by Alena Pacheco
When we hear the words “Women in Orthodontics,” it’s only natural to think of the increasing number of orthodontists who are female. This year in Seattle the AAO even featured a special luncheon to discuss the challenges of this growing number of women. The idea of gathering women together to celebrate the worthwhile work that they do is a concept whose time has truly come in our profession. It’s a concept that applies not only to the growing number of female orthodontists, but to the already large percentage of females who work in orthodontics. I am proud to say that I am one of those women. Even though my academic credentials did not qualify me for a place at the female doctor’s luncheon in Seattle, my background has certainly prepared me to launch a vision that I hope will include women at all levels of the profession. That vision is Women in Orthodontics.
More than a decade ago, I joined the ranks of women in orthodontics. I was hired as a treatment coordinator for a two-doctor practice and realized early on that it was a role I would tremendously enjoy. At the same time, however, I also wondered if I had somehow “settled” for a job that didn’t quite measure up to the expectations that everyone had for me. Had I somehow wasted my college education on an administrative position in an orthodontic office? I’m embarrassed to admit that I had those questions at the time. I would later discover that this administrative position would prove to be not only more challenging, but also more rewarding than I ever imagined. My experience as a treatment coordinator would ultimately serve as a springboard into so many other wonderful opportunities—opportunities that would allow me to balance my personal life with the goals that I had professionally.
Any working mother will tell you that “balance” doesn’t always come easily. In fact, some days it doesn’t come at all! I experienced the true meaning of this search for balance when my son was born
9 years ago. By then my career had transitioned and I was able to take my orthodontic marketing experience and open my own business. It was only the beginning of an on-going balancing act that I continue to struggle with, even to this day. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it was the beginning of a vision for Women in Orthodontics.
As both my family and my business grew, so did my opportunities to network with other women. I found a vast majority of these women were just like me. They loved orthodontics but were searching for ways to advance in the industry without having to compromise their family time. How much easier it would have been years ago if we could have joined an online discussion group about job sharing, taken online TC training courses, or even downloaded a podcast about new-patient integration. Thankfully, that technology is available today, and what better way to use it than to educate, empower, and inspire our colleagues in the orthodontic profession. What better resource than other women to help us navigate the seasons of our lives with individuals who’ve shared similar concerns? What better tribute to our outstanding profession than to streamline training opportunities and create clear guidelines for administrative positions in the office? What better way to shape our industry than by doing it one smile at a time?
I have often said that orthodontics is about shaping more than smiles. It’s about shaping lives. It has taken me almost 15 years to realize that one of the most important lives it has shaped is mine. Each of us makes a significant contribution to the lives of those around us. Whether we make that contribution as a treatment coordinator, a scheduling coordinator, or a sterilization assistant, it is no less important than the contribution made by the orthodontist with the dental degree. Imagine the momentum that could be created by uniting the thousands of women working in orthodontic offices. Women in Orthodontics is an organization created to do just that. Online discussion boards, networking groups, and training opportunities are just a few of the plans currently under way. I invite you to join me on this mission of educating, empowering, and inspiring women in orthodontics by visiting our Web site, womeninortho.org, and getting involved in the discussion. Perhaps one day we’ll even have a very special luncheon of our own!
Alena Pacheco has been involved in orthodontics for more than a decade. She is the Founder of Women in Orthodontics and currently serves as executive VP and founding partner of OrthoMarketing LLC. She can be reached at (559) 846-8091 or /i>