Monday, February 28, 2005

Women Making Strides in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reports that:

ROSEMONT, Ill., Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- In the specialty of oral and
maxillofacial surgery, Elaine Stuebner, DDS, is a pioneer in almost the same
sense as the women who helped drive wagon trains across a brave, new world.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dental specialists who treat
conditions, defects, injuries and aesthetic aspects of the jaws, face, mouth
and teeth. OMSs care for patients with problem wisdom teeth, facial pain and
misaligned jaws. They replace lost teeth with dental implants, remove
cancerous tumors, rebuild faces injured by trauma, perform cosmetic surgery
and provide safe and effective anesthesia.
A Chicago OMS for more than 40 years, Stuebner encountered resistance when
she began her training shortly after World War II. "In dental school I was
told, 'You're taking a space from a veteran,'" she recalls. "I was told that
it's a man's profession and no one would trust me."
Such comments were "just enough to aggravate me but not discourage me. I
resolved to enter the field," says Stuebner, a member of the American
Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Stuebner estimates that less than 1% of the students were women during her
days in dental school. Actually, the proportion may have been higher. An
article in a 2001 issue of The Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry
indicated that in the 1920s, about 3% of dentists were women. By 1999,
according to the American Dental Association, 15% of dentists were women.

One-third of new dentists are women

An increase from 3% to 15% in nearly three-quarters of a century may not
seem very impressive. But consider the shift in gender balance in the ADA's
figures for "new" dentists, those who graduated from dental school in 1990 or
later: in 1999, 33.5% were women.
Women do appear to be the future of dentistry. In 2000, 37% of new dental
students in the United States were women. However, among women in private
practice dentistry, only 0.8% are OMSs, compared with 4.2% of men.

Long residency is a drawback

During the past seven years, Mary Allaire, AAOMS manager of advanced
education and resident affairs, estimates a 2% increase in women entering
four-year OMS residency training.
"We're asking women to defeat their biological clock," says Seattle OMS
Darlene Chan, DDS, in reference to the long OMS residency. When her youngest
daughter was born, Chan didn't take much of a maternity leave. "While I was
in the hospital, there was a walkway between my office and the hospital. I
walked to my office in my robe to check messages."
When Chan attends professional meetings, she tells her male colleagues
what an advantage it is to have a wife. "I don't mean a spouse," she
explains. "I mean all the things a wife means -- a wife is the campfire
around which everything in the family happens."

The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the
professional organization representing more than 7,000 oral and maxillofacial
surgeons in the United States, supports its members' ability to practice their
specialty through education, research, and advocacy. AAOMS members comply
with rigorous continuing education requirements and submit to periodic office
examinations, ensuring the public that all office procedures and personnel
meet stringent national standards.

Indeed, it is refreshing to learn of more women in dentistry!

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