Mars and Venus Go to Dental School

Examining the Role of Gender in Dental School Admissions

Right now I’m running one of my most controversial surveys ever about the role of gender in dental school admissions. Here’s the background information:

  • The ADA reports that female dentists, particularly those with young children, work significantly fewer hours per week than their male counterparts.
  • Research indicates that male graduates donate back to their professional institutions at higher rates than female graduates.
  • With too many qualified female applicants, some educational institutions have had to adopt higher standards for women in order to maintain an even gender ratio.
  • Some suggest that favoring male applicants would enable dental schools to provide more care to the public and more quality education.

And here’s the survey question:

Do you think it is legitimate for dental schools to favor male applicants?
– No. Gender discrimination is unacceptable.
– Yes. It’s okay to give preference to those who will give back the most.

Please note that The Wealthy Dentist does not have an editorial stance on this topic. This question has been extremely contentious among our staff. One woman felt it was “yet more male myth-making,” a man gave a nod to “financial realities,” and we argued for days about how to word the question. But there’s no sidestepping controversy with a topic like this!

I’ve gotten so much interesting feedback already that I just had to share a few of these comments with you.

Oh! Are we finally talking about this?

  • “I’m a little surprised that this topic has come into the open view but, it is undeniable, it’s happening out there all the time. The profession is losing manpower hours at a time when there’s a call to serve more people.” (General dentist)

Why is an applicant’s gender the school’s business?

  • “Live with it people. Discrimination in any form (for a group or against a group) where the objective is a merit based achievement, is un-American.” (Male orthodontist)

Are you kidding me with this question?!? [One side]

  • “Perhaps the dental schools should have the female applicants sign a ‘no children’ contract… Are we in China?” (Female dentist)

Are you kidding me with this question?!? [The other side]

  • “Be realistic! The need for care has to be satisfied no matter what the uppity feminist ladies happen to believe.” (Male dentist)

We need more dentists serving the needy

  • “The real problem is the fact that no one, male or female, wants to work in rural, poor or underserved areas.” (Female dentist)

We should give men preference

  • “If men were given preference, there would be more dentists in total practice hours and therefore less need to employ unlicensed foreign dentists in public health clinics here in Massachusetts.” (Male dentist)

How is gender bias different from racial discrimination?

  • “It’s no different than a restaurant making, say, a black man wait for a table, while a white businessman gets better service, simply because one group may statistically give higher tips than the other. Is it okay for a restaurant to discriminate? Do such rules not apply to dental schools?” (Male dentist)

It’s a matter of who provides the most care to the public

  • “Women working significantly fewer hours (or not at all) seems to be reality. At least half of the all the female dentists that I have known in my 32 years of dentistry fit into that mold.” (Male dentist)


About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.

  • Eric Anderson

    Life is all about choices and being responsible for one’s choices. Someone needs to be at home to raise the children. This is not a gender issue but rather a fundamental isssue of what is wrong with the country today. Dental schools need to provide for the future delivery of dental care to the public. In the real world financial ability is fundamental to the survival of a dental school. If gender ratios must be altered to achieve the ability to provide the most care in a fiscally responsible way, then that is what must be done.

  • Carol Cummins-Kolinski

    I am a female dentist that was married to a male dentist.

    Another way to word the issue is when will Fathers be just as responsible to their children as their Mothers? Then we can have some real equality.

    Also, what is the percentage of female dentists that teach, and serve the disabled and poor, compared to male dentists?

  • Melissa Nabors DDS

    Gender discrimination is not acceptable. Let the most qualified applicants go to school. Rural underserved areas have a hard time attracting both male and female dentists. I graduated 26 years ago and still practice Mon-Tues-Thurs Fri and 2 Saturday mornings a month. Not all female dentists work less than their male counterparts!

  • http://www.sterlingimplantdentist.com richard hughes, d.d.s.

    I have a daughter and three sons. I would like all of them to get a fair shake in the application process. This is nothing new about females not working as long or re-entering dentistry. I graduated in 1982 and my class had a considerabl number of females. The schools have to determine who can cut it and who can’t. I just don’t want to see fluffy stuff and pink on the walls.

  • Michael Gordon

    There should be no gender or race considered but qualifications only if more men quailify then they should get it. I have seen too many women get their degree and then use it very little or not at all. So if we are playing fair then lets play fair and look at a persons qualifications and let the cards fall where they may.

  • victor wallock dmd,magd

    I have been a clinical instructor at the University of Conn
    School of Dental Medicine for over twelve years. I have taught both men and women in this capacity. I can honestly say that clinically the great students are of both genders as well as the poor students. I really do not see a gender difference in the clinic..the only difference is between the good clinical student and the ones that need more time.

    To me the issue is rather who will take ove (i.e. purchase) the practices that have been developed mosty by male dentists, who work long hours to serve their patients. Another factor is the number of foreign born dental students’that will probably not settle in the US for their entire practice lifetime.

    I often wonder what the admissions groups think when they
    accept students..is it for their status or what is best for the dental patient population. We have a rather unique situation in Connecticut in that a state financed scholl has
    accepted a greater percentage of non-Connecticut residents than in state residents. Selfishly,I guess, I look at that as a diminsihed pool of potential buyers of my practice. Since I’ve been affiliated with the school, which I did graduate from in 1978, I would say that less than 20% of the graduating dental class settle in Connecticut.

    I agree that most women, not all, will practice limited hours and therefore may not be candidates to own a dental practice. I think that it should be part of the consideration in admisssions policy but not the final determinant between a male and a female candidate.

  • Jeff Stannard

    As a prosthodontist in a struggling Upstate New York market I feel the more females enter dental schools the better chance I have of filling my book and finding a part time associate. On the flip side, dental schools are supported by taxpayer money and as a taxpayer I want the best value for my money. Perhaps a system to payback with work hours is in order.

  • Jean Furuyama, DDS

    When a woman works 4 days a week she works part time. When a male works 4 days a week he is efficient and successful.

    In an ideal world husbands would do the child care on an equal basis with the women, but this won’t happen in my lifetime, so, yes, women will have to take time off to mother. But they don’t quit dentistry and in fact are much more productive after their children are grown and work more hours when men are “slowing down”.

  • Ken Egger DDS

    Discrimination on any basis has no part in admissions policy. We must take the best qualified applicants to hopefully produce the best dentists. However, public state universities should try to recruit in-state students in the hopes that the state’s taxpayers will get the most for their money. I went to Michigan and believe most of my class practices in Michigan, unlike our law school where a great number of graduates leave the state for Chicago and New York.

  • Brent Crawford DDS

    As a male practice owner who recently went through a year of looking for a partner I believe the question needs to be addressed regarding the total production of the individual over their entire career. We should look for applicants who have productive personna’s as opposed to gender or other factors. How do you judge this? Market data of retiring dentists today with personality traits and undergraduate grades and scores might be helpful. I’m sure the intellectual applicants of the past with no people or hand skills will howl if these types of criteria are used for admission today.

  • Susan Baker, DDS

    Is there any other profession in the United States that monitors the gender of applicants based on expected outcome of productivity in the future? Many professions (veterinary) have more women now than men. I am a woman who bought a practice 20 years ago from a man who worked just 15-20 hours a week and structured his schedule around golf. Now where were his priotities? I took the practice and raise the productivity more than 800%.

  • Noelle Wilhelmsen, DDS

    A seat in dental school guarantees that one will receive a dental education– it is not a commitment to practice full time until age 65, nor is any other form of education a promise to dedicate one’s life solely to that scope of work. No college requires or expects that its students must work full time in a chosen field until they retire. Although a portion of my taxes funds public instituions, I do not expect everyone that enters a certain program to be employed in that field throughout thier life.

    Men and women putting in quality time to raise a family is going to be much more benficial to the community than ensuring that everyone puts in a forty hour work week. Everyone has an equal right to education, and how they choose to use that education is entirely personal. My sister has a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, but devotes her time to tutoring learning disabled math students. Her education gave her many tools to becoming a good teacher, wife, and mother. Was her seat in the program wasted since she doesn’t practice full time? I believe her contributions are equally as important as if she were a therapist.

    As a result of their education, people are most likely going to benefit the community in other ways that may or may not include full time employment in a particular field.

  • Noelle Wilhelmsen, DDS

    On a completely different note, a huge reason that dentistry attracts men ande women alike is the flexibility of hours while still allowing a great earning capacity along with contributing to the health and welfare of the community. This profession is especially alluring to women, as they are most expected to devote their time to raising a family.
    One’s value in a profession does not lie in number of hours worked or measurable productivity, but in the sincerity and level of commitment and expertise in their contribution.

  • Christina P. Mason, DDS

    Wow, this is really fascinating! I graduated from UCSF 21 years ago and thought this issue was pretty much moot then. I have found dentistry to be a fantastically rewarding profession for me, for the person that I am and all aspects of my personality. I happen to be a mother of four absolutely wonderful children, none of whom is choosing dentistry. I am in the top 10% of producers nationally, so have I given due service to my fellow (excuse me) men? I sincerely hope so. I started a practice from scratch and built it to this level never working more than 30 hours a week, mainly because I felt so strongly that my primary responsibility was as a parent. Now, my husband has retired and I am solely responsible for our income. So, I work a few more hours. Isn’t that one of the beauties of dentistry? I am so grateful to my dental school, for allowing me to finish my last year of school in two years because I had a baby, to my profession, for allowing me a flexible schedule to raise outstanding and amazing citizens of the world, and to my mentors, for teaching me to truly work “smarter, not harder.” It’s been a great ride. I know I will be working many years to come–I have the great equalizer of debt to pay back. Also, I have given to the poor and underserved in my commmunity all along. Isn’t the bottom line the individual, regardless of gender?

  • Teresa Bushnell

    I was asked during an interview at CO, if my child was sick and I had an exam the next day, what would I do? I do not think that this question would be asked to father/male dental applicants. Yes, I believe discrimination occurs.

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