Standing ovations. Inspirational messages. Crayons and bubble gum.

In the city of Philadelphia last week, crowds gathered to witness outstanding talents celebrate their day sun.

Two miles from another stage, where The National Football League hosted its annual draft — teams selecting their future from among collegiate contenders — another community celebrated its emerging leaders and industry icons.

On April 27 and 28 at Loews Philadelphia Hotel, The Lucy Hobbs Project 5th annual Celebration and Reunion shined a light on exemplary women in the dental profession, and a glimpse of the possibilities ahead.

“I’m going in with the notion that no one has ever told me no thus far,” said Dr. Kady Rawal, panelist on the topic “Emerging Leaders in Dentistry: The Female Influence.”

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Attendees at the Lucy Hobbs Project 5th annual Celebration on April 27-28 at Loews Philadelphia Hotel gained insight from six perspectives during “Emerging Leaders in Dentistry: The Female Influence.” Shown are Panel Moderator Linda Miles, CSP, CMC of Ultimate Team Mastery, who led the discussion, fueled by Sarah Anders, Chief Operating Officer, Ivoclar-Vivadent®, Katti Simpson, RDH, Melanie Martel, DMD Candidate with Clinical Honors, Kady Rawal, BDS, CAGS, and Maxine Feinberg, DDS. (Photos: Eric Larsen/Benco Dental)

Dr. Rawal, the 2016 Lucy Hobbs Project Woman to Watch Award recipient spoke from experience. A Clinical Assistant Professor at the department of Restorative Sciences & Biomaterials at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Rawal contributes her talents as part of BU Dental Health Center’s Faculty Practice where she provides full mouth rehabilitation and general dentistry services to adults and special needs patients.

During the discussion, panelists weighed in on the change they would like to see in dentistry. Dr. Rawal spoke in regard to the students she instructs and the amount it costs them to fund a dental education.

“As leaders, can we find a way to ease their burden? How is it, as a professor, that I can help solve the problem?” she said.


Panelist and American Dental Association Past President Dr. Maxine Feinberg concurred, “Are we educating the dental professional in a way we should be? Or should we be looking at a way to educate the dental professional of the future?”

Earlier,  when she co-presented the 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Woman to Watch award to Dr. Irene Marron-Tarrazzi, the youngest elected vice president of the ADA, Dr. Feinberg offered encouragement to the more than 250 in attendance.

“Go home and look in the mirror women, you all look Presidential,” said Dr. Feinberg.

Co-presenting the award with Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays, Dr. Feinberg assessed the unwavering leadership of Dr. Tarrazzi: “Irene will not take no for an answer. When people say no and Irene believes that the right answer is yes, she’s willing to move mountains if that’s what it will take. There’s not another person that ‘up-and-coming’ describes better. ”

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2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Woman to Watch Dr. Irene Marron Tarrazzi accepts the award from ADA past presidents Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays (left), Dr. Maxine Feinberg (right) and Benco Dental Business Innovation Strategist Kathleen Bird. (Photos: Eric Larsen/Benco Dental)

In her role with the ADA and as a periodontist in private practice in Miami, Dr. Tarrazzi seeks to inspire women to pursue a career in dentistry and encourage them to run for leadership roles at the national level.

Upon acceptance of the Woman to Watch award, she discussed thoughts she entertained when pursuing the office of VP.

“Was I the right person to advocate on an entire generation of dentists? It was a very difficult decision to make, very challenging. I faced many obstacles, not just at the ADA level, but at the local level as well. Not everyone understood the decision to better represent the diversity of practitioners. I was not the traditional candidate, I did not have 30 years of experience under my belt. I was a woman, mother, wife, full-time practitioner, Hispanic. … I admit I was apprehensive of criticism and potential repercussions. That was the challenging part,”  said Dr. Tarrazzi.

“I gathered up my courage and determination. It is always worth fighting the good fight. Against all odds, I was elected. The ADA is open to women in leadership. Given the choice, the House of Delegates will vote for a candidate based on merit rather than preconceived ideas. After I had won, some said I had not just opened the door for new dentists, I had knocked it down.”

Her request to all in attendance: Don’t hesitate to affect change.

“The future calls for bold and courageous actions, such as closing the gender pay gap. I see this as my social responsibility within the dental community, my responsibility within the professional realm. We all have to play a part.”

Margaret Fickess, RDA, CDA, MEd, Andrea Joy Smith, DDS, Emily Ishkanian, DMD, Irene Marron- Tarrazzi, DMD, MS, Winifred J. Booker, DDS and Patricia L. Blanton, DDS, MS, PhD — each honoree, in ways too numerous to recount in one morning’s presentations, serves as a catalyst for change and reinvention.

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Lucy Hobbs Project Industry Icon Award Recipient Patricia L. Blanton, DDS, MS, PhD beams during her introduction by Kari Taylor, Benco Dental Vice President of Sales & Branch Operations. “Status quo doesn’t play out in the word icon.” Onstage, Taylor quoted inspiration Dr. Blanton had shared during their conversation just prior to the ceremony. “I truly believe that optimism is the faith that binds achievement, and for that, achievement is possible.”(Photos: Eric Larsen/Benco Dental)

One descriptor, coined by Industry Icon Award recipient Dr. Blanton in her acknowledgement of  “people who came long before us”  seemed to reverberate throughout the day.

Dr. Blanton expanded on the notion of “pioneers, and not settlers.” Her words were met with one of the day’s standing ovations.

“Yes, Lucy Hobbs Taylor requested entrance in the 1860s and was denied. She went out and worked and then she applied again. She was not accepted the second time… How many of you know Jeanne Sinkford, our first female dental dean? Gerri Morrow from Alaska, the first female president of the ADA? We must make that same difference. … That’s who I see here today, pioneers and not settlers.

During the presentation of Dr. Blanton’s award,  Kari Taylor, Benco Dental Vice President of Sales & Branch Operations aptly described the honoree — “Status quo doesn’t play out in the word icon.”
Onstage, Taylor quoted inspiration Dr. Blanton had shared during their conversation just prior to the ceremony: “I truly believe that optimism is the faith that binds achievement, and for that, achievement is possible.”


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Earning another of the day’s standing ovations with her grace, wit and determination was 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Humanitarian Award recipient Winifred J. Booker, DDS, who in 1996, established the Children’s Oral Health Institute, where she serves as the CEO and director of development.

Owner of a pediatric dental practice in Owings Mills, Maryland, Dr. Booker’s work with the nonprofit has focused on advancing two efforts: oral health education programs, which reaches all 50 states and 50,000 elementary schools in 2017; and preserving the state law she helped to get passed in 2012 that requires oral health education to be taught as part of the curriculum in all Maryland public schools.

Dual presenters Mary Teddy Wray, recipient of the 2016 Humanitarian Award and former ADA President Leslie Grant, DDS, MSPA discussed Dr. Booker with admiration and affection.

“You don’t have to be rich to achieve. You have to wish, desire and have a determination to give,” said Dr. Wray.

Dr. Grant filled the room with laughter with her description of Dr. Booker’s ability to overcome obstacles, specifically an anecdote about her in-flight preparation for a Code Red prototype advocating oral health in the classroom. With advance preparation, Dr. Booker found she could bring child scissors aboard the airplane and surprised Dr. Grant with them on board, enlisting her help to create a tiny army of red, apple-shaped paper cutouts.

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2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Humanitarian Award recipient Winifred J. Booker, DDS receives a standing ovation during on April 28 at Loews Philadelphia Hotel. (Photos: Eric Larsen/Benco Dental)

With grateful nods to all the support she has received, Dr. Booker’s acceptance speech offered a glimpse at her motivation for giving back.

“This vision and this work has swelled my heart and further exposed a multitude of needs of children and families often living in poverty,” she said.

Dr. Booker referenced the dentally- designed lunch box and a dental hygiene products container crafted in the likeness of a fresh carrot used to aid in capturing the attention of young audiences.

“I am most comfortable sleeves rolled up, packaging lunchboxes, writing press releases or going into elementary schools to present Children’s Oral Health Institute programs and particularly Lessons in a Lunchbox. … Every time a shipment of lunchboxes and carrot cases arrives, it feels like Christmas to me.”

Honorees spoke from the heart about their  passion for the profession, causes close to their heart, and their supportive families.

Emily Ishkanian, DMD, recipient of the  2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Mentor Award recipient described herself, already enamored with the profession of dentistry, at age 8.

“ ‘Lean back’ I would instruct my sister, as I would begin to floss her teeth. … There were no boundaries at age 8 and my parents encouraged me to pursue my goals, whatever they may be,” she said of her first mentors.

Andrea Joy Smith, DDS, recipient of the 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Clinical Expertise Award, named with gratitude each person in her family supporting her with their presence, from her husband of 33 years, Leland, to her two sons, one of whom, Vincent, nominated her for the award without her knowledge.

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Andrea Joy Smith, DDS, recipient of the 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Clinical Expertise Award, with her family at the celebration in Philadelphia.

“Ever since the day that you and your brother were born, I have set out to be the best role model,” she said.

She succeeded, in the words of Vincent.


“I don’t have to think twice to believe in myself. I saw her go to work every day. I grew up with an entrepreneurial mom, and I see the success of her as a business owner. I saw her start her foundation where somebody is getting a free smile at all times,” he said, referencing the Smile Again Now Foundation his general dentist mother founded in 2011 as a means to provide basic dental services to people in need but unable to afford care.

Dr. Joy Smith said, “When I am chairside I don’t feel like I’m working, seven days a week sometimes, I know it is hard. I know it is working, but it doesn’t feel like work.”

Margaret Fickess, RDA, CDA, MEd recipient of the Innovator award, who serves as program director for dental assisting at San Diego Mesa College, lovingly described the support from her husband Richard.

“He is my soul mate, my encourager, he keeps me laughing when I’m under a lot of stress at work, and he was there for me when I went through my cancer.  He’s just a great man.”

Sher Cox, Benco Dental Territory Representative in southern California where Fickess designed, in 2009, an 11-chair dental clinic for the San Diego Mesa CollegeAllied Health Building.

“The clinic she designed is one of the premiere programs in San Diego,” said Cox, who also recalled their first meeting.

“She impacted me. Being in her presence is always comforting. Margaret gave me her time and her friendship. She has enriched the lives of hundreds of students as her teacher and their mentor,”  said Cox.


Julie Radzyminski, Benco Dental Vice President of Business Innovation, aptly described the atmosphere created by Lucy Hobbs Project honorees and supporters and the commitment of event sponsors Crest + Oral-B, KaVo Kerr Group, Ivoclar Vivadent, 3M, Hu-Friedy, GLO Science, Sunstar, Medicom, and Centrix.

“You’re so inspiring, whether you realize it or not. We all have journeys and we all have obstacles, but you do it with such poise. It’s all of us together, pulling together and helping each other when we’re down…If you look around this room, we’ve made great strides.”

More than 230 attendees gathering in Philadelphia to celebrate five years of exemplary women in dentistry arrived with backpacks and school supplies in tow on April 27.

At the celebration, the The Lucy Hobbs Project invited attendees to donate back-to-school supplies for Cradles to Crayons in lieu of an attendance fee.

Cradles to Crayons serves as a resource for communities in need and a hub of civic engagement in Greater Philadelphia. The nonprofit organization provides children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play.

During their upcoming August Backpack-A-Thon™ event to prepare children for the new school year, they will distribute 30,000 backpacks. Inside each backpack, they aim to include one Back-to-School card featuring words of encouragement.

The Lucy Hobbs Project members were happy to turn their creativity toward that purpose as well.

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At the Lucy Hobbs Project annual celebration, last Thursday and Friday in Philadelphia, the organization invited attendees to donate back-to-school supplies for Cradles to Crayons in lieu of an attendance fee. During the event, Cradles to Crayons also accepted a donation on behalf of The Lucy Hobbs Project, Benco Family Foundation and Benco Dental as part of their annual Give Back initiative. Shown, from left: Chuck Cohen, Benco Dental Managing Director, Molly Krause, Cradles to Crayons and Rebecca Binder, Benco Family Foundation Executive Director.

Another opportunity to give back throughout the 5th annual celebration of women in dentistry, hosted by Benco Dental: attendees were invited to participate in the Bubble Gum Challenge to improve the lives of oral cancer patients and their families.

The 2017 Bubble Gum Challenge @oralcancerblows features individuals, including members of the dental community, utilizing social media to post pictures and videos of themselves blowing bubbles for those who cannot.

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Julie Radzyminski, Benco Dental VP Business Innovation and Dr. Sabiha Bunek, Dental Advisor Editor-in-Chief face off in the battle of the bubble gum during the Lucy Hobbs Project 5th annual celebration to create awareness for Oral Cancer Cause and its Bubble Gum Challenge.

Created by Oral Cancer Cause, Inc. (OCC), a non-profit organization that is celebrating its fifth year of improving the lives of oral cancer patients and their families, the Challenge is a whimsical way to draw attention to a devastating disease with a 50 percent mortality rate. OCC hopes that the Challenge will highlight the impacts of oral cancer and the fact that many survivors lose various functionalities, including the ability to chew gum or blow a bubble.

Sponsors of the Second Annual Bubble Gum Challenge, including Benco Dental, Care Credit and Revenue Well, aim to increase public awareness of oral cancer and help cancer patients through financial support.

It’s not too late to join in. Want to help?

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Oral Cancer Cause also accepted a donation on behalf of The Lucy Hobbs Project, Benco Family Foundation and Benco Dental as part of their annual Give Back initiative. Shown, from left: Rick Cohen, Benco Dental Managing Director, Linda Miles, CSP, Oral Cancer Cause Co-Founder and Chuck Cohen, Benco Dental Managing Director. Linda Miles co-founded Oral Cancer Cause with Robin Morrison in memory of two family members who lost their battles with oral cancer.

Closing out a two-day celebration and reunion: a keynote speaker who inspires people to live beyond expectations. In some instances, this leads to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or creating an adventure racing team, in others, starting an independent business.

Robyn Benincasa, a CNN Hero, three-time Guinness World Record Distance Paddler and Founder of Project Athena Foundation (Survivors to Athletes!) shared her energy as keynote speaker at a reunion of 31 pioneers of their profession and a celebration for several hundred women in dentistry.

In a discussion of leadership styles, she offered insight: 

  “Women at the top levels of any industry aren’t trying to be men. They’re trying to use their core strengths and talents and competencies to succeed. The road might be different, but the finish line is the same. Be the leader that your team needs in the moment. Women tend to move toward the affiliative leadership style–lead by friendship, lead by coaching. It’s more effective than people who run a pacesetting or coercive style. A lot of leaders fall into those traps.” 

Blocks from the nation’s first hospital, medical school, and women’s medical school, in Philadelphia — the first planned city in the United States – The Lucy Hobbs Project honored six inspirational women and paid tribute to the woman who, in 1866, became the first American female to earn a degree in dentistry.

Benincasa connected with the spirit of Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor.

“I find it really inspiring. Everyone in the room [at events where I speak] is lucky enough to have been born at a time when there is, in essence, equal opportunity if you have the drive and the desire, and work hard. But the endurance it took [for Lucy Hobbs] to bust the system, to be that breakthrough–she saw what she wanted to do and wasn’t willing to accept anything else. That’s a great example for all of us.” 

  “We should honor these people who, against all odds, said ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna break this barrier.’ It is neat to be in a business environment where it doesn’t matter what your gender is; it matters what your skills are and what your drive is.” 

Powered by Benco Dental, The Lucy Hobbs Project with a network of more than 9,000 members, empowers women in dentistry to drive change and deliver success through networking, innovation and giving back.  This project aims to bring women together from all facets of the dental industry – dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, receptionists, sales representatives and others. Free to join, it offers networking opportunities, educational programs and charitable events.

Learn more about The LucyHobbs Project and register to join today:

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In the presence of greatness. Five years of Lucy Hobbs Project Award recipients in one room!