A spotlight on women in dentistry: Balancing work and family life as a female dental practice owner
Drawn to dentistry to give back
Dr. Katie Heald personally knows the power of dentistry, and how it can be used to improve lives. Her dental journey and treatment for her own dental needs began at a young age. By age sixteen, she had undergone a major cosmetic transformation; the dental care she received influenced her self-esteem, and provided perspective towards the importance of patient care. Ultimately, it contributed to the trajectory of her career path.
“From the experience, I learned first-hand how important a smile is to someone’s personality and this early lesson has made me the empathetic provider I am today,” said Heald.
A graduate of Virginia Tech and the dental school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., she did her residency at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Gainesville, Fla. After her residency, she joined a local Aspen Dental practice in Florida. Seven years later and still happily within the Aspen Dental network, Heald says that practical decision turned out to be a wonderful life fit and career partnership.
With coaching from her mentor, she decided a career path to practice ownership could help get her closer to her family in North Carolina. In 2019, with lots of encouragement from the Aspen community, she opened the first Aspen Dental practice in Morganton, N.C.
“My practice, like offices across the Aspen Dental network, fills a great need in the community by providing patients with access to care that can otherwise be challenging, said Dr. Heald. “North Carolina is an underserved state when it comes to dental care and Morganton is a rural community, which typically makes it harder for patients to find a dentist.”
As part of the Aspen Dental network, Dr. Heald knows that she will always be supported.
“I am never truly alone. There is a genuine spirit and belief in our culture that when practitioners are supported, they can take better care of their patients. Thanks to the service support of Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI), I am able to spend most of my time focused on patient care and have little day-to-day worry about practice operations.”
This support has proved equally valuable during the COVID-19 crisis when she had to make decisions about staffing and planning, source hard-to-find PPE, and dissect important safety and infectious disease protocol. ADMI’s direction on cleaning, hygiene, and safety standards as outlined in the Smile Wide, Smile Safe Promise made it easier for Dr. Heald to pivot quickly to adhere to local guidelines and continue to meet the needs of her community. In addition to providing recommendations for screenings and in-office social distancing, ADMI also simplified patient scheduling and virtual care support to help those in need.
Opportunities for all
Balancing work and home life can be seen as a challenge for women in dentistry, but it’s not impossible with the support from a DSO.
“Since I began practicing, I’ve also become a mother,” said Dr. Heald. “My family has grown, and my husband is away for work three days a week. It feels great to know that I can be there for my patients and still go home and be a mom and wife.”
Within the Aspen Dental network, Dr. Heald also felt empowered as a woman dentist and practice owner because she is part of a network of strong female leaders.
“I am fortunate to have found a career and a practice network where I can grow professionally without compromising my personal goals,” she said.
Dr. Katie Heald completed her undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech and went to dental school at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. After dental school, Dr. Heald completed a General Practice Residency at the VA Hospital, in conjunction with the University of Florida in Gainesville. Dr. Heald has a strong background in medically compromised and geriatric patients and owns four offices where she and her care teams actively treat thousands of patients in need.