in Dental Medicine: Women Making Inroads
recalls clearly what happened 30 years ago when she went to take
the national dental boards for New York State. The exams were
being held in an armory. Always the precise student, she showed
up, information in hand, only to be met by an examiner who told
her she had the wrong door. The exam for Assistant Hygienists
was being held across the way. No, she insisted, she had the right
door. In fact, she had the right professional credentials, being
a practicing dentist for 15 years in Israel, having gone through
that country’s rigorous five-year dental program, three of which
were spent studying with medical students, using the same curricula,
serving at the same hospitals. There was also the earlier training
in dental technical school in Poland, where she was born and studied
(first in her class) until immigrating to Jerusalem in 1957.
Dr. Kristine Keren, a successful practitioner with a thriving
practice on Central Park South, in an office she shares with her
son, has known considerably more than dentistry. Her story,
so bizarre, so ugly, so triumphant, of living in
a sewer in Lvov during the Nazi purges, has been the subject of
books, articles, and documentaries (Adl.org/children_holocaust/story_krystyna.html).
In any case, dental school for any woman in the ’70s would have
been an uphill battle. Even now, says Dr. David Kratenstein, past
president of the New York County Dental Society, Associate Clinical
Professor at NYU Dental School, and Executive Director of the
Northeast Society of Periodontists, statistics, though quite favorable
in comparison with those of Kristine Keren’s day, still tell a
minority tale. Women dentists in New York State number only 1,500
out of 13,200, or 11 percent. As a former chair of the Greater
New York Dental Meeting, the largest in the country with 33,000
attendees, Dr. Kratenstein reinforces the view articulated by
Dr. Keren that those who choose dentistry as a profession are
not fallback candidates for medical school but those who really
want to be dentists.
Both Kratenstein and Keren are, in their separate ways, strong
proponents of educating the public about preventive care and of
educating themselves through continuing education, particularly
in technology, another area that, until recently, had been traditionally
closed to women. No more. Keren notes that in recent years her
practice has become more attuned to cosmetic concerns and to refinements
in diagnosis and treatment made possible by advances in technology–digital
x-rays, for example. According to Dr. Richard Vogel, Executive
Associate Dean for Academic Programs at NYU, the hot new dental
specialty is maxillo-facial radiology. Kratenstein notes in this
regard that seminars at annual meetings now concentrate on technology.
Clearly dental education has moved dramatically into the 21st
century: course work keeps current with technological developments,
and admissions data show the growing presence of women. Never
has the freshman class been so diverse, Vogel notes, with females
making up approximately 50 percent. He points also to program
shifts over the years, reflective not only of quantity but quality–from
100 courses, with specific goals and objectives a couple of decades
ago, to over 2,000 now, most competency based, emphasizing problem
solving, and subject to independent evaluation. Dentistry may
prove particularly attractive to women with families now that
NYU (one of five dental schools) has put all their textbooks on
DVDs (all students must own computers). Regardless, prospective
practitioners have a good future in dentistry as practitioners,
researchers, administrators, and in Dr. Kristine Keren and Dr.
David Kratenstein, fine role models, who have, as they say in
the field, made an impact.#
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