In celebration of International Women’s Day, we salute the women of dentistry who are paving the way for many female practitioners to come. In a field traditionally dominated by men, Dr. Sathya Murty, dentalcorp Partner and Principal Dentist at Scotia Dental, takes us through her journey as a woman in dentistry – the opportunities and challenges she’s faced, and the importance of strong role models for emerging female dentists.
A family affair
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dr. Murty’s passion for her profession stemmed from an early age. Born a second-generation Canadian with newly immigrated parents from India, Sathya grew up in a household that placed a great deal of importance on education. Looking on as her older siblings blossomed into accomplished doctors and dentists, she naturally wanted to follow in their footsteps. She ultimately credits helping assist her older sister in her new dental practice for piquing her interest in dentistry. She recalls, “I witnessed the impact she had on her patients and knew I wanted to be a part of that positive energy, enthusiasm, compassion and passion. I thought it was a dream job to be able to create healthy smiles and educate people on their oral health and have fun doing it.”
Making a difference
Dr. Murty finds making a difference in the lives of her patients to be the most rewarding aspect of her practice. She notes, “Each and every day, I have people who are grateful that I have transformed their smile into a healthy one, took them out of pain or simply gave them the ability to chew and function better. I experience this appreciation and gratitude each day. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you are making a difference in the lives of so many individuals.”
Balancing the personal and professional
A mother of two young boys, Principal Dentist and Clinical Instructor at Dalhousie University, Dr. Murty embodies the modern working woman and knows what it means to juggle the daily demands of work and family life – and the often-precarious nature of trying to strike a balance between the two.
She notes, “One of the greatest challenges I had faced as a woman in dentistry was motherhood. As a small business owner and being self-employed, I found taking an extended maternity leave beyond a few weeks was quite challenging. Although there is flexibility to take the necessary time off, I needed to make several preparations well in advance to ensure good continuing care for my patients and to ensure a seamless transition to the locum dentist in my absence.” She further notes, “It is definitely a challenge to ensure that the financial well-being of the practice is not significantly compromised during this time.”
She has further grappled with traditional gender norms in her clinical practice. She maintains that, as a woman, she is expected to display her nurturing side far more than her male counterparts. She explains, “A team member in distress often expects more solace and understanding from a female boss than a male boss. I am often inclined, out of empathy, to help that particular individual. In doing so, this may put their needs above the practice’s needs.”
Although she admits that being a woman in dentistry is not without its challenges, she believes the positives far outweigh the negatives. As a woman in dentistry, she feels well supported by her colleagues across the profession. Throughout her career, she has been afforded tremendous opportunities to mentor and guide dental students, volunteer on local committees and advocate for meaningful causes.
She maintains, “I have had the pleasure of being in this amazing profession for twenty years and I am as excited and passionate as I was on graduation day. The independence of being self-employed, the autonomy over my decision-making with patients’ treatment plans, and being the boss have all been truly a blessing.”
Women supporting women
A champion of working women everywhere, Dr. Murty emphasizes the need for women to support other women. “It is important for women to be supportive of one another as the challenges we face in modern times are far more demanding as women take on more responsibilities. These include balancing a successful career with a rewarding family life. Together, women can empower each other.”
Dr. Murty further highlights the importance of solid female role models for emerging female dentists, stating, “The opportunity to motivate, empower and shape future dentists is exciting. With current statistics indicating female to male ratio is equal, if not higher, in some dental schools, it is easy to see that women are becoming strong leaders in the dental profession and have an incredibly powerful voice to make change where needed.”
When asked what advice she has for other women entering the field of dentistry, she offers, “Pursue dentistry with an open mind and the profession will give back to you ten-fold in so many incredibly rewarding ways.”