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Trailblazing Women in AAO Leadership: Paving the Way for Women in Orthodontics

Evidence suggests women have been practicing orthodontics dating back to eighteenth-century England. However, it wasn’t until 1901, when Dr. Carrie Gertrude Locke changed the landscape entirely. She paved the way for women in orthodontics by becoming a founding member of the American Society of Orthodontists (ASO), later known as the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), and women orthodontists have been trailblazing ever since.

Today, one in three AAO orthodontists is a female and more than 50 percent of student members are women.

First Female President of the American Association of Orthodontists: Gayle Glenn

Dr. Gayle Glenn broke the glass ceiling in 2013 as the first woman to lead the AAO as President in the 114-year history of the association. Dr. Glenn paved the way for Dr. Nahid Maleki, who four years later would become the second female president of the AAO.

An experienced leader in organized dentistry and orthodontics, Dr. Glenn is a past president of the SWSO and the Texas Association of Orthodontists (TAO). She previously served as a member of the AAO House of Delegates and represented the SWSO on the AAO Council on Orthodontic Practice. On the state level, Dr. Glenn served on the Council on Membership of the Texas Dental Association (TDA). 

Advocate: Dr. Courtney Dunn

By creating a community and uniting female orthodontists, Dr. Courtney Dunn powerfully advocates for women in the profession worldwide. An advocate that challenges the community to continue pushing the specialty towards inclusivity, one who uses her voice to ask the hard questions.

In 2016, Dr. Dunn founded Women in Orthodontics®, an online community for female orthodontists across the globe. Women in Orthodontics® is a community that gives female doctors a forum to discuss clinical and business information as well as a voice to impact the future of the profession.

“One of the many things we can admire about Dr. Dunn is that she puts her time and energy where her mouth is.” -Dr. Jeri Stull

After questioning the value of her AAO membership in a blog titled “Does (AAO) Membership Matter?”, she accepted the opportunity to get involved, making an immediate impact in driving the association to further enhance its advocacy efforts.

Dr. Dunn serves on the AAO’s Council on Communications (COC) where she is involved with the development of the Consumer Awareness Campaign (CAP). She also serves on the Special Committee for Women in Orthodontics, a committee tasked with identifying obstacles for women to become involved in AAO leadership.

First Female President of the American Board of Orthodontics: Dr. Valmy Kulbersh

From education to board certification, women orthodontists are helping shape the future of the specialty. Next year, Dr. Valmy Kulbersh will be the first female President of the American Board of Orthodontics where she will continue establishing policies and procedures regarding the board certification of specialists in orthodontics.

Kulbersh, who has been a diplomate of the ABO since 1988, is a member of the ABO Written Examination and Technology Committee. In addition, she is the ABO liaison to the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics. Dr. Kulbersh is a Past President of the Michigan Association of Orthodontists and the GLAO, as well as adjunct professor in the Department of Orthodontics at the University of Detroit Mercy in Detroit.

Educator: Dr. Nan Wickwire

As the first female chair of an orthodontic department in 1976, Dr. Nan Wickwire, a dual-trained specialist in orthodontics and pediatric dentistry, fought to represent the specialty as practiced by securing an agreement to keep the department of orthodontics autonomous from pediatric dentistry.

Dr. Wickwire was known as the departmental mover and shaker, building its faculty, educating students, and even designed an orthodontic graduate program. “Dr. Nann was an extremely hard worker and she dedicated her life to orthodontics … Everything you ever thought a good teacher ought to be, she was it.”

Dr. Wickwire even opened the dialogue regarding the gender wage gap in academia when she stepped down from her role after learning she was being paid less than the men who chaired other departments at her institution. “Was there pay discrimination at Florida? Yes, there was.  And I did resign the chairmanship over it.  When I found out that my salary had never represented going from being a professor to the departmental chairperson and was less than other (chairmen of) departments that weren’t even managing a graduate program, I said, ‘Either pay me or get somebody else to do the job.” she said.

From advocating on behalf of the specialty to fighting to close the gender wage gap, Dr. Wickwire paved the way for female educators.

Drs. Valerie Martone and Jeri Stull of the AAO’s Special Committee on Women Orthodontists (SCWO) authored the content for this blog. The SCWO was formed by the 2019 AAO House of Delegates to: 1. Develop tools and pathways for women to participate in leadership 2. Identify obstacles for involvement in leadership and encourage meaningful changes; and 3. Address and make recommendations on the unique issues that Women Orthodontists face with the goal of improving the value of AAO membership for all members.

Mark your calendar for the Women Orthodontists Networking Session and Reception that the SCWO will be hosting on May 2nd in Atlanta! For additional details, please contact Staff Liaison Sarah Goode ( or any committee member.

SCWO Committee Members:  Drs. Valerie Martone (Chair), R. Bryn Cooper, Courtney Dunn, Nellie A. Kim-Weroha, Katherine P. Klein, Marie E. Lathrop, Kathy L. Marshall, Jeri L. Stull and John D. Callahan (Trustee Liaison)