Women in dentistry: Not done yet
How do you describe the average dentist in America?
A paper written in the 1940s that was co-authored by Dr. Harold Hillenbrand, a former executive director of the American Dental Association, made an attempt:
The average dentist in the United States is a white male who is engaged in private practice. He is married, has 2.4 children, a fairly well-worn Chevrolet and a home about which the bank still has something to say…. His feet, very often, hurt him except after thirty-six holes of golf when they feel fine because of the exercise….
All in all, the average dentist and private practitioner is a pretty good American in a casual sort of way. He is a pretty good fisherman, shoots a respectable game of golf, likes a nip or two on occasion, and smokes more cigarettes than are good for him. He’s going to quit smoking and drinking ‘pretty soon,’ but never does.
It is this very human bundle of contradictions, superstitions, likes, dislikes, failings and virtues that we call the average American dentist in private practice.
This colorful, if incomplete, description of the average dentist may have been accurate in the 1940s, and likely for many decades after that, but no part of this assessment of old rings true today, except perhaps the last line of it. While I enjoy thirty-six holes of “exercise” as much as the next dentist, it’s about time to let go of the idea that there is such a thing as an “average” dentist in America.
And that’s OK.
Different is good. Diverse perspectives make us stronger, and that’s one of the reasons we should strive to embrace and promote diversity and inclusion at all levels of our Association. Best practice leadership standards across a variety of industries suggest that an organization’s leadership and governance composition should reflect the varied constituents it serves. There is an abundance of well-done business research that strongly suggests that increasing diversity enhances team performance in very measureable ways.
Many dentists and dental students understand this. We need our associations as a whole to understand this, too. We have to first acknowledge—all of us—that we have the ongoing need to build and sustain a truly diverse and inclusive environment.
I speak from firsthand experience.
To read the full story by ADA Executive Director Kathleen T O’Loughlin on LinkedIn, click here.