In April 2017, Margaret Fickess, CDA, M.Ed., was one of six women in dentistry to receive an award through the Lucy Hobbs Project, named for Lucy Hobbs — the nation’s first licensed female dentist.

The Lucy Hobbs Project by Benco Dental aims to empower women in dentistry to drive change and deliver success through networking, innovation and giving back.

Margaret — the recipient the 2017 Lucy Hobbs Project Innovator award — certainly embodies the qualities of an outstanding dental professional who is driven to educate and mentor others. Since 2001, Margaret has been the program director for dental assisting at San Diego Mesa College. She began working as a part-time faculty member at the college in 1979 and transitioned to be a full-time instructor there in 1989.

Margaret seeks to empower her students with confidence and independence. She enjoys teaching them about the various aspects of dental assisting and seeing them master those topics. Margaret finds this particularly gratifying because they knew nothing about these clinical dental subjects before entering the program.

“I love seeing those light bulbs come on
when the students are learning.”
— Margaret Fickess, CDA, M.Ed.

“I love seeing those light bulbs come on when the students are learning,” Margaret says. Here, she offers advice to up-and-coming, aspiring dental assistants:

1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses

As an educator, Margaret works with students to help cultivate their strengths so they know where they can thrive in their future careers as dental assistants.

“Sometimes I work with the students one on one during my office hours to help them to find out what they’re strong in,” Margaret explains. “I encourage the students to excel in the entire curriculum, but they need to find their strengths. That’s what they can give to the dental office when they go out for employment.”

2. Get involved in professional associations

Margaret’s contributions to dental assisting extend outside the classroom. She has been an active member of the San Diego Dental Assistants Society (SDDAS), California Dental Assistants Association (CDAA), California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers and American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). She has held every leadership position in the SDDAS, including serving as president twice. Margaret was also in the House of Delegates for CDAA and ADAA.

She encourages all dental assistants to join their professional associations to stay up-to-date on dental assisting regulations and networking. The continuing education programs that associations offer also help her maintain her DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification, which she encourages her students to pursue.

“Dentistry is changing so rapidly,” Margaret says. “If we’re not up on it, how are we going to teach our students to become qualified dental assistants?”

3. Give back to the community

Volunteering is important to Margaret, and she recommends that others experience the benefits of volunteering as well. She has regularly volunteered her dental assisting skills to California Dental Association Cares, helping to provide dental care to low-income residents in Southern California. She also served on the board of the Children’s Dental Health Clinic. And she has provided dental education to schools, child-care centers and the Braille Institute for the Blind.

“I don’t seek out rewards for my work in dental assisting and giving back to the community,” Margaret says. “I just see that something needs to be done, and I know I’ll enjoy doing it. And so, I just do it.”

Do you know an outstanding woman in dentistry?