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'You can imagine the pride I felt'

Colorado dentist becomes state association president 22 years after her father served in the same role

July 31, 2017

By Michelle Manchir

Beaver Creek, Colo. — Dr. Carol Morrow was 15 in 1995 when she stood in the back of a banquet hall about 100 miles west of Denver and watched her father, Dr. Robert Morrow, give a speech the day he was installed as the Colorado Dental Association's 109th president.

Dr. Morrow
"I remember realizing all the important things my dad had done and thinking 'Hey, that looks like something I might want to do some day,'" she said.

Twenty-two years later, in June of this year, Dr. Carol Morrow was installed as CDA's 131st, and youngest ever, president in the same banquet hall.

This time, it was Dr. Robert Morrow's turn to be proud.

"You can imagine the pride I felt the day she became CDA president and inducted in the very same room I was so many years ago," he said. "I must admit: I cried."

The Morrows' joint connection to dentistry started decades before Dr. Carol Morrow's June 10 presidential installation. When she was around 10, Dr. Carol Morrow first donned a pair of oversized scrubs and learned the basics of dental assisting, her dad said. She helped out in the elder Dr. Morrow's office through high school, and after her graduation from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in 2006, she joined her dad's practice in tiny Walsh, Colorado, about 15 miles from the Kansas state line.

"My dad never expected me to pursue dentistry or pushed it," said Dr. Carol Morrow. "I'm the only one of my siblings that went into dentistry. I knew it was what I wanted to pursue after watching him make his own hours and be able to come to all my ball games and school events growing up."

While glad to partner with her after her graduation, Dr. Robert Morrow said he warned his daughter, "'You won't make any money in the kind of practice I run.' She said, 'I don't care, I like how you help everyone and help the poor.' Well, she took that to heart and far exceeded anything I ever did in that area and is making it far better than I."

Proud father: Dr. Robert Morrow watches his daughter, Dr. Carol Morrow, speak after being installed on June 10 as the Colorado Dental Association’s 131st and youngest ever president, 22 years after he was installed as the Association’s 109th president.
Presidential aspirations: Dr. Carol Morrow was 15 here in 1995 when her father, Dr. Robert Morrow, was installed as the Colorado Dental Association’s 109th president. Twenty-two years later, she became the Association’s 131st — and youngest ever — president.
Indeed, since her father's retirement, Dr. Carol Morrow has opened two additional practices, including one connected to a hospital where she serves mostly senior patients with no access to transportation. She also provides virtual visits, with the help of her office staff, to public school children in Baca County, Colorado. Her office is the dental home for almost all of the children, she said, noting that she is the county's only dentist.

Dr. Carol Morrow's relationship with organized dentistry began almost as early as her exposure to dental assisting. Just a few years after graduating from dental school, where she served as the American Student Dental Association chapter president, Dr. Morrow was approached by the then-state dental association president to help relaunch its new dentist committee, she said. She became cochair of the group and felt empowered to represent what she sees as an underrepresented group — patients and dentists in rural areas.

"I wanted to make sure the perspective of someone like me would be heard and also that of my patients, who, for the most part, are older and on Medicaid," she said.

Since her initiation into organized dentistry, Dr. Morrow has grown accustomed to the five-hour drive to Denver from Walsh for association meetings. She has been president of her local dental society, the Arkansas Valley Dental Society; co-chair of the state government relations and membership councils for the Colorado Dental Association; a member of the Colorado Dental Political Action Committee; and chair of the ADA Reference Committee on Legislative, Governance, Health and Related Matters.

While a heavy time commitment, she said the effort is worth the results.

"It's a collective voice. If it's just one person making noise about something, it has no impact. We're very well respected at our capital," she said, noting her state's adult Medicaid dental benefit, which came about in part because of the Colorado Dental Association's advocacy.

For Dr. Robert Morrow, joining organized dentistry also came about early on in his career.

He said he was encouraged by colleagues to join his local dental component in Colorado when he began his career decades ago through the U.S. Public Health Corps.

"That is how it started and before I knew it, I was president of the local component. I enjoyed the friendship and the chance for continuing education."

Through he retired from dentistry in 2013, Dr. Bob Morrow said he's "not retired from life." He is the elected county coroner in Baca County; serves on the local city council; volunteers with local theater; and, as a licensed emergency medical technician, trains local volunteer firefighters, he said. He said he also spends a lot of time with his grandchildren, including Dr. Carol Morrow's two children.

On the day of her presidential installation, Dr. Bob Morrow recalls her children chanting at the ceremony, 'My mom is president. My mom is president.'"

"It was just a scene I will never forget. Just something I can't describe," he said.