Memories of a caring and gifted clinician years ago in Kenya have resonance today as we honor the contributions of women to the profession we love.


GROWING UP IN Nairobi, Kenya, I was fortunate to be a patient of Dr. Gladys Opinya, who completed her dental training in Kenya and at Boston University’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine. She was a powerhouse: a clinician, lecturer, researcher who coauthored 56 papers and professor at the University of Nairobi School of Dental Sciences.

As a dental newbie who joined Benco less than a year ago, I now think differently about my early experiences in Dr. Opinya’s chair. Like most Kenyans, we visited the dentist only when we had a cavity—we made no preventive visits. I now better understand the challenges that Dr. Opinya must have faced as a female dentist in Africa.

In my new role as Benco’s Chief Marketing Officer, I’m especially proud of our Lucy Hobbs Project initiative, now more than a decade running, which celebrates the trials and successes of women in dentistry across the United States. As a female executive, I understand how difficult it can be to balance work and family obligations—yet many female dentists also wear a third hat, that of a business owner. I have already seen opportunities to make some of the products and services that Benco sells more female-friendly, from product design to go-to-market strategy.

As an industry, we’re making progress, but we have work to do, especially when it comes to female dental professionals’ work/life balance. In this issue (see “All in the Family,” page 48) you’ll get to know Dr. Nicole Shinkawa, a current Incisal Edge 40 Under 40 honoree who’s gearing up to take over her father’s practice. She eloquently speaks out against the “scarcity mindset” that perpetuates the notion of constant competition among women, emphasizing instead that “when women empower women, we make more space at the table entirely. There is no limit to the number of women who can be dentists.”

As “All in the Family” also highlights, men play crucial supporting roles for women in dentistry—whether as nondentist practice administrators, co-founders or employees of female leaders in all facets of oral health care.

As is the case every year, the biggest stories in this year’s Lucy Hobbs issue of Incisal Edge are the profiles of our award winners: extraordinary women who are giving back, breaking through barriers, defying the status quo and inspiring others to make a difference (see page 32). I hope you’ll be as inspired by their accomplishments as I am.

We also profile Sarah Tenny, the inaugural recipient of our Dental Assistant of the Year Award (see page 12), who is generously sharing her wisdom, gained over nearly three decades, to instruct and mentor future generations.

Celebrating achievements is the best way to empower women, and this special issue is dedicated to telling their stories. It also marks Benco’s eleventh year shining the spotlight on the women who are driving dentistry forward. I think often of Lucy Hobbs herself, who overcame countless roadblocks on her journey to become, in 1866, the first American woman to earn a dental degree. I’m confident that she would be proud of how we’re honoring her legacy. And so would my own dental inspiration, Dr. Opinya.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anne Wilson, Benco Dental’s Chief Marketing Officer, is standing in for Chuck Cohen and Rick Cohen in this special Lucy Hobbs Awards issue of Incisal Edge.