Dr. Wilkins, age 36, earned an undergraduate degree from Wofford College, magna cum laude 2001, and DMD from Medical University of South Carolina and serves as President Elect of the Central District, one of five districts of the South Carolina Dental Association.
The other Dr. Wilkins, age 39, serves as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for the SCDA and as the official team dentist of the University of South Carolina, Aiken-Pacers, Athletic Department.
Both spouses are equally committed to the care of their patients, and the two children (both under age 10) they raise together.
You’d never guess from these descriptions which South Carolina practitioner is male and which is female. And that’s exactly as it should be.
Equal partners in life, supporting each other’s goals and dreams.
Meet the new dental spouses, in this case, Dr. Leah Bryan Wilkins, DMD, and Dr. Talmadge Wilkins IV, DMD, FAGD, respectively.
“Leah and I are both involved in organized dentistry. We make sure that we do not take on positions that would require us at the same time; someone has to be with the kids. I am involved at the state level, and she is with the district level of the SCDA. We have to say no at times. With church and school, we also try to offer our time, but with different events and different times. That way we can also help each other with the projects,” explained Dr. Talmadge Wilkins IV on how he and his wife manage the delicate balancing act of a two- career family.
A dentist for 11 years, 8 of those in private practice at Center for Dentistry in Aiken, South Carolina, he credits his involvement with the Pankey Institute for helping him gain a sense of equilibrium.
“You have to remember to have a healthy work/life balance. Additionally, you have to schedule everything, even date nights and down time. For me, I do not like to be scheduled, rather more spontaneous, but that is not a luxury of being in a relationship and family of dentists,” he added.
They were both familiar with being part of a dental family long before they met and married.
“Both of our fathers went to the same college, the Citadel, then the Medical University of S.C. and became dentist in small towns. I feel we were raised in very similar ways,” said Dr. Talmadge.
Dr. Leah B. Wilkins joined her father in practice 10 years ago in Edgefield, South Carolina (the town where she was raised), while her husband finished his general practice residency, followed by training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Medical College of Georgia. She describes their similar career paths as a unique benefit to their marriage.
“I absolutely feel like we can be empathetic because we have a clear understanding of what “work life” entails…staff, patients, insurance, you name it…we can relate. We work in a tiny, dark, bacteria-filled part of the body and have high expectations placed on us both by patients and ourselves, that creates a tremendous amount of stress. When you include managing a business, it can be daunting and debilitating. It is refreshing to come home and have someone who completely understands your challenges, frustrations, successes, and triumphs,” said Dr. Leah Wilkins.
Often, Dr. Leah tells young females in high school or college to choose dental school.
“It is a fabulous profession that allows time for family and work. No career is perfect, but I chose one that gives me autonomy, financial independence, and brings me satisfaction. Even on a bad day…that’s hard to complain about.”
Her husband dedicates some time outside the practice as an Instructor in the Department of Oral Rehabilitation at the Medical College of Georgia, as well as an Assistant Cub Master with Pack 115, Boys Scouts of America. When she’s not commuting 25 miles to work three days a week, or leading the SCDA Central District, Dr. Leah volunteers at their son’s school, drives the children to dance or soccer practice and finds a few hours for Crossfit.
Sometimes that nonstop schedule even allow for a few days together in NYC. The couple visited Chelsea Pier recently to celebrate Dr. Talmadge’s honor as one of the 2015 Incisal Edge 40 Under 40, the best young dentists in America.
“Most individuals and others spouses have no idea of the challenges that dentist face daily. When we talk, we can actually understand what we a speaking about and can offer advice and occasional criticism so we can become better dentists and people,” he said.
Other dentists could not agree more.
The dental lifestyle magazine recently interviewed three households in which one or both spouses are dental professionals. The story’s goal: to establish the concept that gone are the days in the dental profession “when the man was exclusively the doctor and the woman the spouse. Record numbers of female dentists mean a wide variety of new roles for the men to whom they are married.”
The magazine’s Ted O’Callahan spent time with three more dental couples:
* Dr. Amy Case and Dr. Brian Case started as associates for other dentists, and quickly began preparing to buy a small-town general practice in Cleburne, a town of 30,000 at the outer edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth orbit. She’s the primary dentist at the practice while he continues to work four days a week elsewhere as an associate, which helps pay down debt and generates a predictable income stream while they build their own patient base. Dr. Brian Case practices at the family operation one day a week, enabling him to make connections with patients in the area while also giving Dr. Amy Case at least one weekday with Emily, the couple’s 6-month·old daughter.
* Dr. Kenia Campos and her husband, Abel Planas, were high-school sweethearts in Cuba, lost touch and then reconnected eight years later. Dr. Kenia Campos worked for a corporate practice as they got settled. Their son, Juan Pablo, was born in June 2012, and the next year they put down roots by buying a practice in which they would work together. While Abel occasionally fills in as a dental assistant, his job is to indulge his love of numbers as the office manager.
“Tm the dentist. That’s it,” Kenia says. “He takes care of everything else. I don’t know how much we pay for electricity or anything. I love it. I’d only want someone I trust 100 percent doing that, so it’s perfect.”
* When Dr. Marielaina Perrone and Dr. Gregg Perrone were planning out who would be the primary caregiver for their children they were also dividing the workload of running the practice. Given that Dr. Gregg had minored in business management in college, he took on the operations of the practice, while Dr. Marielaina did the dentistry.
“You have to figure out what people’s strengths and weaknesses are,” Marielaina says. “I’m all about people and patient care. Gregg is amazing at seeing the big picture and organizing.”
When their daughter, Ashley, was born, Gregg transitioned seamlessly to the role of a stay-at-home dad.
“My parents thought it was a little odd, since the man is supposed to be the breadwinner,” he says. “It works for us.”
Dr. Gregg still manages the practice – everything from accounting to updating the blog – which consumes 10 to 15 hours a week. But he’s in the office only once a month or so. He can fulfill most of his duties on the go while he’s at their daughter’s archery lessons or their son’s hockey practice.
Read their stories at: https://viewer.zmags.com/publication/10683ba7#/10683ba7/66