In recognition of International Women’s Day today, we spent some time with one of the inspiring women we know, our Partner Dr. Terri Pukanich, Dental BossLady founder and Principal Dentist at Slave Lake Dental, to discuss how she made her mark as a woman in dentistry, and the challenges and opportunities she’s faced along the way.
From an early age, Terri knew she wanted to be a dentist. After falling off her bike and breaking her two front teeth, she made an emergency trip to her dentist, whom she credits to this day as the driving force behind her decision to pursue dentistry. A Slave Lake native, Terri returned to her hometown after graduating from dental school in 2002 to practice alongside her childhood dentist. A year later, at the age of 25, she took over as Principal Dentist at Slave Lake Dental, which has since grown into a thriving practice with three dentists and 17 operatories.
Making an impact
After nearly two decades in dentistry, Terri is still passionate about her practice. “I feel privileged to be a part of a profession where we get to make an impact,” she says. “Not only on our patients in creating beautiful, healthy smiles, but through our ability to provide amazingly fulfilling careers for our team members.”
Terri believes this impact goes beyond the four walls of her practice. “One of the most rewarding parts of my practice has been sharing our lessons of success with other clinicians and seeing them prosper,” she says. “We can and should be helping build communities and lives through our practice.”
As a working mother of two, Terri knows all too well the challenges women face today in striking a balance between work and home life. “One of the biggest challenges I face is trying to balance my entrepreneurial spirit and drive for ongoing personal and professional development with my obvious dedication and commitment to my family and friends, and more specifically, my children,” she says. “I think any career-minded woman has always felt the pull in both directions and sometimes the guilt of following your professional aspirations can be quite overwhelming.”
She further notes the undermining of women’s success as a significant hurdle. “It is not uncommon to be in a room full of men and feel that you are being overlooked simply because you are a woman, even though you might have the most successful practice or so much to offer others in dentistry.” She believes this is further perpetuated by the tendency for women to downplay their own success. “It is not in our nature to put ourselves out there and self-promote the way men do.”
In response to these challenges, Terri founded Dental BossLady, a professional coaching service designed to help women in dentistry build successful practices and thrive in their careers. “I think women—due in part to our maternal instincts—are poised perfectly to build practices where our teams are highly engaged and high performing,” she says. “However, to do this, we must give them purpose, while looking inward and taking the time to develop our own leadership skills so we can lead those teams exactly where they need to go.”
Terri emphasizes the need for women to support other women, not just in dentistry, but in all walks of life. “Through supporting all women to pursue their lifetime achievement goals—whatever those may be—it teaches our children that women can and are entitled to have it all,” she says.
“They can have both a fulfilling career that they dedicate time and energy to and a personal life that is enriched and meaningful. Doing one does not mean it is at the expense of the other. Women are here to have just as much impact as men. We should not diminish our roles in this world – no matter what your role is.”