In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month this March, I’m sharing excerpts of interviews from two outstanding female leaders in dentistry who exhibit both authentic and transformational leadership qualities. This week, I interviewed Dr. Maxine Feinberg, was the third female to be elected president for the ADA between 2014-15. Today, here’s an excerpt of my interview with Dr. Robin Gallerdi, president of the south suburban branch of the Chicago Dental Society, who shared her views on leadership.
Dr. Gallardi graduated with a D.D.S. from the University of Western Ontario. She received her D.D.S. degree from the University of Western Ontario and then had eight years of experience in general dentistry in Canada. She also pursued an OMFS residency at Montefiore Medical Center in New York before returning to Canada to complete a master’s degree in dentistry and postgraduate training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and anesthesia. She holds dual board certification as an OMFS in Canada and in the U.S. Dr. Gallardi is currently on the executive council for the Illinois Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the advisory board of OMSNIC, a malpractice carrier for OMFS, and the membership board for the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Here are her thoughts on leadership.
Q: How did you become a doctor in an immigrant country?
Dr. Gallardi:Because I’m Canadian and there are no language or cultural barriers, even though I might argue that Canada is culturally very different from the U.S., many people assume that it is easy to move here professionally. But settling here permanently was a very long arduous process. There are a lot of small nuances that people forget about, like getting a credit card in a new country, getting a driver’s license and obtaining a bank account. These steps look very simple but can be difficult if you are from another country. It’s difficult to advance your career. It is essential to have diversity in dentistry and our profession. It is important to bring in specialists from different countries and cultures. This is both for the benefit of our patients as well as for the advancement and development of our discipline. The journey is very eye-opening but ultimately, it’s been a fantastic move for me personally and professionally. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again
Q: What would you suggest a practitioner do in order to increase diversity within our community?
Dr. Gallardi:Participation is the number one priority. To be a leader and help spread diversity or to bring about the mentalities of inclusion to these platforms, it is important to get involved. All dentists are first and I am second. The majority of US oral surgeons are governed by the D.D.S. designation. or D.M.D., so I think it’s important that we, as oral surgeons, get involved in organized dentistry because in many ways our specialties are removed from it. We would die without it. Because of our differences in dentistry, it is even more important that we have a voice on dental platforms. This will allow us to advocate for our specialty which has a significant lack of diversity. I believe this will help us make positive changes to our specialty and the future dentistry platform.
Q: What challenges do female maxillofacial or oral surgeons face?
Dr. Gallardi: The greatest challenge for women oral surgeons is really to find other women mentors to help guide us. The United States has a large underrepresentation for women in oral surgery. I was not able to find any role models for women in oral surgery during residency. The male role models were also not good at mentoring women. I believe that as a woman in surgery, I have a moral duty to mentor other women starting their career in the field. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to be appointed to boards or to other leadership roles due to the current culture in the field. This hinders equality. It is important for women to continue pushing for those positions. It may take a while, but it’s worth it because we are starting to make that change for the future.
Q: What messages would you like to share with new dentists, particularly women?
Dr. Gallardi:My belief is that our daily actions are what define us as leaders and people. It is important to identify your core values and build your professional life around them. Once you do that, the sky’s the limit as to where your career will take you. A career that is based upon these core values will bring you a lot of satisfaction. You don’t need to pretend to something to be successful. I believe that pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to failure. Instead, the real path to success is to do the opposite.
Additionally, Drs. Gallardi and Feinberg shared similar views about leadership for women. We must continue to be open and make different.
Both stressed the importance to get involved in organized dentistry. It is one of the best ways of making a difference. Active participation by people with different backgrounds, ideologies, and needs is a way to address the lack of diversity. It also allows them to speak out for their interests and represent those of other subgroups. Real change will only come about if consistent efforts are made over time. Drs. We are grateful to Drs. Feinberg & Gallardi for their contributions to the field of dentistry. We need you. Because the future of dentistry lies in women.
Dr. Cathy Hung has a solo practice and is an AAOMS Fellow. She is an alumna from the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership program, an author, speaker, and coach on cultural competence and women leadership. Her first book “Pulling Wisdom: filling the gaps in cross-cultural communication” is currently available in the ADA bookstore as a practice management tool. She recently published her second book, “Behind Her Scalpel: a practical guide in oral and maxillofacial surgery and stories by female surgeons”, an IDL project in hope to close the gender gap. She is a certified professional life coach of Pulling Wisdom Coaching and Workshops, LLC to help women and/or minorities professionals with struggles to gain confidence and excel in the professional world. She was recognized by Benco Dental as one of the Lucy Hobb’s Project’s “Women who inspire” in 2020.