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Washington State Dental Association publication wins Golden Apple Award

November 03, 2014

By Kimber Solana

covers of WSDA News April and May issues

Honored: The covers of WSDA News’ April and May issues helped the Washington State Dental Association receive the Golden Apple award for Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Seattle — Dr. Kimberly Winton recalls a time during her studies at the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Dentistry when a patient who needed an extraction requested for a male dentist, instead of her, to handle the procedure.

The patient explained of a bad experience in the past with a female dentist and thought she simply “did not have enough upper body strength to extract the tooth.”

Dr. Richard P. Ferguson, Washington State Dental Association’s first African-American president, recalls a time in 1968 when he visited Washington, D.C. It took meeting with the then-Surgeon General to finally get approval for him to attend the University of Washington’s graduate orthodontic program while retaining his commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

He had been refused earlier, as no African-American dentist in the U.S. Air Force had been given graduate schooling.

Drs. Winton’s and Ferguson’s stories were among more than a dozen of stories highlighted in two cover issues of the WSDA News Magazine earlier this spring, addressing the topics of gender and race in dentistry.

The WSDA’s publication received this year’s Golden Apple Award, in the constituent category, for Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion. It was among three Golden Apple awards WSDA received this year. WSDA also received the award for Achievement in Dental School/Student Involvement in Organized Dentistry and the Open Category for its guide “The Affordable Care Act and You.”

“It was an honor and exciting to be recognized for these stories, which we all felt were important to tell,” said WSDA News managing editor Rob Bahnsen.

The goal of the two cover issues WSDA News Magazine, which has a circulation of about 4,200, was to initiate a dialogue among all dentists about the problems of the past, and to illuminate any issues still requiring attention.

“Both pieces were relevant because they had largely been ignored,” WSDA Executive Director Stephen Hardymon said in the award submission. “In large part because there was an underlying assumption that racial and gender biases were relics of the past. In fact, we discovered that race still plays a role in the way some of our members feel they are regarded, as does gender — although to a lesser degree.”

The two issues shared stories from dentists, from various generations, on how being a minority or a female may have, or have not, affected their dental education, careers and personal lives.

Dr. Princy Rekhi remembers how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 affected him as a junior dental student at UMKC. With his traditional Sikh turban and beard, Dr. Rekhi became an easy target.

“Overnight people treated me differently. I had been accustomed to eating out almost every meal, but even walking down the street people would call me Osama Bin Laden or a terrorist — it was insulting, and it made me sad,” he said in the article “Race and Dentistry: A Conversation.”

Then, after the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012, a stranger approached him and touched him on the shoulder.

“[The stranger] said, ‘I’m really sorry for the loss your community suffered last week, and wanted to offer my sincere condolences,’” Dr. Rekhi recalled. “This was a response that actually made me realize that there is a change that is occurring.”

There’s also a change in demographics in dentistry.

According to WSDA News, the dentists in Washington are 75.3 percent white; 19.8 percent Asian; 2 percent Hispanic; 1.7 percent black; and 0.4 percent American Indian. However, the 2011 cohort of newly licensed dentists is 56.7 percent white; 31.7 percent Asian; 5 percent Hispanic; 3.3 percent black; and 3.4 percent other groups.

In addition, although only 25 percent of Washington dentists are female, the 2011 cohort of newly licensed dentists is 41 percent female.

The women profiled in the “Gender and Dentistry: A Conversation” article largely rejected the notion of gender bias in dental school, in the workplace or among peers. But, according to the article, when pressed, nearly every woman featured in the story shared an anecdote about a situation where gender played a frustrating role in the way they were perceived or treated.

“We sought to initiate a conversation,” Mr. Bahnsen said. “We weren’t going to solve the world’s problems when it came to gender and race. But what we wanted to do was shine a light on the issues to see what’s happening out there.”

To read the article “Gender and Dentistry: A Conversation,” visit issuu.com/wsda/docs/2014_wsda_news_issue_5_may_mzd. To read the article “Race and Dentistry: A Conversation,” visit issuu.com/wsda/docs/wsda_news_issue_5_april_mzd.