“I’ve always believed that one woman’s success can only help another woman’s success.” – Gloria Vanderbilt
Now retired, my mother was a registered nurse from 1962-2011. My earliest exposure to healthcare came before I was even born, as my mom used to study aloud for her bachelors in nursing while she was pregnant with me. Early on, she instilled a love for science and medicine and a mantra of “you can be the doctor I couldn’t be.” As one of the first to pursue higher education in her family, my mom received her license in vocational nursing in 1962 but lacked the financial resources to pursue her career further at the time. Her passion for her career, strong work ethic, and selfless serving of others played a huge role in my desire to pursue a career in the healthcare industry.
Dentistry became the leading choice for me after seeing how braces changed both my smile and overall confidence in life. After shadowing my orthodontist, I fell in love with how this profession combines art, science, medicine, and service to others. I am glad I was able to find a career that I feel just as passionately about as my mom felt about nursing.
A career in dentistry is very appealing to women for a variety of reasons. First off, it provides flexibility in hours. Secondly, there are multiple practice models available to a dentist, such as ownership, associate-ship, corporate, group practice, public health, military, academics, and research. This flexibility in hours and type of dental practice is more conducive to a work/life balance. Women are typically drawn to a career in dentistry because it affords them the opportunity to form life-long relationships with their patients and their families. As dentists, we spend more time chair-side with our patients, not only eliminating any pain they may be suffering from, but also enhancing their well-being through cosmetics, braces, dentures, etc.
I also see how patients are more receptive to a female provider. I work in a community health center with five other female dentists and under the direction of a female dental director. Our patients will often comment on how well we listen, are empathetic, have an eye for aesthetics, and a gentle touch. I happen to only fit into the extra small gloves and use pediatric forceps for the majority of my extractions, so my favorite moments are when I’m able to turn a “are you going to be able to take this out?” to a “wow, it’s out already? I didn’t feel a thing!”
Dentistry as a career choice for women is at an all-time high. Females in dental school now make up 50% of the overall student population. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides data on dental demographics in the United States. This data showed that 31% of dentists are female, compared to only 16% back in 2001. As more and more young female patients begin to see that their own dentist is a female, the notion that dentistry is a profession dominated by men can be broken.
It is always inspiring to visit a career day or participate in a STEM or health-related event and find young women invigorated to pursue this career. These young women are often looking for a mentor to help them achieve this goal. Through our local San Antonio chapter of the Hispanic Dental Association, a few of my fellow colleagues, mentors and I created a pre-dental mentorship program to offer assistance to those who aspire to become part of the dental profession. This program, called Building Our Leaders in Dentistry, focuses on providing mentorship, networking, and scholarship opportunities to help increase the number of under-represented minorities in the dental profession. I am proud to be involved in this program and attribute a big part of its success to establishing these pivotal mentoring relationships early-on. These mentorships start at the high school level, transition into college and dental school, and continue into their professional careers.
Since becoming a dentist, I have served in a variety of leadership positions within dental organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Many of these opportunities I have pursued in leadership have been because I was encouraged to do so by a mentor. Leadership positions in organizations are becoming more diverse as opportunities for women are expanding. As we see more women emerge as leaders in their community, we can expect even more to follow. The executive director of the ADA is a female dentist. In the last four years, two terms for ADA President have been filled by a female, and we are seeing a rise in female dental school deans at both the national and international level. It’s a great time to be a woman in dentistry!
I am proud of these advances in our profession, and I’m excited to be a part of the movement. I believe the successes of the women before us have helped pave the way for our own success, and I hope we continue to lead the way to inspire more successful women for the future of medicine.
Dr. Christina Meiners
Communicare Health Centers
About Dr. Meiners:
Dr. Christina Meiners was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Honors College at the University of Texas at San Antonio and attended dental school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) as a Dental Early Acceptance Program Candidate. After graduation, Dr. Meiners followed her passion for public health dentistry and currently works for Communicare Health Centers. She has worked part-time as an associate clinical professor at UTHSCSA and now serves as an adjunct faculty member overseeing students on clinical rotations at Communicare Health Centers. She has participated in the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership and serves on multiple committees at the local, state, and national level of various organizations. Dr. Meiners currently serves on the board of directors for the National Hispanic Dental Association and the Texas Academy of General Dentistry. She also currently holds various officer positions as Secretary of the San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic, Vice President of the San Antonio District Dental Society (SADDS), Immediate Past President of the San Antonio Academy of General Dentistry (SAAGD), and Past President of the Greater San Antonio Hispanic Dental Association (GSAHDA). This leadership and dedication to the community has helped her become the recipient of ADA’s 10 under 10 award as well as HDA’s National Service Award and receive nominations by both SADDS and SAAGD for the Texas New Dentist of the Year Award. Dr. Meiners is a fellow in the Academy of Dentistry International and the International College of Dentists.