Top 25 Women in Dentistry: Pamela McClain, President of the American Academy of Periodontology

October 12, 2012

Pamela McClain believes people go into dentistry because they’ve had a good experience at their dentist in the past, and that good experience is what she works hard to give her patients. “You have to do what you’re happy doing,” she said. “I see too many people who are unhappy in whatever career path they’ve chosen, and I think it’s really sad.” But she didn’t grow up with dreams of dentistry, though it was strong in her blood.

Pamela McClain believes people go into dentistry because they’ve had a good experience at their dentist in the past, and that good experience is what she works hard to give her patients.

“You have to do what you’re happy doing,” she said. “I see too many people who are unhappy in whatever career path they’ve chosen, and I think it’s really sad.”

But she didn’t grow up with dreams of dentistry, though it was strong in her blood.

“I was the daughter of a periodontist and I never really thought about dentistry at all growing up,” McClain said. “I always thought the profession was interesting, but I had my sights set on becoming a physician.” That is, until she started college and realized she would rather follow in her father’s footsteps.

“Watching my father, and seeing how he managed his patients was what really spurred my passion,” she said. “And having the opportunity to watch him treat patients and observe the way he communicated was a great example for me to follow.”

Finding a balance while raising her three children, conducting research, working in a private practice, lecturing internationally and volunteering wasn’t easy for McClain, but she said looking at her father’s experience and how he found that balance helped her when she was stressed.
When it comes to being a role model, she’s never really thought of herself in that light because she was always looking up to her father and others striving to improve herself.

“I’ve never really thought about being a good example for other women,” she said. “My career has been very fulfilling and I have been able to balance that and maintain great relationships with family and friends. I believe that’s what others see.”

Her goal is to strive for excellence in everything she does, while remaining personable. When she’s working with patients she tries to put herself in their shoes and approach them the way she would like to be approached.

Her biggest passion in her career is both simple and complex: helping patients.

“Helping people save their teeth, that’s my favorite thing to do, that’s my one passion,” she said. “Our culture places much attention on appearance and esthetics. As a periodontist, while some of what we do can improve a patient’s smile much of the work is focused on improving health. When I help a patient preserve their natural dentition, it is truly gratifying.”

Her plans for the future include getting back into education, but this time to teach in dental school as well as to conduct more clinical research within her practice. Those goals, along with maintaining the balance she’s found in her life, make her confident in the good things to come.