In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with two of our remarkable Partners Drs. Mary-Anne MacDonald and Jill Bashutski to discuss their unique journeys into dentistry, the opportunities and challenges they’ve experienced in their careers, and their commitment to developing the next generation of female leaders.
dentalcorp Partners since 2013 and 2018, Mary-Anne and Jill currently practice as principal dentists in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, respectively.
Mary-Anne’s interest in dentistry stemmed from an early age while undergoing extensive orthodontic treatment. Her scientific curiosity eventually led her to study chemistry at the undergraduate and, later, graduate level. While working in a lab during her MSc program, she realized that she longed to work with people. She later transferred into dental school, obtaining her DDS degree from Western University in 2001. A few years later, she joined Scotia Dental as Principal Dentist, working alongside Dr. Sathya Murty in downtown Halifax.
By contrast, Jill describes her journey into dentistry as “a happy accident.” After completing two years of undergraduate courses at Western University, she applied to dental school on a whim in hopes of gaining valuable interview experience. To her pleasant surprise, she was accepted. Upon graduating from Western University with her DDS degree in 2005, she further pursued her MSc degree in Dentistry with specialization in Periodontology from the University of Michigan. Shortly after graduating, she directed the undergraduate periodontics program as a full-time faculty member at the University of Michigan. She went on to own and practice full-time at Cityview Periodontal Centre, and later managing eight additional general practice clinics in Saskatchewan.
Their paths would eventually cross at a dentalcorp Advisory Council meeting in 2019. As UWO alumni who also happened to be the only two female Partners on the council at the time, they instantly connected.
“I was immediately struck by Mary-Anne’s confidence, positivity and assertiveness during the meeting. Her insights were valuable and when she spoke, people listened,” said Jill. “After the meeting, she introduced herself, and we engaged in a conversation about the importance of women working together instead of competing with each other.”
Their conversation on female empowerment would be just one of many, marking the beginning of a meaningful relationship – on both a personal and professional level.
Paying it forward
“We’ve talked a lot over the years about our advancing women and helping to break down barriers,” said Mary-Anne. “When the pandemic hit, we suddenly had the time to pursue these goals and to bring them to fruition. Both of us felt a strong sense of responsibility to give back to the community and to help provide opportunities to others.”
Determined to pay their success forward, the two women co-founded Girls Leading Girls (GLG) Tennis, a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to inspiring and empowering female youth in becoming strong leaders. GLG funds tennis lessons for young girls who are coached by older competitive junior tennis players. While learning valuable new skills from program leaders, these youth mentors gain hands-on leadership experience as they teach and inspire the next generation of girls how to play tennis.
A fulfilling career
After two decades of practice, both dentists continue to feel energized by their careers.
“Dentistry has provided so much diversity and satisfaction,” said Jill. “I’ve had a full-time career in academia and clinical practice, experience building a startup company and overseeing the management of multiple clinics. I could not have imagined a more fulfilling path,” said Jill.
“I have patients at my practice that I have seen for almost 20 years. It is so rewarding to be a part of their lives and make a difference in their oral health. It is such a gift to be in our position,” echoed Mary-Anne.
Like most fields traditionally dominated by men, they admit that dentistry has its own challenges for women, who continue to face conscious and unconscious biases along with underrepresentation at higher levels of administration and governance.
“Unfortunately, up until very recently, competition among female dentists has been fierce due to the select few opportunities available to us,” said Jill.
Despite the hurdles, they believe substantial strides are being made to overcome these barriers.
“Overall, dentistry provides opportunities for leadership, autonomy and freedom that few other professions can provide. Every career has its challenges, but dentistry is a great choice with so many rewards,” said Mary-Anne.
Jill further credits dentalcorp’s commitment to equality and equal opportunity across all underrepresented groups, as evidenced by recent hiring practices and representation in senior management positions.
“It’s an honour to be associated with an organization that has demonstrated this kind of commitment to diversity,” she said.
Building on the momentum
Mary-Anne and Jill ultimately believe it is the responsibility of all clinicians—regardless of gender—to build on this momentum within the industry.
“Success is not a zero-sum game. It multiplies when we work together,” Mary-Anne points out.
When asked what advice they have for other women entering the field, Jill offers, “It’s important for us to give back to our profession and advocate for positive change, and there are so many ways to do it, whether it’s participating on a board, providing mentorship, or donating time or money to a worthy cause.”
Mary-Anne adds, “Remember that you were able to achieve your career goals—in part—as a result of the efforts of those who came before you. Leave things a little better than you found them. And always stay positive.”