Learn about one member's GDA experience.
This column highlights GDA members talking about their path to dentistry and the value they find in GDA membership. This month, we hear from Dr. Carol Wooden in the Northwestern District.
Q: How did you become a member of the GDA?
A: I joined the ADA/GDA/Northern District right out of dental school. It is what I was told to do or thought I was supposed to do at that time, so I did it without considering the reasons. However, it has turned out to be one of the better decisions I have made in my dental career to be involved in organized dentistry.
Q: Who introduced you to GDA?
A: That was a really long time ago!! I don’t know if I could tell you who was the one person who introduced me to GDA. I think it was a conglomerate of people through my days at Emory and through ASDA that were instrumental. I can tell you that at one point fairly soon out of school I was a bit frustrated and thought about not rejoining. Dr. Richard Sugarman had a long (and probably stern) discussion with me about the merits of being a member, and what he said made a lot of sense. I paid my dues and never thought of not doing it again.
Q: What is your most memorable GDA experience?
A: I had the opportunity to help organize the first (and second) GMOMs. It was an incredible amount of work! And, it was an incredible amount of fulfillment to help plan and to witness the lives that we altered in a positive way through those projects. I think we served well the patients that visited us those days and I am really glad to have been a part of it—I think that the volunteers got at least as much satisfaction out of it as the patients did.
Q: What advice would you give a dental student about GDA?
A: Get involved and stay involved! Also get involved in your general practice or specialty professional organization. There are so many reasons to be a member and be involved with your professional groups. The camaraderie that you will find is incredible, and you will meet many people who are willing and able to help you succeed. The dental profession is under fire from many sides at this time, so organized dentistry is working to help all of us, including you, to be successful, achieve your goals, and make sure you have a profession to practice for your lifetime. Those who have gone before you and those who are working for you now need your help to continue! Organized dentistry, including the GDA, is continually advocating for many efforts—some that will help you be able to practice how and where you want or to help you pay off your debts, and others that will help you to have success, and to balance your life and profession. You need to be a part of that for your own future.
Q: What is the single most important thing the GDA can do to help members?
A: Support and nourish members in whatever field they are in, whatever way they choose to practice dentistry, whatever stage of practice they are in, and allow them to flourish and give back. Be accepting and supportive of differences—and work together to protect our profession and our members.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked in a Dairy Queen when I was in high school. My first real job was as a Medical Technologist in hospitals in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Q: Why did you decide to become a dentist?
A: Although I enjoyed the job of a medical technologist, I was not able to control my own destiny, so to speak. For anyone who knows me it is kind of a funny story. I felt like I wanted to be in a profession where I could make a good salary, work part time so that I could get married and raise children, and take part in continuing education that the hospital where I worked would not support. Although dentistry certainly did provide me with a good living, I never married or raised children…..and nothing about how I work could be considered part-time! The one goal that I definitely accomplished was to be in control of my own CE. Although I didn’t accomplish many of my pie-in-the-sky goals, it was a great choice and I wouldn’t give up the ride for anything!
Q: What advice would you give to people aspiring to go to dental school to become a dentist?
A: Talk to a lot of dentists and shadow in some offices before you make the decision. It is a great profession, but you might want to know what you are getting yourself into! Many schools are looking for community service minded applicants at this time, so getting involved in volunteer efforts is definitely one way to get some experience and help your chances of acceptance.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I spend a lot of evenings and weekends volunteering as a part of my roles in organized dentistry. It takes up a lot of time, but it is a labor of love. When I’m not volunteering, I enjoy stained glass and making jewelry. I like to play with (or just sit with) my dog. I have to admit, I like my space so going home and relaxing for a couple of hours is one of the best things I do for myself.
Q: What is your dream vacation?
For years, my bucket list has included Australia and New Zealand. I would still love to do that trip for about two months. I think it is probably on the “when I retire” list. The Galapagos Islands is another dream. To dream larger than life, I would spend about 4–5 months flying or cruising from place to place around the globe. Of course, I’m also happy on a weekend trip to anywhere I don’t have to answer emails for a couple of days!