When Dr. Karyn Stockwell (’82) helped launch the state of Georgia’s Mission of Mercy in 2011 – a huge undertaking requiring the coordination of hundreds of volunteers – she relished the opportunity to improve access to dentistry for society’s most vulnerable citizens. Stockwell, a family dentist in Kennesaw, Georgia, who was named The Dental College of Georgia’s 2017 Distinguished Alumnus, shares a few of the principles that have guided her commitment, dedication and altruism through the years:
SEIZE THE CHANCE TO TOPPLE BARRIERS. When I went to Career Day in high school, I met with a dentist who told me what a great career this would be for a woman. There weren’t many women dentists around at the time, and I liked the thought of forging new ground. I like science, I like working with my hands and I tend to be a little bossy – ask my sister. (Laughs.) I knew I wanted to be my own boss, so dentistry has been a perfect fit for me.
GIT ’R DONE, AND NEVER SAY NEVER. When I became involved in Georgia’s Mission of Mercy (a community-based event offering free health care to the uninsured and under-insured), my fellow volunteers and I wanted to “git ’r done.” I’d been involved in mission trips but was eager to serve people in my own backyard, so to speak. I really wanted to bring care to people who need it, a passion I shared with some 60-odd people who agreed to serve as committee members. I’m also very involved with organized dentistry and really recommend that kind of involvement to dentists just starting out. Early in my career, I’d look on in awe at colleagues involved in organized dentistry and think, “I could never do that.” Well, never say never. Organized dentistry is how you improve things not just for your patients, but for society as a whole.
PRIORITIZE RELATIONSHIPS WITH PATIENTS. I’ve watched my patients grow up, and I now treat their children in my practice (Stockwell Family Dentistry). I’ve known some of my patients their whole lives, and it shows in our relationships. My goal is to inspire one of them to eventually pursue a dental career.
AND PRIORITIZE RELATIONSHIPS WITH FELLOW PROFESSIONALS. Dentists are a great bunch of folks. They care about their patients, and they care about the profession. They have fun with it. We enjoy our jobs, and we love going to work every day. I wish everybody could know what that feels like.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY. My advice to today’s dental students is to live their passion, get involved and enjoy the journey. They’re the ones who will shape the future of dentistry.