This May, Dr. Gayle Glenn of Dallas, TX, will become the 113th president of the American Association of Orthodontists. Even more historic, she will be the first ever woman to hold this title. The topic of women in leadership has been covered widely recently, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal. Many thanks to Dr. Glenn for sharing her provocative memories and sage advice with MO.
1) Tell us about a favorite memory of being a leader in AAO.
Upon graduation from my orthodontic program at Baylor College of Dentistry in 1984, I joined both the ADA and the AAO. As I looked at those who were in leadership, I saw a group of older male dentists and orthodontists. There were few, if any, females in leadership roles and no young member representation. At that point, my impression was that those leaders did not represent me or my needs as a young (female) member.
When I attended my first general membership meeting of the Southwestern Society of Orthodontists, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Honey, you are going to have to leave now, as only men can vote in this election.” After several respected members of the group explained that I was a new member, he grumbled that he did not know that the organization had any female members, and I was allowed to cast my vote. It was at that moment that I decided that I should get involved in organized dentistry and orthodontics.
2) What’s the biggest difference between dentistry today and when you first began to practice?
The biggest difference that I have seen is computerization of dental offices and our dependence on technology in practice. When I began my orthodontic career in 1984, my office did not have a computer. The first computer system we installed in the late 1980’s was used mostly for scheduling and billing. Now, we have computer terminals at every chair and utilize digital records. I can’t image working without a computer today!
Another difference is the gender and racial diversity we now see in the dental profession and its specialties. In the mid-1980’s, female orthodontists comprised only 2% of the practicing orthodontists in the U.S. AAO membership is now over 20% women. Slightly less than half of new orthodontic graduates are women.
3) What advice do you have for dental students considering specializing in orthodontics?
I would recommend that you try to keep your student debt level as low as possible during dental school and post-graduate or specialty training. This gives you many more opportunities after completion of your training. Because specialty program acceptance can be highly competitive, focus on unique opportunities such as research experience or externships in your preferred field during dental school. Spend time in several specialty practices either as an employee, volunteer or shadow. GRE scores are playing an important role in specialty application in some programs, so don’t overlook this opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants.
Specifically in considering orthodontic programs, consider schools with high faculty (both full-time and part-time) to student ratios. Check on board certification rates of the graduates as well as research achievements and publications. Look for a program with adequate case loads and which teaches a variety of orthodontic techniques. Compare program length, tuition costs, fees and stipends. Participate in the MATCH.
~ Colleen Greene, Harvard ’13, president