Empowering Women: Dr. Michelle Thal reflects on finding work-life balance

By Dr. Michelle Thal

Dr. Michelle Thal

(AJNews) – The graduating class of 2007, the year I graduated, was a unique year. It marked the first year ever at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry, where there were equal numbers of male and females in the Dentistry program. Dentistry, like most professions, was primarily a male-dominated profession. I remember feeling very proud. Proud that I got into Dentistry and proud to be a woman.

Sometimes I think I got lucky. I didn’t know much about Dentistry when I entered the program. I was originally pursuing medicine but in speaking with my Uncle who is an Ophthalmologist, he swayed me into Dentistry. He talked about a better work-life balance which I knew nothing about in my young 20s. My Aunt said that Dentistry was as much an art as it was a science and I had always loved art. I owe it to my Aunt and Uncle who unknowingly helped guide me down the perfect career path.

My mom always told me that my job was to work hard in school and to get a good profession. My parents divorced when I was young. My single mom worked hard to send me to a private Jewish day school up until grade 12. She reminded me that we never know what life has to offer. Education was so important to her and she wanted to ensure that I would have a good profession where I could support myself. A job that would provide me with “financial stability” where I would not have to rely on anyone to support me.

But Dentistry is not my only job. I am a wife and mother to three children, including twins. Raising children is my other full-time job, both of which keep me very busy. I can now appreciate and understand the true meaning of finding a work-life balance. Although not easy, Dentistry is the ideal profession that provides women with the flexibility to try and achieve that perfect balance.

I have a work family too. They are my wonderful group of ladies who I couldn’t do my job without. All professions can be stressful but with the right team, open lines of communication and respect and appreciation for one another, we remain strong during some of the most challenging of times. Dr. Steve Baylin, a retired pediatric dentist, friend and mentor who recently passed, used to say, “I’m just the man in the back.” And I am just the woman in the back too. My success is attributed to my strong team of very special individuals who happen to all be females.

Many people have reported to me that they are scared of going to the dentist. I often joke that everyone needs a pediatric dentist, not just children. The dental experience is equally as important as the quality of work that you provide. Being honest, caring, empathetic, understanding and gentle are integral qualities of a Dentist. Qualities that are often associated with the term “motherly love” that, in my biased opinion, come so naturally to us women.

For more information about Small to Tall Pediatric Dentistry contact info@smalltotall.ca or phone 403-474-5600.


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