
“We are honored to announce this year’s 25 extraordinary women,” said Kevin Henry, group editorial director for Dental Products Report, Modern Hygienist, Dental Lab Products and Dental Practice Management. “I was very excited to see this year’s impressive pool of nominations; these women have accomplished impressive things, and we are honored to give them recognition for those accomplishments.”
The Top 25 Women in Dentistry include...
Dr. Catrise Austin
Dr. Yasmi Crystal
Dr. Marci Guthrie
Dr. Tara Hardin
Dr. Andrea Janik
Dr. Laura Justice
Dr. Melissa Kennell
Tija Hunter, EFDA
Heather Hennen, CDA
Angela (Guanzini) Severance
Lisa Marie Spradley
Kimberly Lynn Bradshaw-Sickinger
Denise Apple Burris
Click through the following pages, or on a name above, to read about these impressive women and their contributions to the industry.
Wearing many hats, Naomi Cooper is a president, CEO, chief marketing consultant, educator and founder every day, and she has stepped into each role with ease. As the chief marketing consultant for the Pride Institute, she works one-on-one with dentists to craft customized marketing plans and also teaches Pride’s marketing courses. She is the founder and president of Minoa Marketing, a consulting firm that works with dental companies in the virtual space to create strategies to help increase the effectiveness of a company’s marketing and awareness of her clients across the industry. As if that isn’t a full enough plate, Cooper is also the CEO and cofounder of Doctor Distillery, an inbound marketing lead generation company that aims to help dental companies connect with dentists who are interested in their products and services. That’s clearly a lot of responsibility.
“I definitely look forward to hitting an objective metric or achieving a meaningful milestone; it’s an opportunity to show how real and tangible our progress is,” she said. “Plus, reaching a previously stated goal is incredibly gratifying, and when my clients get excited about the fruits of our labor, I can tell they’re happy, which is a highlight. I am privileged to work with people across the country and get to know them personally and professionally.”
While very successful, Cooper does face challenges. Her role as a marketing consultant and business advisor has her on the phone almost all day every day. That means some tasks have to come second in between calls and consultations. However, Cooper knows it means her businesses are successful and that she’s contributed, in large part, to that success.
“It’s hard to be successful if you don’t have the raw materials, knowledge and skills to succeed,” she says. “But it’s impossible unless you believe in yourself.”
To Cooper, every boss, employee and client is an inspiration and a driving force to succeed. “I’m truly inspired by my employees because they keep raising the bar and I have to keep up,” she said.
“I never want to be the smartest person in the room,” she says. “I like hiring people who have unique and incredible strengths and abilities that stretch me and that I can leverage to accomplish things that I couldn’t possibly do all on my own.”
Whether she’s consulting, managing or teaching, she strives to inspire greatness in others.
“Keep your humility,” she says. “Remember that you don’t know what you don’t know and always be looking for people who can teach you. Teachers come in surprising packages, patients, employees, vendors and advisors, and finding the right ones is invaluable. At the end of the day, you can’t possibly be an expert in everything.”
When Laura Howerton started down the path to success, she definitely had a number of ups and downs ahead of her, but, throughout her journey, she’s taken every bump in the road in stride. Today, she has nearly 30 years of dental hygiene education under her belt, and she is proud to be a part of the dental community.
Her path to dental hygiene education started as more of a requirement and less as a choice, but it’s one she is thankful for. When she started at Ohio State University, dental hygiene was only a certificate program, so to receive her bachelor’s degree, she had to choose an alternate major. She chose education, but after she finished, she didn’t pass the state board exam for licensure in dental hygiene.
Contrary to popular belief, success isn’t linear. It ebbs and flows, but it is always a learning experience. “Although I don’t advocate for it, failure has been a part of my life in different ways,” she said. “I enjoy working with students, especially when I see this same determination and desire to succeed. Although roadblocks inevitably arise, I feel a sense of gratification knowing that I played a small role in preparing them for a career in dental hygiene.”
The teachers and mentors she has had throughout the years all had several things in common: They knew their subject matter extremely well, pushed and encouraged excellence, had a sense of humor, always made themselves available as a resource and always had a positive attitude.
“I always hope to be the same type of instructor, looking for the best in people,” she said.
Howerton also derives a lot of inspiration from her family. She sees her parents as role models, and she is grateful to them for teaching her humility, the importance of helping others, faith, strength and kindness. To her, they taught more meaningful lessons solely based on their actions and the way they lived their lives than anyone could have with words. She is also thankful to her brothers, who instilled in her a competitive nature while also offering her guidance when she needed it. Today her biggest influence is her husband, who has had to overcome a number of life changing challenges.
“More than anyone I have ever known, he has taken adversity and turned it into achievement,” she said. “In his mid 30s, he went overnight from a healthy, active man to a quadriplegic. Instead of cursing life and floundering in self-pity, he looks to help others. He gets up every day with a smile and attitude to get it done. He spreads hope and optimism to strangers, and he inspires me to be a better person by the mental and physical strength he displays every day.”
Howerton strives to pay his optimism forward and instill the things he has taught her in others, especially her students.
“I hope the failures that might come down their road open new paths and even better experiences in the long run, just as it’s done for me,” she said.
Denise Burris, CDT, wears many hats so walking in to work every day is hardly ever the same as the day before. Some days she may be managing Oral Arts Georgia while the next day she’s on QC and shipping/receiving. The following day, the lab may be short-staffed so she will sit at the bench and keep her skills sharp as a ceramist. She also serves on the SCDL Board of Directors as current president and the NBC as fiscal officer.
With so many responsibilities to juggle, Burris has learned it is important to understand people’s personalities and accept they are constantly different and that everyone has their own story and is fighting their own battles.
“It’s so complex yet I feel like reaching people based on their personality rather than my own is the only way to truly see things from their point of view,” she said. “I’m not saying I do a great job of it, but I work hard every day to be conscious of it.”
Obviously, it isn’t always easy for Burris to be in the right place at the right time, but she has had a number of inspirational individuals throughout her career who have helped her overcome challenges and inspired her to always work hard and be at her best.
“I’ve only worked at two labs my whole career, but, in both, I worked for a couple of the hardest-working, most dedicated, encouraging and committed people I know,” Burris said. “Johnny Fisher at Trippe Porcelain Lab gave me my start and a foundation to grow limitlessly as I had no idea a love for dentistry was in store for me. Currently, at Oral Arts Georgia, Phillip Gold has been the most significant driver in how broadly my career has expanded.”
She attributes her knowledge of business and the value of being a relationship-driven partner to clients to the lessons she’s learned from Gold. He taught her how important it is to be a resource lab to clients as opposed to a commodity lab.
“He taught me that you are only as good as your last piece of work and that we should never compromise a client relationship over a dollar,” she noted.
The network of professionals she’s come in contact with throughout her journey to success have influenced her immensely. She even claims they saw her potential before she was able to.
“They never let me doubt if I was ‘ready for the next step,’” she said. “They just helped me simplify the process, which cultivated a confidence that we don’t have to have all the answers before we move forward.”
For anyone looking to follow in her footsteps, Burris believes it’s important to first seek as much education as possible whether through formal means, certification or apprenticeship. It’s important not to limit oneself based on their current position.
“It is our responsibility to humanity to spend more time building one another up than contributing to the self-doubt that we are all trying to overcome,” she said.
As a crown and bridge dental lab owner, Carol Pilmer provides fixed restorations to her patients, but, to her, the job is so much more than its textbook definition.
“My passion is to share my time and talents to create a spirit of cooperation and harmony across all dental disciplines,” she observed. “When we do, we learn we have so much more in common than we have differences. It is important to take the time to learn about each other and work together.”
Pilmer began her dental career chairside as a dental assistant, and, since then, she has become involved in both the clinical and technical areas of dentistry. Along her path, she learned a lot about the industry and where she could make a difference.
Throughout her journey, she volunteered with the Dental Lab Owners Association of California, where she served on the board and eventually held the positions of president and event and publication manager. Through this organization, Pilmer found many occasions to create synergy through educational and social opportunities. She was a member of the CDA ADHP Membership task force and later became the ADHP guest member of the CDA Board of Trustees, ADHP delegate to the CDA House of Delegates and, finally, her current position as lab tech lead with the CDA Cares program. She says the best part of what she does is the heartwarming experiences that come from knowing she had a part in making a new smile happen for a CDA Cares.
“To me, there is an importance in forming symbiotic relationships with all those I serve whether it is our client dentist, their patients, the members of the organizations of which I am a part, the dental lab tech students for whom I advocate or the predental students with whom I work every day,” she said.
Pilmer also loves having the opportunity to work with great people every day. Whether she is interacting with the staff of the dental offices she serves or connecting with her own team, she is constantly learning from the experiences she has and treats every challenge like an opportunity to make things better for someone.
“The number one driving force that keeps me going is my belief that everyone is entitled to have a beautiful smile,” she said. “Smiles change lives. Sometimes that is the only thing we have to give another person, and what a difference it can make.”
She derives much of her drive and inspiration from her parents, her husband of 47 years and her two children, who have always supported and pushed her to be the best in everything she does. She is proud to be able to share that drive with her colleagues, team and students she mentors.
“Whether my children, family, friends, professional relationships, spiritual teachers or casual acquaintances, each has taught me things I didn’t know but needed to learn,” Pilmer noted. “By doing so, they have helped make my life more meaningful, perhaps more difficult or maybe easier. Each has shared their knowledge and experiences with me, and, in the end, it all has made me a better person.”
Being a dental laboratory technician is a lot like being a sculptor. However, unlike a sculptor, whose job is strictly esthetic, Tracey Prouse makes a big difference in people’s lives thanks to her sculpting. She designs and fabricates multiple types of dentures for patients all over. When she first started working for Simpson Dental Associates, she was new to the field with little experience, but she has come a long way since and, thanks to Dr. Mark Simpson and his staff, she feels she has grown exponentially while expertly sharpening her skills.
“When I started working for Simpson Dental Associates, I had only worked in the field for six months. I was a rookie,” she remembered. “I owe my success to a great teacher and to Dr. Simpson. He has given me the opportunity to continue learning by teaching me everything he knows plus giving me the opportunity to attend many seminars and courses to continue to improve my skills.”
When it concerns her patients, she is there the entire journey: From the day they set foot in the office unhappy with the look of their smile or are unable to eat because they can’t wear the dentures they have or are in need of dentures, to the moment their faces light up after she and her team have constructed custom dentures to fit their needs. Tracy is also a highly skilled ceramist, and her specialty is implant-supported teeth in a day.
“Working in a lab that is part of a dental office, I have the opportunity to work closely with the dentist and patient,” Prouse noted. “My goal is to produce a quality prosthesis that is esthetically pleasing to each individual patient.”
Prouse’s journey began in 1995 when she enrolled in a dental laboratory technician’s course. As a single mother of two working in the floral business, she knew that if she wanted to provide for her family, she needed to make some changes in her life. She attended classes at a local vocational school while working nights and weekends in the floral shop.
“What started out as a hardship became a passion,” she said. “I feel blessed that I found a career I love and enjoy getting up every day and going to work.”
As the daughter of a high school teacher and coach, Prouse was always taught that the words “I can’t” belonged on the bench on the sideline, and until you can overcome “I can’t,” that’s where you’ll stay. It’s something she feels impacted her greatly and a lesson she has now passed on to her children.
She believes technicians have the ability to master their skills and become great at their job, but it’s up to them to do it. To Prouse, it’s up to you to master your craft, continue learning and, in turn, determine your own success.
“My journey in life has taken me through hardship, starting over and to a future where I can continue to learn,” she observed. “It gives me a great feeling to be able to help people change the way they feel about their own smile.”
While some might find juggling many roles difficult, Tija Hunter fills each with ease and a confidence that has helped her make a big mark on the dental community. Not only is she a dental assistant and office manager under Dr. Eric Hurtte, she is also a writer and the director of the six schools Dr. Hurtte owns. But she doesn’t just direct; she strives to be hands-on in the education of new dental professionals by teaching classes herself as well.
“The very best part of my job is talking to dental assistants,” Hunter said. “After 34 years in this field, I learn something new all the time. I love when you can see a little light bulb in them turn on like you’ve given them a new pearl or made them see something in a different light or context. I love those ‘ah-ha’ moments.”
Being a school director is a huge responsibility, but Hunter is able to handle it through her determination and drive. She faces challenges like finding new locations, locating communities who have a need, researching regulations and laws in those communities and then actually bringing the school to life. She’s done it successfully six times, and she has no plans to stop. She gets some of that drive from the people in her life and the dental community.
“I have a tremendous support team of people all over dentistry and in my personal life that help me reach higher and higher: Family and friends that mean the world to me, and I am so thankful for each of them,” she said. “That team includes my boss, Dr. Eric Hurtte, who believes in me and turns me loose to be creative.”
When Hunter started out, she made sure not to limit herself, and today she advises others to do the same. Dental technology and the world of dentistry are ever-changing, and, to her, that means plenty of learning opportunities.
“Stay on top by taking all the education you can,” she advised. “Don’t fall into the trap of, ‘Oh you’re just a dental assistant so you don’t need CE.’ You take the courses to make you better both personally and professionally.”
She believes dental assistants have amazing potential, and it is important to her to help them realize that potential to become valuable team and community members. Throughout her journey to success, Hunter has had superiors who inspired and pushed her, and, for that, she is grateful. As a writer, she has also grown and flourished thanks to the authors and editors who have encouraged her to work outside of her comfort zone, which has resulted in unexpected success and accomplishments.
“I believe that passion encompasses a lot,” she said. “It’s the passion that drives you and makes you want to be your best that is contagious and spreads to others-a genuine passion of learning, love of profession and people.”
If you looked at Heather Hennen’s resume, it would read business coordinator, but, for Hennen, her job and title are much more fluid than that. In the eight years she has been with her current practice, her role has evolved, and she has added many other responsibilities that your everyday business coordinator wouldn’t generally be assigned.
Currently, Hennen is the patient and treatment coordinator and chairside assistant. She is also responsible for the CAD/CAM duties at the practice. When she started in dentistry 16 years ago as a pediatric dental assistant, she never imagined how her career would change nor the huge role she would play in an office team she considers to be very unique. Along with Dr. Edmond Suh, Hennen has started multiple hands-on programs and courses that cover topics like conservative dentistry, CAD/CAM, adhesion, increasing case acceptance, team building, starting and advanced dental assisting skills and dental materials.
“These programs are very special to me because they seem to make a difference in not only the dentistry provided by both doctor and team but the lives of the people that attend,” she said. “The number of emails, texts and calls we receive after a program are the most rewarding part of the experience. They let us know the amazing progress and changes that have happened since they have returned from our class.”
Hennen has also served as an in-office consultant in more than 300 offices in the last seven years, and she has given lectures all over the country, as well as internationally in places like Australia and New Zealand.
“This has been a truly humbling experience for me being in the company of many amazing clinicians and people,” she said. “They have taught me that I will never stop learning and growing and that no one way is the only way to do anything in life.”
While she enjoys the success and imprint she’s made on practitioners all over the world, the travel can create obstacles. Even so, she’s proven it is possible to have a successful family and career as a woman in dentistry. It’s important that her boys have a great example of hard work and the success that comes along with it. This has helped her set that standard and achieve it for her family.
“I want to be more for me, my family, my clients, my patients and my team,” she noted. “I hope to never forget to keep growing and moving forward, loving and laughing every step of the way. I have also learned that you become your own definition. I did not come from an ideal upbringing, but because I was at least wise enough, eventually, to listen to some very wise people and because I have a strong work ethic, I am happy with where my life is and will be.”
Today, Hennen is thankful for her life, family, team, job and opportunities that have been afforded to her through hard work and passion for what she does.
Her goal to help many other women realize their potential and passion for dentistry drives her daily. She says all dental professionals have to be willing to reach out to support and grow this amazing field.
Usually, when one speaks about ninjas, their dentist is the farthest thing from their mind, but Angela Severance is a different kind of NINJA, and she is out to advocate for dental assistants everywhere.
“NINJA Dentistry is an empowerment movement that stands for ‘No I’m Not Just Any’ assistant,” she explained. “It is mostly focused on dental assistants and how they can turn ‘suction into production,’ but NINJA is a lifestyle. ‘No I’m Not Just Any’ means in anything we do, we always operate with a purpose and drive with passion to give it our all.”
As a dental assistant herself, Severance understands the struggles and challenges that come with the career, but she is working to change the “low-man-on-the-totem-pole” stigma. To her, dental assistants are a huge, untapped source of potential talent and should not be underestimated. She strives to help other assistants see their work as a career instead of as a stepping-stone into hygiene or dental school.
“It’s my oath to continually pay it forward for all of the amazing mentorship and time that was bestowed upon me during my journey,” she said. “This is why I started NINJA Dentistry (ninjadentistry.com). It is a way to connect with those who want or need direction and a way to mentor dental assistants down the path they so desire and share with them what has brought me success.”
Severance is a registered dental assistant, a CAD/CAM integration specialist, a CAD/CAM educator, a certified yoga instructor, a mom and a wife and not necessarily in that order.
To her, it’s important to keep fire alive in the assistants she works with so she shares every resource she has with them. Through NINJA, Severance shares educational tools she’s used, books she’s read and courses she’s taken to become a better dental assistant.
“Without purpose and goal setting, results cannot be achieved,” she said. “That is when a career can become a job and boredom and hopelessness can set in and take over.”
There have been a series of dental professionals who have ignited a flame within her. They have helped inspire her to keep moving forward and always set goals, reach those goals and set new ones so you’re always bettering yourself.
“My best advice is to have a purpose. ‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek is a great place to start,” she suggested. “Why do you get out of bed every day? My answer is to create an inspirational atmosphere so growth and success flourish. Because I know this is my purpose, every day I am passionate about what I do. I am making a difference. Believe in your purpose and set out to achieve it. That is success.”
Lisa Marie Spradley’s personal motto is, “Do well and be well,” and it’s a motto she not only lives by but is proud to share with others. As the office manager of a successful and busy dental office and founder of frontdesklady.com, Spradley’s main focus is the patient. She believes working with dental teams to help them shift their focus to the happiness and well-being of the patient will naturally increase more than the bottom line in their practice.
“By changing our focus, we can increase patient retention and referrals, exceed goals and create an environment that makes our patients and our team enjoy coming to the dentist,” she said.
To Spradley, the best part of her job is working with people. Whether she is at her office working with patients, speaking to a study club or doing one-on-one training, she finds she is happiest when she is with other people. To her, helping others achieve their goals and perform at their best is very rewarding.
“Everyone wants someone to listen to them, and I do that,” she said. “In this ever-increasingly technological world we live in, it is too easy to forget that our practices should be built on relationships first. It really is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
While she loves what she does, Spradley also knows that everyone has good and bad days, and, no matter how much you love your job, sometimes things don’t go the way you’d planned. Luckily, her outlook on those days is, “I can be bitter, or I can be better.” To her, every bad day presents a choice to take the bad days at face value or use them as learning experiences.
“Dealing with people who are in pain, upset about their bill or just having a bad day is something that we all encounter,” Spradley observed. “The challenging part is how we overcome that negativity and help them while maintaining a positive attitude ourselves. Separating ourselves from the problem and realizing it’s not personal, we can not only diffuse a difficult situation, but we can help to make it better.”
Spradley was raised to believe if she wanted something done correctly, she needed to do it herself. This has always kept her motivated and helped her to be her best. She believes failure is just a lesson in what not to do and success is a stepping stone to your next adventure.
“I love a good challenge,” she noted. “It is that desire to do more and be the best that has led me to my current office manager position. The desire for something more pushed me to venture out and start my own business.”
She believes every professional, whether they’re a dental professional or not, should aim for greatness and not perfection. To her, perfection is overrated and overvalued because being great at what you do doesn’t always mean you do it right. To her, being great means taking the time and making the effort to be and give your best.
“There will be mistakes and failures along the way, but as long as we learn from them, they’re not really failures,” she said. “They are life lessons.”
As the senior vice president at Valplast International Corporation, Carmen Alatzas oversees the operations and marketing departments and is the lead executive with the Valplast Innovations Department, which takes care of research and development for digital dental technology. As an outcome-driven person, Alatzas focuses on results first and follows an organic path to the desired outcomes.
“The best part of my job is the moment when I can step back from a project, trade show, meeting, launch or even a really busy week and see my team in action doing what they do best,” she said. “When I have the opportunity to hear how our product and, ultimately, my efforts, touch a patient’s life, satisfy a dentist or help a laboratory grow and succeed, this always drives me to the next level.”
To Alatzas, the most challenging part of her job is also the most exciting. She is responsible for keeping a legacy brand and company ahead of the industry through innovation, research and technology.
Her position requires her to think ahead constantly and work to develop the technology that will become most valuable to the industry in the future. That means she works primarily on things that have never been done before in the dental industry.
“I work with the innovators, and, at the end of the day, I am always challenged to think of what’s next,” Alatzas observed. “Ever since my working life and career began to take shape, I find I thrive on being faced with a certain amount of hardship and struggle.”
Outside of work, Alatzas works hard to maintain balance with her family and in her personal life. However, she’s chosen to face those challenges head-on. She exposes her children and family directly to the work she does in hopes they will understand the connection between hard work and an enjoyable life.
Growing up, Alatzas’ parents left her with family to pave the way and realize the American Dream, and while she now appreciates what they did, she also remembers the time as a very frightening one. It was a time of hardship and was very painful, but it has helped to make her a hard worker today, and she is appreciative of that.
“I have to say that being left with distant relatives for a few years until I was 7 and having to figure out my own path with no certainty, no resources and no help established how I work, how I feel and who I am,” she said, remembering the experiences of her childhood. “My hardships, and there have been quite a few, have really driven me to appreciate and take care of what I have and to reach for what could be around the corner.”
For Carol Applegate, the best part of her position at Pelton & Crane and Marus, KaVo Kerr Group Companies, is working with customers and building positive, long-lasting relationships with them. Applegate manages the customer service department at Pelton & Crane and Marus, which are companies that manufacture dental equipment like chairs, dental units, cabinetry and lights for dental practices.
For Applegate, those relationships are key to her success, and she has built them through mutual respect, empathy and understanding. There are many lessons she has learned throughout her journey to success, but reciprocity and a feeling of mutual respect are lessons she uses every day in every task she takes on.
“Always treat people the same way you would want to be treated: with respect,” she said. “Empathize no matter how the customer comes across. Always show compassion and understanding in your tone.”
To her, when you show you listen and understand, people trust that you have their best interests in mind. Then they can be comfortable coming to you with issues they may have. This is important because if your customers aren’t comfortable coming to you with problems, they won’t come back once they have them. Applegate has been able to build recurrent business thanks to the positive and understanding attitude she takes toward customers.
“You have to earn respect; it’s not something you should expect,” she noted. “You treat people with kindness and respect, and you will receive it back.”
Applegate is proud to be an example of what hard work, dedication, passion and a good attitude can do for other women whether they are in the dental industry or not. Throughout her career, many people have inspired her, but one person in particular really left her mark.
“A lady by the name of Peg Livornese was my inspiration,” she remembered. “I worked with her and for her. She was passionate about this business, and her dedication to this company has yet to be surpassed. She taught me how to listen and navigate through difficult situations with a smile.”
And while Applegate enjoys every facet of her job, that doesn’t mean it is without challenges. Ensuring the needs of her team and customers are met is always a work in progress. That includes everything from helping her team deal with new or difficult situations to managing tight or critical time constraints on installations. Meeting deadlines for dental practices big or small can be a trial, but overcoming those difficulties and serving her customers best is something Applegate really enjoys.
For the future, she hopes to continue to build lasting relationships with new customers while maintaining the ever-important current ones.
“I am honored to have received this recognition, but it would not have happened without the Pelton & Crane and Marus Customer Service Teams and their dedication and support,” she said. “They are the shining stars.”
For the last 10 years, Kim Bradshaw-Sickinger has worked within the dental industry in the laboratory space through a private equity firm as the president and chief executive officer for MicroDental Laboratories. For Bradshaw, it was all about the customers and ensuring they get the quality product they expect and the patients deserve.
“My mission was to bring the organization together, improve the culture, harmonize and automate the systems, create a strategy, execute on the strategy and then turn it over to the senior team I assembled,” she said. “MicroDental is a great company, and I know that they will do amazing things.”
Recently, Bradshaw made the move to a new role as the chief operations officer of The Super Dentists, the largest and most successful pediatric and orthodontic dental group in San Diego. Now, Bradshaw serves a whole new set of patients and their needs and finds it extremely rewarding as children are the focus of her next chapter.
“If I were to boil it down, I am about people, and I mean that both from a patient perspective and an employee’s perspective. I am a big advocate of people and try hard to draw the very best out of them no matter what the circumstances,” she said. “My background is service. No matter what industry you put me in, that’s where I started and what I enjoy. I am an undeniable service junkie.”
And while the people she works with are the best part of her job, they can also be the most challenging. Bradshaw’s position is one that incites change and encourages people to adapt accordingly.
“I’ve always liked to stay on the cutting edge of change. I personally stay in a state of uncomfortable. I like to create and build. I like to fix messy things,” she noted. “One of the most difficult hurdles is getting people to accept that change is good and staying at the forefront of whatever is coming at you is both fulfilling and rewarding.”
Bradshaw believes her success comes through her strong sense of integrity, which is something she is proud to have maintained throughout her career. She also feels that as a woman, it is important not to let yourself be labeled but instead to be exceptional no matter what your age or gender. She says to remain true to your values and live with great integrity.
“Work really hard; there are no shortcuts,” Bradshaw observed. “Ashton Kutcher said it really well. He said, “Success looks a lot like hard work,” and I believe that wholeheartedly. I wish I could tell you I skipped a rung or two on the ladder, but I did not. I had to go through every single one. I had to play in each position before I arrived at this point in my career. I remain grateful for every opportunity. I know each step played an important role.”
Looking toward the future, Bradshaw wants to help grow The Super Dentists to 100 thriving practices by 2025. She looks forward to the many hurdles she will have to overcome to achieve that goal but clearly sees it on the horizon.
As the executive director of the Dental Assisting National Board and the DALE Foundation, Cindy Durley strives to uphold DANB’s mission to promote the public good by providing credentialing services to the dental community. She also works with the DALE Foundation to benefit the public by providing quality continuing education to dental professionals. But her job with both is so much more than those words can encompass. Durley has been with DANB since 1986 and with the DALE foundation since its incorporation in 2010, and she is proud to work with the staff and collaborate and provide support to so many different groups.
“I have always been a lifelong learner and an optimistic person,” Durley said. “As I tried to determine what to do with my life professionally, I had so many interests. When I realized most of them focused on health care and education, it made work in oral health care a ‘dream environment’ for me.”
Durley holds post-secondary degrees in biology, education/testing and measurement and business, and she is constantly seeking new knowledge in her everyday experiences. Whether she’s working with individuals within DANB and the DALE Foundation or partnering with professionals in other organizations, she is always open to learning new things and collaborating with others to meet a common goal.
“I have always been passionate about lifting people up, especially those who may not realize their intrinsic value to their environment, team or the public,” she noted. “Although men are now entering the dental assisting profession in greater numbers, this field is still primarily composed of women. I enjoy trying to identify and reinforce the talents of others, and working for DANB and the DALE Foundation allows me many opportunities to do so.”
While countless people throughout her journey have served as an inspiration, Durley’s primary role models have always been her parents. She is inspired by their strong personal values and broad vision even though they lived through difficult times and had few role models of their own.
“My parents always encouraged my sister, brother and me to try new things and not be afraid to falter or even fail along the way and that with hard work, we’d find our passion and put it into action,” Durley remembered.
As a professional woman, Durley believes one should search out mentors within and outside of their profession. To her, this advice, along with being a strong listener, believing in yourself and creating a team of strong and talented individuals to work with, will help lead to success.
“Life is a team sport. No one knows everything regardless of the type or number of degrees one has earned,” she said. “Now, more than ever before, information is there for the taking, but determining whether the information is true, valuable and applicable to the task at hand requires mentors, collaborators and colleagues. And if you are not kind, you miss out on happiness-others’ and your own.”
As president/CEO of America’s ToothFairy, Fern Ingber works with a team of volunteers and professionals to benefit vulnerable children through education and tooth-decay prevention tactics. She helps those children eat, sleep and learn without the pain, embarrassment and potential health issues that come along with tooth decay. America’s ToothFairy works to develop and circulate science-based educational materials and engaging programs for all age groups while supporting the delivery of health services for children and pregnant mothers.
The stories and testimonies from professional and student volunteers, parents and the children themselves inspire Ingber on a regular basis while also reminding her of the needs ToothFairy serves. To her, it is endlessly gratifying to know she and her colleagues are making a real difference through their educational materials, donated products, equipment, mini grants and engagement in the community.
“It’s the letters addressed to the Tooth Fairy, handwritten by children, that often move me to tears, especially when I think of my own grandchildren and how important their beautiful, healthy smiles are to their overall health and well-being,” she said.
Working for a cause like America’s ToothFairy is inspiring, but it isn’t always an easy job. Finding financial support is a challenge, but Ingber doesn’t let that get her down. She knows that no matter how stressful, expensive or under-recognized it may be, oral health is critical to the health of the community and remains an economic development issue.
Ingber has always had a giving soul, but the inciting incident happened in 1989 when the family of a young teen who needed a bone marrow transplant approached her for help. At the time, there were only a few thousand people on the national registry, so Ingber organized an international campaign to enlist people to get tested and typed as prospective donors. Within a year, more than 60,000 people had enrolled, and they had raised millions of dollars for the program. Ingber became the founding general manager of the National Marrow Donor Program, where she helped the registry grow to more than 1 million members.
“Since then, I have been honored to develop and lead several life-saving or life-changing organizations and initiatives, including the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Network and Prostate Cancer pilot programs,” she said. “But in numbers of lives touched nothing I have done has the potential of impacting as many lives physically, emotionally and economically as America’s ToothFairy.”
Passion, along with empathy, has made her the hard-working, successful woman she is today.
At the age of 8, most people want to be ballerinas, famous singers or glamorous actresses, but Tonya Lanthier’s story is a little different. After knocking out a front tooth in an accident on her bicycle and having it repaired by a team that made the experience very positive and nontraumatic, Lanthier decided she wanted to pursue a career in dentistry as a dental hygienist.
“The medical team and dental team were so caring and warm to me during that traumatic time of many months of treatment that it had a positive impact on me,” she remembered. “So much so that I decided I wanted to go into dentistry. What I do is give away the gift I have been given to help others, which is to understand their wants and be empathetic to their fears with their dental needs.”
As a young woman, Lanthier overcame many challenges both personally and within her family. She had a close family member who suffered from undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This caused Lanthier and her sister to learn a variety of coping mechanisms to avoid things like excessive cleansing. While it was hard to see the good in the situation then, those mechanisms have come in handy in her professional life.
“During this time, [that family member] gave me a gift to read people and understand fears at a young age,” Lanthier said. “I believe this has given me the gift that has made me a better hygienist, boss, mother and person.”
After working temporarily in more than 100 dental offices, Lanthier has been able to take away what she saw that worked and what she observed that didn’t contribute positively to the work environment. This experience led her to create an online mobile job board, which is a place where she and other dental professionals can all connect, collaborate and contribute. That way, every individual dental professional is able to find a job that fits him or her best.
“If you understand your personality and values, then you will ultimately pick a better place for yourself and be happier,” she noted.
As a woman in dentistry, she believes it is important to picture in your mind what you want your life to look like in 10 years. Whether it’s your personal or professional goals, she believes if you can picture it you have the ability to achieve it.
“If you understand yourself, then you make better choices,” she said. “The more information you know, the better decisions you can make going forward.”
The most important advice she ever received was from her grandmother, Agnes Cochran, who told her that everyone puts their pants on the same way. It helped her see that everyone has a story that has helped shape who they are and has affected them in some way.
“If you can see it, you can do it or create it,” Lanthier said. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”
As the managing director of membership and meeting for the Oregon Dental Association (ODA), Lauren Malone has her hands full. She is responsible for planning the Oregon Dental Conference, which is held every year in Portland. The three-day event draws about 7,000 participants, its exhibit hall features more than 200 companies and it features more than 90 continuing education courses for every member of the dental team. For many, planning an event of this magnitude might be overwhelming, but Malone and the staff at the ODA pull it off year after year.
“As the meeting planner of an annual event, it is always a challenge to think outside the box and continue to look for ways to enhance the event,” she said. “When an event is successful, it is easy to continue down a familiar path, sticking with tried-and-true practices. I feel it is a challenge and also an amazing opportunity to analyze current practices and look for ways to better the process or experience for attendees, speakers and exhibitors.”
Malone’s journey to success started with an opportunity she was presented with as a teenager. One of her first jobs was working in a dental office as an office assistant, and, as the years went by, she was able to work her way up to office manager to a former ODA president. Then, when she got married and moved to Portland, the connection to the ODA allowed her to transition to working for the association. As an employee of the ODA, Malone maintained a positive attitude and was always very open to change, which allowed her to embrace new opportunities and positions that eventually led her to her current position.
“I have learned that hard works pays off,” she noted. “People notice how you do your job, good or bad, and, when you least expect it, you may be recognized.”
As someone who works with a wide array of people, from members to speakers, vendors and beyond, Malone lives by one piece of advice: to kill them with kindness. This is something she learned from her mother.
“[I] feel that always approaching a situation with kindness is key,” she said. “In times of conflict, this is even more important as relationships and outcomes can be affected by how a situation is handled and how those involved are treated.”
Malone attributes much of her success to the help and support she has received from her family. She acknowledges that having a work-life balance isn’t always easy, but, with the support of her husband, who is always there to encourage and help her, she has been able to achieve success.
As director of sales with MDS, Shannon McCarthy is proud to be an integral part of the company’s mission to provide and support educational development for dental professionals. Whether she’s overseeing the layout and design of the trade show floor, collaborating with companies on speaker programs or implementing new programs on the floor, McCarthy is proud to have served the last 21 years with a great company that has standards she can really invest in.
“I’ve always considered myself extremely fortunate to work for an organization like the MDS that has allowed me the freedom to do my job as director of sales,” she said. “By providing such a supportive and forward-thinking environment, I’ve always been able to look beyond each Yankee [meeting] with a goal of making the next one the best it can be for the exhibitors and attendees. I really love working with exhibitors and coming up with new concepts each year to try to make things exciting for dental professionals.”
While meeting the expectations of exhibitors and attendees can be challenging, she has taken it in stride, rolling with every punch and coming out on the other side successful. She started her career at MDS in the communications department, but, after much thought and reflection, she realized her skill set could be better used in the meeting/planning department with Yankee Dental Congress (YDC), and, luckily, Michelle Curtin, the director of the department, agreed and hired her.
“Michelle was not just my director but my mentor and friend. She took me under her wing, so to speak, and taught me the business of planning a major conference like Yankee,” McCarthy remembered. “But she also shared with me something else that I’ve found to me even more valuable. She taught me never to be complacent and to always look beyond what exists and find ways to make things different and better.”
Held in Boston each January, YDC is New England’s largest meeting for professionals seeking the best dental CE, as well as dental products, services and resources. With nearly 27,000 dental professionals in attendance from around the United States, it is the fifth-largest dental meeting in the country.
To McCarthy, the dentists at YDC are astounding. Their dedication and work ethic are unmatched, and she is continuously impressed with their eagerness to learn and their readiness to work-many times without being prompted.
“When I go to other shows, it’s like old-home week for me seeing all the people I know,” she said. “What started out as a job has now become a time to also catch up with some old friends.”
Now that she has success and experience under her belt, McCarthy advises other women in the dental industry to make sure they love what they do and do what they love. She also believes it’s important for a woman to be willing to step forward and take on more responsibilities, because if she wants to move up, she has to be willing to take on challenges.
When you’re the vice president of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) and you own your own marketing company, things can get pretty challenging, and many would find themselves flustered under the weight of responsibilities. But not Lorie Streeter. As the founder and owner of StreeterBuilt Strategic Dental Marketing and VP of AADOM, Streeter takes each project and responsibility in stride and has found success.
“The best part of my job is the building process,” Streeter said. “This includes building programs and sponsorships, delivering content or just understanding what I can do within the association I work with to provide resources through our historic sponsor relationships to help elevate and empower our members. My all-time favorite thing is the AADOM annual conference.”
Streeter has been involved with the dental industry since she was 19 years old. She started as the practice manager in a single-doctor office in Fresno, Calif., and stayed in that type of position for almost 12 years. Then she got involved in the AADOM, where she handles and oversees all the nonmember and sponsor relationships while strategizing with those companies to develop participation and exposure to membership. She also works with the development of the AADOM brand and oversees creation and publication of the association’s digital publication, “The Observer.” Obviously, she wears many hats-but she loves every responsibility she has.
“I am not the hammer or the nail. I am truly the person that envisions the house, and I rely on amazing people to take my ideas and turn them into time-tested realities,” she said. “There was a time when I deemed my non-process-oriented personality as a failure, but, as a good friend once shared, you wouldn’t expect a fish to climb a tree.”
While she loves her job, that is not to say there aren’t challenges, especially for an individual who has such a variety of responsibilities. Like many professional women, Streeter strives every day to keep her life in balance. She may be a successful and well-educated professional, but she is also a wife, mother and friend. Being a driven individual helps, however; she knows what’s important to her and makes sure to devote her time to those things. One of those things is continuous education, as Streeter is an avid learner.
“I didn’t go to college in the traditional way, and I have been so lucky to have had some unbelievable mentors throughout my career,” she noted. “To this day, I am still learning from everyone I meet. Everyone has something to teach us.”
Streeter advises other professional women to be true to themselves and what they want. To her, it’s important that she never doubt her instincts but instead she wants to hone those instincts and go with her gut. She also strives to love herself and remember that mistakes only reflect that you’ve tried.
“Too many times we have judgment on our successes and failures,” she said. “Most challenges are not epic disasters. They are opportunities to adjust and rethink. Some of my best ideas have come from accidents.”
After practicing dentistry for almost 20 years, many would assume Dr. Catrise Austin is first and foremost a dentist, but, according to her, that isn’t entirely correct. First and foremost, Austin considers herself a businesswoman-and a successful one at that. She started New York City Cosmetic and General Dentistry two years after finishing dental school, and her journey has been anything but dull.
Since opening her practice in 1998, she has authored “5 Steps To The Hollywood A-list Smile” and “Winning the Fight Against Diabetes: The secrets to living longer and healthier with a smile!” She is also a professional speaker who speaks nationwide at colleges, national conferences and for local and national organizations, whether dental or non-dental.
In 2011, she stepped into the role of a national dental consumer brand spokeswoman and expert, and she currently works with Colgate Total. As if she hasn’t made a big enough impact in the community, she has also made various local and national radio and TV appearances, including “The Today Show,” “Discovery Health Channel,” “Good Morning America” and VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop.”
“The reason I became a dentist is because dentistry has personally changed my life,” Austin said. “Growing up, I was not confident with my smile. I had the opportunity to wear braces for a year in high school to correct my own not-so-perfect smile. When the braces were removed, my entire outlook on life changed, and my confidence skyrocketed.”
Now, when she does a smile makeover on one of her clients, she finds it extremely rewarding because she knows firsthand how their lives, too, can be transformed.
Austin is proud to be a fearless, out-of-the-box thinker, especially when it comes to dentistry. In 2009, hers was the first private practice in the nation to start offering routine HIV testing to her patients. Today, she is making strides with bringing more public attention to the link between oral health and diabetes.
“I’m extremely passionate about dentistry,” she said. “It’s not just a job for me. I truly believe it’s my life’s mission. So everything I do is with purpose to help people achieve optimum health, look better and feel more confident in life.”
When it comes to being a woman in business and a woman in dentistry, persistence is important and Austin is proud to be a driven and determined woman. Once she sets a goal, giving up is just not an option. Instead, she will work tirelessly to achieve her goals, and, based on her success, she has reaped the benefits.
“You have to choose a career that fits your lifestyle and your life’s mission,” she noted. “Otherwise, you will be miserable and not living life authentically. Every day I wake up, I can say I love what I do. I know I am changing lives. I know I’m living my life with purpose.”
Dr. Yasmi Crystal has performed a vast array of duties throughout her career in dentistry. From research to pediatric dentistry, she is proud to continue learning and growing even today. As the daughter of a dentist, Crystal has always been excited by science, and that love led her to become a practicing clinician for the last 20 years.
“It is really, really wonderful as a pediatric dentist to be able to help parents solve problems for their children,” she said.
After working as a clinician for a time, Crystal decided she had enough experience to go into academics, and, today, she serves as a professor at NYU where she teaches post-doctoral classes to students who are already dentists and are interested in becoming specialists.
“My passion is to try to translate all the latest scientific findings into things that the clinician can do to try to deliver the best possible care for their patients,” she said. “I like to do that not only with my residents in the university but also try to turn science into practice on the committee of scientific affairs for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.”
Crystal believes that many times in the dental industry expert opinion is valued over scientific findings, and to provide top-notch patient car, this needs to be turned around.
“To mention one instance: We deal with dental caries as if we’re filling a hole in a tooth when really we should be looking at it as a chronic disease, and we need to pay more attention to the whole patient and what’s going on with that patient,” she noted.
Crystal strives to expose her residents to every new technology available to them, because she believes that technology and its use is what continues to move dentistry forward and deliver better health and outcomes to patients.
“My biggest satisfaction is to be able to introduce concepts, either with my students or with my patients or other doctors, that can help solve clinical problems for patients who can get very little other help,” she said. “When I have patients who are too young or too sick or have special needs, sometimes they have a very hard time finding somebody to answer their questions or to help them solve their problems. My favorite part is when I get the challenge of solving a problem.”
Dr. Crystal faces challenges within each role she fulfills. The biggest is in dealing with inequalities in health care. Her hope is to one day be able to provide the same level of care to every child in need, regardless of their insurance or finances.
“It’s a challenge to take a step into reality and realize there are some children who have access to the best doctors and the best care, and there are some other children that do not have that luck,” she said.
As a self-proclaimed tooth advocate, Dr. Marci Guthrie supports her patients’ smiles by concerning herself with their oral and overall health. At her practice, James River Family Dentistry, Guthrie works with each patient individually to review their goals and conditions then educate them and help develop the best way to meet their goals.
“I have a wonderful team that shares my true passion for dentistry, one who happens to be my own sister,” Guthrie said. “Our mission is to provide top-quality dental care to informed patients in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. It is my personal goal that while patients are under my care, I give the necessary education and treatment to guide them to have the best oral health. I owe it to my patients and my practice to be a lifelong student and stay up-to-date with the ever-changing industry.”
Guthrie is proud of how far dentistry has come in the digital age, and she is thankful to have an all-digital practice. Through technological advances like digital radiography and intraoral cameras, she is able to show patients what she sees and better explain recommended treatments so they can understand and make educated decisions. Thanks to recent research, she came to the realization that there is an oral-systemic connection, meaning that poor oral health can contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even pregnancy complications.
“The best part of my job is having the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” she said. “Whether to improve a patient’s smile and enhance their self-esteem, help patients overcome anxiety and fear to get the dental treatment they need or to provide access and free dental care for those who can’t afford treatment, it all comes down to making a difference.”
As chair of the annual Give Kids a Smile for the Richmond Dental Society, Guthrie helps bring underprivileged children in her community the care and education they need in a central location where they are screened for cavities and given oral hygiene instruction by dental volunteers.
“Dentistry allows me the opportunity to change lives,” she said. “My heart is full after a big hug and ‘thank you,’ showing a sincere expression of gratitude after successfully completing any treatment with a patient.”
Guthrie is constantly inspired by her hard-working parents, who raised her to be diligent and driven herself. Her path to success in the dental industry started after a softball injury left her smile in a less-than-desirable state. Luckily, a dentist was able to restore her smile, and she’s here today in part because of that experience.
“While the entire process was not the most enjoyable, it was interesting to experience the steps of what it took to give me my smile back,” she remembered. “As someone who naturally loves the sciences, working with my hands and helping others, I could only think dentistry was an amazing career.”
Today, Guthrie is out to inspire, educate and help others just as each patient she comes in contact with inspires her.
As told to Anna Blake:
Through many years of training and running a dental practice, I’ve learned that good health begins in the mouth so I talk with patients about health issues ranging from blood pressure and medications to nutrition, sleep patterns and family health history as they relate to both medicine and dentistry.
I love sharing my knowledge with patients and giving them tools that can improve their overall health, but my favorite thing is my smile-enhancement cases. I love seeing how a transformed smile enhances every aspect of a patient’s life, and the grateful hugs at the post-op cementation appointments are incredibly rewarding.
My dad is a dentist, and he’s my hero. I’ve worked with him since I was a kid, starting as his dental assistant on weekends. I watched his calm demeanor in providing a painless dental experience, and I saw the effect it had on his patients. He is a lifelong learner with a firm belief in continuing education, and he took me to classes with him when I was still in dental school. In addition to our shared love of learning, we share a love for new dental technologies and how they can change the lives of the patients we serve. My relationship with my father has affected every part of how I practice dentistry today.
My dad taught me that perseverance is the key to success, and, looking back, I can see he was right. My tennis experience in college is an example of this in my life. I was pushed beyond what I believed to be physically or emotionally possible. It seemed the pressures, compounded with tough academics, were simply impossible. I’m so glad I didn’t quit. That single act of persevering taught me that quitting is the easy way out, and that while life is difficult, it’s what you do when things are difficult that reveals your true character.
I lead by example in my practice today. I work hard, and I expect the same from the 16 team members I manage. Running a busy dental practice and managing those 16 team members is the most challenging aspect of my job. I know there’s a family behind each person, and when you factor in 16 different personalities, likes and dislikes, not to mention unanticipated issues that constantly arise, I can feel like a circus juggler.
My lab technicians, Nelson and Juan Rego, have both inspired and challenged me. They are not only my lab technicians but also my friends and mentors. They both encouraged me to become accredited with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry; that accreditation subsequently became one of my proudest professional moments. They continually ask me about my fellowship with the AACD, and, without their encouragement, I wouldn’t have pursued that.
I encourage young women to believe in themselves and their dreams. Watch your self-talk; be sure you’re saying positive things to yourself. What you feed your mind is what you will ultimately become, and if you tell yourself you can’t do something, you won’t do it. That was a valuable lesson my tennis coach taught me, and I’ve seen how true it is. Have passion for everything you do. Your passion, and your curiosity, will reveal your path to you.
When it comes to her job, Dr. Andrea Janik’s first love is patient care, and her second is her ability to continuously learn from her patients, staff and the dental community. As a general practitioner out of San Antonio, she purchased her practice, Culebra Smiles and Orthodontics, in 2014, and, since then, the office has thrived. Between the love she has for her job and the passion she has for dentistry, it’s easy to see why.
“Being able to provide care to people of my community is a responsibility I hold in high regard,” Dr. Janik says. “I am continually striving to improve my skill set as a clinician. Being a master of clinical care is a challenge I am always working toward in my life. There is no end point to learning, and, therefore, I hope to provide my patients with the best care possible through my dedication to a life of learning.”
One thing she is still trying to master is time because it isn’t always easy to fit everything she needs to get done into one day. Between chairside dentistry, business management, continuing education, community involvement and spending time with her family and friends, there isn’t a whole lot of time left at the end of the day.
“I always give 100 percent to whatever I am doing,” she says. “That does not leave much time for rest.”
But Dr. Janik takes it all in stride, and she understands that without challenges, there wouldn’t be any growth personally or within her business. She believes she can overcome anything thrown at her thanks to her heartfelt sense of responsibility to her patients and her profession.
“Every time I sit down next to a patient, I want to provide the very best care possible,” she says. “I want to be the best version of myself that I can. Contributing back to the profession is part of the responsibility of being part of dentistry.”
There are many contributing factors that have helped Dr. Janik get to the successful place she is today. She had a lot of mentors and colleagues who have made big impressions and always held her to her goals while pushing her to do her best in every facet of her life. She has interacted with those individuals through her membership in organizations like the American Student Dental Association, the Dallas County Dental Association, The Texas Dental Association, the American Dental Association, the Dallas Study Club and the Texas Academy of General Dentistry Mastertrack program.
“Being part of a group holds you accountable for your goals,” she says. “I have also found that surrounding yourself with people whom you hold in high esteem will make you strive to achieve more and be more like them. I have been an active member in organized dentistry, and that has pushed me to be who I am.”
Today, Andrea strives to be a strong woman in business and in dentistry; specifically, one other women can look up to do better themselves.
“Smart, confident women make dentistry a better profession, and they make their communities better too,” she says.
As a general dentist with an accredited fellow status in cosmetic dentistry from the AACD, Dr. Laura Justice likes to say what she does is restore smiles. She loves that a huge aspect of her job is to give people the smile they’ve always wanted or the smile they may have lost. To her, the reactions of happiness from those patients is priceless, and she feels good knowing that what she has done for them will literally change their lives.
Dr. Justice tries to live life and practice in a way that would make her family proud and other women want to become dentists. She has had a few women role models who have owned their own businesses and shared ideas with her that have made a large impact in helping her develop sound principles. She has learned there are a lot of obstacles in running a dental practice/business and it is not easy to be all things to all people-both patients and staff.
“I guess what has gotten me where I am today is an unswerving passion for mastery in my profession and the willingness to put in the hours to get there,” she said. “Also, one overriding principle for success is to serve others. If your focus is on needs of others, ultimately, yours will be met.”
On her journey to success, Dr. Justice had a lot of encouragement from her parents, who have always inspired and encouraged her to be great in anything she took on. Thanks to them and other mentors along the way, she has developed a strong drive and desire to challenge herself and to always be better.
“My journey wasn’t necessarily a straight road, but there were many paths of influences growing up both from loving family and personal interests in science and art,” Dr. Justice says. “I was lucky because my parents afforded me private art classes, and, because of this, I have always had a passion for art-both painting and sculpting. This and other experiences, along with a large drive and ambition as a young adult, led me to dentistry.”
To Dr. Justice, her experiences with art and desire to replicate nature through art helped spur her passion in dentistry. Her profession afforded her the ability to combine dentistry with art to create something that will help her patients and better their lives and their health.
“My desire has always been to try to duplicate the natural form of teeth in an attempt to recreate what God designed,” she said. “I love the fact that it involves both art and engineering in a hostile environment to achieve long-term success, which I find challenges me daily, never gets boring and always entices me to learn more.”
Laura believes every step is a journey and you cannot be good at everything. Instead, she advises, you have to figure out what you are best at and then surround yourself with the best mentors and team to compliment those strengths.
General dentist Dr. Melissa Kennell found a love for treating children in dentistry and opened multiple practices in the process. She added two pediatric dentists to her practices to have the privilege and dream of only treating children all the time. She is a managing partner who also delivers clinical care, and pediatric dentists and “super fun and silly” brothers Drs. Matt Smith and Tim Smith help her fulfil that dream. That first practice, along with two other practices under Kennell’s name, have her drive and vision to thank for their realization.
“The best part is acting silly all day because you’re around kids and not adults,” she said. “I love WWE wrestling and Disney, and you can have fun talking to kids about that stuff, and they love it. I’m in my mid-30s, but I’m not stuffy, and I act like a kid.”
While she enjoys what she does and loves her patients and her ability to help them, that doesn’t mean her position is without challenges, especially as a businesswoman. Handling the needs of a 16-person team in two offices while she opens her third practice can be difficult, but Kennell is able to overcome and work through every issue.
“Dealing with people and trying to create a cohesive team is a challenge,” Dr. Kennell said. “I worked in a job for five years where I went into the office, worked and left and what a difference from that to owning your own business. It’s not the dentistry that can be stressful; it’s the business side.”
As the daughter of a surgeon, Melissa was brought up with a strong sense of what she wanted to do with her life, and dentistry was always a path she wanted to pursue. After practicing for about five years, she decided to open her first practice, and it was so successful that she opened her second practice shortly thereafter. It’s been five years since her first practice opened its doors, and she is proud of what her office has become.
“I’m a very Type A, driven, creative and artistic person, and I think that is, in part, why we have been so successful,” she said. “I’ve done our marketing and advertising, and I really feel it’s helped to move us forward.”
So how does Dr. Kennell cope with the stressors and challenges that come with running a business while working chairside? She strives to give her mind a break. Dr. Kennell loves to spend time with her husband, who is an orthodontist, and they love to take time away to go out on their boat and enjoy their community and what it has to offer.
As a woman, dentist and business owner, Dr. Kennell believes it’s important to know your heart and what you want and pursue it.
“I don’t think you should be doing something just to be successful. That’s what I’ve learned: that you shouldn’t just do a job because you want to be successful and make a lot of money,” she says. “It’s hard, and it’s a stressful job, and there are a lot of expectations, sometime unrealistic, to live up to. That’s why it’s important to know what you want to do because otherwise you’re going to get burned out, and you’re not going to be happy in the long run.”