Top 25 Women in Dentistry: Dr. Antonia Kolokythas

October 12, 2012

Dr. Antonia Kolokythas strives to give her patients a sense of understanding and hope through her work as a maxillofacial surgeon. She works with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, and it’s a job she finds very rewarding.

Dr. Antonia Kolokythas strives to give her patients a sense of understanding and hope through her work as a maxillofacial surgeon. She works with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, and it’s a job she finds very rewarding.

“I think the fact that I chose to work with the most unfortunate people, those with cancer, day-in and day-out, and being there for them at every point from their highest to their lowest through their treatment is very inspirational,” she said.

Kolokythas said her job is most rewarding when she can give her patients satisfaction and put their minds at ease. She said it feels good to talk to her patients, who are afraid and confused in the beginning, and by the end of the first appointment give them comfort in the things to come.

The job isn’t always an easy one, though, because not every story is a happy one.

As a successful surgeon, she said the biggest challenge she has had to face as a female in her profession is earning universal respect.

“Being a female and a dentist is not a very unique situation,” she said. “There are a lot of females that are successful as dentists in their practices and in academics but being a surgeon in our field is a little more of a challenge, so being able to kind of have everybody’s respect and having a level field, that’s a little bit more challenging.”

In addition to her clinical practice and responsibilities to her patients, as a full-time academician at the rank of Assistant Professor at the Department of OMFS at UIC, her duties involve mentoring and teaching residents and students based on her own work ethic and experiences. As she looks back, she said learning was the easiest part for her.

“As long as you’re open to suggestion and you’re willing to work hard and study hard and prepare yourself, the learning part isn’t the difficult part,” she said.

When it comes to new or difficult situations, she advises her students to take a moment before they get frustrated or panic, because a clear mind thinks best.

She enjoys mentoring her students at UIC, and she attributes her passion for teaching to her own experiences under a mentor.

“My biggest influence [was] my oncology mentor,” she said. “I studied under him and being given the opportunity to do that fellowship, which was one of the largest and oldest head and neck oncology fellowships in maxillofacial surgery, and being able to learn and apply everything I learned to my patients was monumental to my career.”

Kolokythas hopes to have her own oncology fellowship where she can mentor maxillofacial surgeons on head and neck oncology, as well as to become chairman of the department so she can inspire other women.