The San Diego Association of Women Dentists (SDAWD) had its conception at the two-day historical National Conference on the Woman Dentist held at the ADA headquarters in Chicago, Aug. 5-6, 1986. It was a spirited, empowering conference with keynote speaker Gloria Steinman detailing the feminist agenda for the 1980s. Women dentists were challenged to "do something." Dr. Barbara J. Kabes heard the call and began a local AAWD chapter in San Diego. Dr. Joan Bercoon also attended the conference. Together, they pooled their resources and held San Diego's first meeting later that year.
SDAWD was voted an official chapter of the American Association of Women Dentists in May 1988. Dr. Kabes notes her goals in founding the chapter: "One of my major objectives for the organization was to groom women for leadership roles in organized dentistry, because in my opinion, we are dentists first, women second." Dr. Kabes' goal has been accomplished as SDAWD Past President Dr. Anne Bowman became the third woman president of the San Diego County Dental Society three years ago. Dr. Kabes is in line to be the fourth woman president of the SDCDS and SDAWD past president. Dr. Margaret Alai is currently on the board of directors of the SDCDS. SDAWD Past Presidents Dr. Maria Rhi and Dr. Lilia Larin have gone on to full elected positions on the national board of the Hispanic Dental Association in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
As organized dentistry faces the challenges of the 21st century, the SDAWD can look back on a successful past and ahead to a future that shows the dedication of San Diego's women dentists has not diminished since Gloria Steinman issued her call to action nearly 20 years ago.
On Dec. 4, 2002, SDAWD President and current AAWD Treasurer Dr. Lilia Larin organized a festive, memorable event celebrating the SDAWD's 15th anniversary. Past Presidents Drs. Barbara Kabes, Joan Bercoon, Anne Bowman, Mary Ann Calcott, Michelle Yamada, Lori Weller, Rita Barkett, Mary O'Conner, Julie Kangas, Margaret Alai, and Maria Rhi all were recognized and honored for their contributions to the association. 2003 President Dr. Martha Morett and 2004 President Dr. Roya Niakiani were also present. Donna Kirtz-Silverstein, PhD, gave a lecture on women's health issues. Everyone enjoyed a women's specialty bazaar and attendees were offered professional massages.
The SDAWD continues to prosper with the support of dedicated members and committed leaders. The organization has been important in establishing relationships and connections for women in dentistry and bringing women to positions of leadership in organized dentistry and in the community at large.