Editor’s note: Two of Benco Dental’s senior female leaders are standing in for Chuck Cohen and Rick Cohen in this special Lucy Hobbs Project edition of Incisal Edge.
By KATY COHEN AND KAREN FRIAR
TEN YEARS AGO, we embarked on the Lucy Hobbs Project to recognize inspiring and visionary women in dentistry. We also knew from the start that merely shining a light on exemplary individuals wasn’t enough to drive meaningful, measurable change.
That’s why a core component of the Lucy Hobbs Project has always been to unite people in unique ways through networking, innovation and giving back: at our national Lucy Hobbs Project Celebrations, via partnerships with universities throughout the country and regional events at which we tackle current trends and pressing issues within the industry.
So what’s next?
While we’re proud of everything we’ve accomplished, the meaning and mechanisms of empowerment have changed since we began this initiative in 2013. Gender equality issues haven’t magically disappeared, but the share of women in dental schools passed 50 percent several years ago. At the same time, previously underappreciated heroes of the profession—dental assistants, hygienists, practice managers—have gained stronger and more prominent influence across business, education and media.
How, then, would Lucy Hobbs herself have us evolve? She defied a decade of resistance before finally earning her dental degree in 1866. If we let her inspiration truly guide us, we believe our next decade should be about championing a new generation of underrepresented dental leaders who will advance the standard of care for all, fight for historically marginalized patient communities and make dentistry more accessible for future practitioners.
As it happens, we’ve already been working toward those goals on a parallel track since founding the Benco Family Foundation in 2005. Each year, Benco Dental commits at least 5 percent of profits toward battling inequality, making a positive impact on student and professional engagement and improving oral health worldwide. Moving forward, we’ll be merging the ideals of both the Foundation and the Lucy Hobbs Project to achieve even greater philanthropic success.
For example, we recently partnered with the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation to create the first dental school scholarship offered through the United Negro College Fund. The Dr. Robert Tanner Freeman Scholarship (see page 12) is named for the first African-American to receive an academic degree in dentistry. Designed to help end underrepresentation of black, native, indigenous and Latino communities in dental education, it has the potential to broaden access to the profession for years to come.
As we look back on 10 years of amazing work by our honorees and more than 10,000 members, this is also a perfect time to look forward. Women’s voices are a more essential part of shaping equality and empowerment for everyone than ever before. We’d love to hear from you as we onsider how the Lucy Hobbs Project and the Benco Family Foundation can be an even more effective force in the years to come.
KATY COHEN is Benco Dental’s Chief Revenue Officer.
KAREN FRIAR is Benco Dental’s Chief Financial Officer.