Carol A. Wilson, DMD, the newest member of DOCS Education’s distinguished faculty, is a marathoner.
She demonstrated her endurance in transforming herself from a farm girl growing up in “middle-of-nowhere” Kentucky to one of the state’s and nation’s foremost sedation dentists.
She persevered through tough economic times, working six- and seven-day weeks when her family needed the extra income.
She successfully fought the uphill battles with naysayers who throughout her career underestimated her due both to her gender and petite size.
And yes, fresh out of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, where she graduated with honors in 2006, she completed her first runners’ marathon in four hours and twelve minutes.
Dr. Wilson, 38, also won the professional gold medal when she was selected from a giant pool of potential candidates nationwide to join the private practice of Dr. Anthony S. Feck in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Feck is not only a globally recognized dental clinician, author, and mentor, he is a co-founder of DOCS Education, dean of its faculty, and clinical director for IV Sedation.
Dr. Wilson initially joined Dental Wellness of Lexington in March 2015 to help out when Dr. Feck’s colleague, Dr. Maxie Combs, went on maternity leave. But by September of that year, when Dr. Wilson accepted a permanent role, she knew she had found her professional ‘home.’
Joining with Dr. Feck’s practice, says Dr. Wilson, “has been the biggest blessing of my life.”
As demand to attend DOCS Education’s IV Sedation Certification course and refreshers continues to grow, Dr. Michael D. Silverman, president of DOCS, recognized the need to bring on an additional instructor to make sure that the faculty-to-student ratio remains among the best in the nation.
“My first thought was, how can I possibly clone Tony [Dr. Feck]," recounts Dr. Silverman. “As I got to know Carol [Dr. Wilson] and grasped the excellence of her clinical and teaching skills, I realized that she would be the perfect addition to our elite team of instructors.”
Importantly, Dr. Wilson is not only highly qualified to teach other dentists the techniques and nuances of IV sedation, ACLS, and implantology, among other topics, she also serves as a positive role model for other dentists who wonder if their prior education, gender, or physical build present an insurmountable obstacle to becoming a successful sedation dentist.
Dr. Wilson’s journey from raising crops and cows in rural Northern Kentucky to the pinnacle of the sedation dentistry profession is noteworthy.
Coming from a line of farmers and teachers, it would have been natural for Dr. Wilson to follow in their footsteps. However, nature endowed young Carol with intelligence, drive, and a mouthful of “bucked teeth.” So, as a teen, she spent many hours with rural dentist Clay C. Parks, DMD, who she came to admire and eventually set out to emulate.
In fact, Carol helped Dr. Parks during high school and college – cleaning rooms and sterilizing instruments. She eventually had the privilege after graduating dental school of serving as a dentist in Dr. Parks’ former practice, which by then he had sold.
It was in dental school that Dr. Wilson met her husband, Nathan, who runs the Nicholasville Dental Center near the couple’s home in Nicholasville, KY, about a dozen miles from Lexington.
Carol and Nathan practiced together for a period. Before joining with Dr. Feck, she also owned her own independent practice and worked a grueling stint in corporate dentistry. Throughout it all, Carol took continuing education courses and labored to elevate her clinical skills. She also gave back to the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, at times serving as an adjunct instructor and member of the Admissions Committee.
Carol and Nathan have two daughters, ages 12 and 9, and she continues to run marathons and half-marathons, recruiting her friends, neighbors, and even her babysitter to the pack.
Whether the challenge is 26 miles in running shoes, overcoming bias in her profession, or juggling job, family, and community, Dr. Wilson believes the secret of success is commitment and perseverance.
“You set your mind to a task and a goal, and even when it’s hard, or you don’t know exactly how to accomplish it, you just have to keep pushing forward,” she says.
The American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) has been advancing, connecting, and enriching the lives of women dentists since 1921. But even it readily admits that the playing field nearly a century on remains far from level.
For women dentists who offer their patients safe sedation treatments—both enteral and parenteral—challenges persist, among which are a relative shortage of talented women instructors and role models.
While the textbook principles of sedation are gender-neutral, the reality is that it’s only human nature to hesitate to be a pioneer – in an individual practice or community – who is trying to break through career barriers, be they race-, age-, or gender-related.
The “Women in Sedation Dentistry” series is designed to showcase a sampling of dedicated female sedation dentistry instructors and clinicians serving at the forefront of our profession who can inspire and encourage other women.