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Career path influenced by family members

The following article is the sixth in a series dedicated to National Women’s History Month and this year’s theme, “Women's Art and Vision.”

by Heather Woolwine
Public Relations
Knowing what direction a career is going to take can be influenced by many things, especially those closest to us. A family member, or a community influence, can help chart the course early on to success. Monica Cayouette, DMD, has a grandfather who inspired her at an early age to serve others. Add to that a family dentist who was active in the community and youth organizations, and it seems that Cayouette’s foray into dentistry and education was predestined.
“From the time I was very young, I have been aware of a deep sense of vision—instilled in me because of my grandfather’s vision for his family,” she said. “He only achieved a fourth grade education, and is a wonderful, intelligent man. He wanted each member of his family to be educated so that they could contribute to mankind in a positive way. I have been blessed by the fruits of my grandfather’s vision, and I hope to continue it.” For Cayouette, this vision is a daily decision to serve others as a dentist and an educator. And it seems her grandfather’s guidance has paid off, as Cayouette described a family dedicated to humankind through psychical therapy, education, psychology and pro bono legal work. “It’s amazing how generations benefit from one person having a vision,” she said.
Born and raised in Missouri, Cayouette wasn’t sure she’d leave the comfort of her home state after completing a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Drury College in Springfield, Mo. That is, until a cousin in law school in Columbia told her more about Charleston. Applying to the MUSC College of Dental Medicine, Cayouette decided that at best, she may find the perfect fit to pursue her dental degree and at worst, her cousin said Charleston was a great place to visit.  

“About halfway through my interview I realized what a great place Charleston was, and that the school itself seemed right for me,” she said. It must have been a good move, because not only did Cayouette graduate from the school in 1996, but she met and married fellow dental medicine student Scott Cayouette, DMD. While completing a residency in prosthodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Cayouette also earned a master’s degree from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in San Antonio. She was board certified in prosthodontics in 2006. Since those days, Cayouette has steadily ascended in her work at MUSC to associate professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry and as the division director of implant prosthodonitcs.

New visions
To say that Cayouette is dedicated to her work is an understatement. Indeed, she is passionate about the service she provides to dental patients and dental students alike.
“I’ve devoted myself to dental education, and I feel that every dental practitioner should not only incorporate implant dentistry into their individual practice, but should also consider it a part of simple, routine dentistry. For the most part, our students get that; that implants should be as routine now as fillings,” she said.
Cayouette further explained that when implants were introduced in the 1980s in this country, the person who brought them over from Sweden felt only oral surgeons could perform implant procedures.  “We’re fortunate here that deans past and present have the vision that all dental students should learn how to perform implantation. One of the biggest things you can do as a dentist to improve someone’s life is to provide them with implants or over-dentures. Mandibular implants (ones that anchor dentures in place) are especially important to anyone who’s had dentures.”
When it comes to her students, Cayouette said the approach she hopes to share with them is captured in a quote by G. V. Black, the father of modern dentistry (see below). She also has thoughts on being a female dentist. “The biggest challenge facing female dentists is being a mom and working so hard. Dentistry is a very challenging career, both mentally and physically, so trying to balance both a family life and a career can be difficult,” she said. “I just simply couldn’t have the career I do without a dedicated spouse, such as my husband, Scott.”
While maintaining a clinical schedule within the faculty dental practice at MUSC, Cayouette has also been hard at work on a new project to further enhance the educational experience of dental students. This project would connect the new dental clinical facility currently under construction with a digital network that could also be linked online. Certain clinical areas of study would be simultaneously connected to a lecture hall and the dental simulation lab.
“This type of technology is needed to catch the attention of millenials that are beginning to matriculate to dental school,” Cayouette said. “It will enable us to perform demonstrations first, and then allow students to come to the simulation lab for a closer look. It’s really an exciting time; even with dated facilities and equipment, we still have some of the highest test scores in the nation on the boards, and I think it’s because the students and faculty all really want to be here. New technology and a new building are only going to make things better.”
Cayouette is a member of more than 22 professional organizations since her undergraduate years, including the American Dental Education Association and the Nobel Biocare Women’s Implant Study Club. The recipient and nominee of numerous awards, she serves on many college and university educational committees.

Persons who enter upon a profession as their life’s work are supposed to devote themselves to the welfare of man and the communities in which they live. The professional man sells no goods. In general terms, his equipment is his mental endowment supplemented by his training, which has become an integral part of himself. The professional man doesn’t advertise or sell, he serves, he uses his mental endowment and special training to relieve the difficulties and distress of men and for the benefit of society or of the state.’—want to impart on students that dentistry is first a profession and second a means to financial reward.—GV Black


Friday, March 28, 2008
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