What brings you joy? As we move through the second year of the pandemic, that sentiment has more resonance than ever. So this issue, as we pay tribute to six top women, the 9th Annual Lucy Hobbs Project Awards honorees—and one Benco Dental Trailblazer—who are working tirelessly to drive dentistry forward in 2022, we wanted to find out what offers them true happiness, something to which they can return when they need it most. Their responses, like the
work they do, were illuminating.


Born in March 1833 in upstate New York, Lucy Hobbs intended to pursue a career in dentistry from an early age—a thing that simply wasn’t done by a woman in nineteenth-century America. Shunted aside at nearly every turn, she persevered, in 1866 becoming the first American woman to earn a degree in dentistry, a professional discipline she practiced until her death in October 1910.

An initiative in dentistry is named as an homage to this first woman in the U.S. to earn a dental degree. The Lucy Hobbs Project, powered by Benco Dental for nearly a decade, empowers women in the profession to drive change and deliver results through networking, innovation and giving back. Nominate an inspirational woman in dentistry for a 2022 Lucy Hobbs Project Award today HERE.

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: MENTOR


What Brings Her Joy: Serving others at NYU and UM Dental
Education: DDS, New York University College of Dentistry
Affiliation: New York University College of Dentistry; University of Maryland School of Dentistry
City: New York, New York

A MAXILLOFACIAL PROSTHODONTIST and clinical assistant professor in the Ashman Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry at NYU, Dr. Kang takes great pride in motivating and educating her students—an ethic that stems from her passionate belief in service to others. As a child, she wanted to be a dentist after observing her father’s struggles with advanced periodontal disease. She has also worked to rehabilitate trauma patients and those with head and neck cancers, helping them regain the ability to eat, drink and speak. (Photograph by David Benthal DavidBenthal.com )

Q: If your path hadn’t led you to dentistry, what might you have done?
A: I would have excelled at working with dogs. Ever since I was a little girl, I loved being around dogs and taking care of them.

Q: What’s something people don’t know about you?
A: I’m congenitally missing a mandibular central incisor.

Q: As a woman in dentistry, what challenges have you encountered and overcome?
A: Born and raised on the East Coast, I always considered myself American. Yet my father always told me that I needed to work 10 times harder than other Americans just because of the way I looked—not only my gender, but also my ethnicity. When I was younger, I didn’t understand or agree with that. As I grew older, I noticed that there were instances where others treated me differently. I overcame this by not letting other people’s behaviors affect me, but also by working 10 times harder—like my father instilled upon me.

Q: What’s your superpower, and how do you use it for good?
A: My superpower is sensing energy from others. I use it for good by helping people make positive connections with one another.

Q: What’s your favorite tooth, and why?
A: The maxillary central incisor—it sets the tone for the rest of the smile.

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: WOMAN TO WATCH


What Brings Her Joy: Arkansas Razorbacks football with her family
Education: DDS, University of Missouri–Kansas City
Name of Practice: My Village Pediatric Dentistry
City: Bentonville, Arkansas

WHY IS DR. SLIGER so worth a look? Well, she’s a bilingual Latina pedia­tric specialist who previously spent seven years teaching Spanish at an alternative high school in Arkansas—then decided she’d like to pursue running a private practice that treats primarily immigrant families and Medicaid patients. She speaks passionately about leveling the playing field in her community and writes often in local publications, in both English and Spanish, about oral health and nutrition. She also mentors aspiring dental students. ( Photograph by Kari Bjorn karibjorn.com )

Q: What’s your superpower, and how do you use it for good?
A: Resilience. When I put my mind to something, I will accomplish that goal. When I was a Spanish teacher and cheerleading coach, people laughed at me as I took night classes with the goal to someday get into dental school. It didn’t seem possible to them, but I knew better. I got in and excelled.

Q: When are you most you?
A: I’m most me when I’m helping others. I chose pediatric dentistry because of my background as a high-school teacher. I love working with challenging patients to help guide them through difficult appointments. I know I can make a difference.

Q: What’s the most difficult aspect of your job, and how do you handle it?
A: This past year has been challenging for my adolescent patients. From the social isolation of virtual school to the uncertainty of a global pandemic, I’m finding a lot of older children who have really become lax with their personal hygiene. In the short time I have with them, I do my best to help them recapture their strength and willingness to take care of their bodies. Spending one-on-one time with a teenager means more to them than most people would imagine.

Q: If you were given an eighth day of the week, how would you use it?
A: I’d dive back into academia. Arkansas does not currently have a dental school. It would be my dream to help bring one to our wonderful state. I feel passionate about the effectiveness of minimally invasive dentistry in the pediatric realm,
and I would love the opportunity to share that knowledge with others.

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: CLINICAL EXPERT

DR. Kajuana Farrey Sutton

What Brings Her Joy: Training the next generation of dental assistants
Education: DMD, Medical College of Georgia
Affiliations: Farrey Family Dentistry (two locations); Georgia Dental Education Institute
Cities: Moultrie and Riverdale, Georgia

DR. FARREY SUTTON is honored here for her contributions to oral-health education for dental professionals and patients alike, having trained dental assistants at the Georgia Dental Education Institute since 2019, including throughout the pandemic. A member of the 2019 Incisal Edge 40 Under 40, she was the first female African-American dentist in the United States to cofound a dental community health center, and she recently welcomed her first child, a daughter named Farryn Cattleya Sutton. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, she deems “finding balance” her biggest challenge. (Photograph by Seward Jartu, Facebook.com/jartuphotography )

Q: Have you encountered hurdles specific to being a woman in dentistry?
A: Yes, of course. I just think of myself as a role model for every little girl who has a passion for this field, and I realize that the footsteps I take today in dentistry will make her path just a little bit clearer and more open than my experience. Change comes with time.

Q: What’s a food or beverage you enjoy that you advise your patients to avoid?
A: Mountain Dew is the most cariogenic soda—but I enjoy it from time to time, along with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given to a patient?
A: “You deserve it!” Most people don’t think they deserve all the riches God has for them, and when their smile is transformed they’re in awe. I love to remind them that they deserve such a beautiful smile, that their sacrifice and investment in themselves is the best one could ever make.

Q: How do you handle the day-to-day grind?
A: By imagining my work schedule on a balance beam like Simone Biles, observing the many hats Michelle Obama juggled as First Lady and, most of all, learning how to live my best life through the teachings of my super-sheros Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant. My mom always taught me that things happen in life—some good, some bad—but you keep pushing. The one thing you do not do is quit!

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: HUMANITARIAN


What Brings Her Joy: Yoga
Education: DMD, University of Florida College of Dentistry
Name of Practice: Preston Dental Loft
City: Cary, North Carolina

THE GOOD DR. PATEL has made a big impact on her small North Carolina community just outside Raleigh. In 2016, she helped launch and host the inaugural Cary Cares program—two days, one in summer and one in fall, during which she and others donate dental services and makeovers to what she cheekily calls “badass women.” The makeovers alone are worth up to $1,500 in hair, makeup, nails, teeth whitening and other services. Earlier in her career, meanwhile, she helped provide dental aid on mission trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. (Photograph by Jebb Graff, jebbgraff.com )

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Owning my own business is the most rewarding work I’ve done besides humanitarian work. But it’s very challenging. As an associate or a dentist who works for someone else, the dentistry is your focus. For me, learning how to be a great leader and manage people is the biggest challenge. I believe in being the benevolent alpha, in being forgiving. As long as we’re on the same page, it’s OK to make mistakes.

Q: What’s your superpower, and how do you use it for good?
A: Staying calm in stressful situations and still being able to stay focused. There may be chaos around me, but stay calm and you’re good.

Q: What food or beverage that you advise your patients to avoid do you most enjoy?
A: Chocolate. Twix, with all the stickiness, is a particular favorite. This is top secret, too, but on occasion I love a full-strength Coke.

Q: What’s your favorite tooth?
A: The upper central, because it sets the tone for the rest of your smile. If you’ve got two perfect upper centrals, your smile follows suit.

Q: What’s something people don’t know about you?
A: That I’m pregnant! I’m four months along [as of mid-November].

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: INNOVATOR


What Brings Her Joy: Walks among Northern California’s redwoods
Education: Bachelor of applied science in strategic management, California State University–Sacramento
Affiliation: Chief executive officer, Sprig Oral Health Technologies
City: Loomis, California

INSPIRATION SOMETIMES ARRIVES amid strange circumstances. For Hansen, it was when a fall caused her young son to crack his front teeth. In time, she would start Sprig Oral Health Technologies (originally called EZPEDO), partnering with two dentists to create its signature product, the EZCrown, a long-lasting, all-ceramic prefabricated crown that can be used on primary teeth. The mother of three says Sprig is now growing so fast that the toughest thing about her job is being able to hire new talent quickly enough. (Photo by Anne Hammersky, annehammersky.com )

Q: When are you most you?
A: When I’m with those I’m closest to, including my team. People I trust.

Q: What keeps you grounded outside of work?
A: Staying active and taking care of my mind and body. I work on my mindset consistently, along with exercise and yoga. We have a trainer who comes to
Sprig three times week. We started this during the pandemic in the parking lot since we couldn’t go to the gym. We’ve kept it going ever since.

Q: If you were given an eighth day of the week, how would you spend it?
A: No phone, no computer, no TV—just journal and read for pleasure, and maybe
go out in nature. Spend time with the ones I love or just one-on-one with myself.
I need to block this on my schedule! It sounds amazing.

Q: If your path hadn’t led to dentistry, what might you have done?
A: Food and hospitality. Out of college, I had my business plan ready. Then I was
asked to help my husband get his dental practice started. Twenty-five years later, and now Sprig. I wouldn’t change anything.

Q: What’s something you’ve done for fun in the last six months?
A: I’ve been going on wellness retreats. I’ve been to the Catskills, Hawaii and Mexico, and just recently my daughter and I went to Turks and Caicos. This type of travel is amazing—eating healthy, working out, yoga, mindfulness and finding your true purpose on this planet.

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: INDUSTRY ICON


What Brings Her Joy: Her giant poodle, Max (a dental therapy dog of great repute)
Education: DDS, Baylor College of Dentistry, Dallas
Name of Practice: Carole Ann Boyd DDS PC General and Cosmetic Dentistry
City: Dallas, Texas

DR. BOYD HAS spent 37 years as an oral-health humanitarian, researching and treating the impact of HIV and AIDS among dental patients. In 1984, fresh out of college, Dr. Boyd diagnosed AIDS in a dental patient just two years after the Centers for Disease Control first used the term. She went on to create, and later lead, the Ryan White Dental Clinic at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation, and served as the director of dental services for the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic for AIDS Research. Her two core mantras: “When adversity strikes, persevere” and “love trumps hate.” (Photo by Jonathan Abshire,  Jonathan.Abshire@gmail.com )

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given to a colleague?
A: Pace yourself. This career is not a sprint, but a marathon. As a younger person, achievement meant so much to me that I often pushed myself harder than I should have. Burning the candle at both ends leads to burnout.

Q: What’s something you’ve done for fun or to disconnect from your day-to-day in the last six months?
A: I used to travel regularly. Now I read a great deal—local news, CNN, BBC, the New York Times. Novels, particularly historical novels. I enjoyed going to the Van Gogh immersive experience. Last week, I went to the Vaqueros Gathering and watched the Mexican cowboys and cowgirls show off their excellent skills managing horses and cattle in a gentle and humane way. I photographed the event and plan to enter one photograph in the state fair.

Q: What’s your favorite tooth, and why?
A: I had a lead assistant for 24 years, who unfortunately died not long ago. We were the same age. We used to joke that we would roll out of our office in wheelchairs together when we were old. We would tell patients to find a new dentist when they noticed that we limited the practice to teeth #4 and #5 because they were easy to access, smaller than molars and didn’t have as much of an esthetic concern as anterior teeth.

Lucy Hobbs Project Awards: TRAILBLAZER


What Brings Her Joy: Her English cream retrievers, Griffin and Quincy
Education: University of Pittsburgh
Affiliation: Benco Dental
City: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

PHOTOGRAPH BY KARI FABRI karifabriphotography.com

LIKE THE NAMESAKE of all these awards, the 2022 Lucy Hobbs Trailblazer, Sharon Shivetts, embraces oral-health care as a lifetime commitment. “Dentistry has always been part of my soul—it just clicked from the beginning,” says the Pennsylvania native, whose affinity for the profession began when she was a teen. “I’ve been in dentistry just about my entire life.”

Working in the ortho office of a family friend at age 15, Shivetts exuded potential—so much so that the doctor encouraged her to pursue a hygiene degree. After 15 successful years in that role, she shifted her focus from clinical to business—dental sales, specifically. In 2006, she joined Benco Dental; within two years she was elevated to the post of the company’s national sales trainer. She regularly keeps audiences riveted with her magnetic performances as an emcee and panel moderator at Lucy Hobbs Project events around the country. “I’m shocked, actually, and very touched that I was selected for this,” she says. “I certainly don’t consider myself a trailblazer. I just do what needs to be done and try to support others along the way.”

Shivetts offers a nuanced assessment of women in dentistry today. “Whether they practice or teach, they’re making an impact,” she says. “But from a different perspective, women have always been in dentistry—possibly as the silent majority of the dental team. Assistants, hygienists, office managers and lab techs have been [largely] women for many years. They make a difference, and they should be celebrated.

“The Lucy Hobbs Project creates ripples that positively affect many lives,” she adds. “Lucy Hobbs was a true trailblazer to pursue a dental career when that was an almost impossible journey. Today we encourage our sisters and daughters to be anything they want to become. When we encourage others, we are all leaders.” —Kristie Ceruti


Ready to meet more impressive women in dentistry? Get to know Lucy Hobbs Project Awards honorees from 2013 through today.

Visit here: https://thelucyhobbsproject.benco.com/honorees/