published Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Orthodontist Jill Hodges elected first female president of Chattanooga Area Dental Society

  • photo
    Dr. Jill P. Hodges was the first practicing female orthodontist in Tennessee, and she was recently named the first female president of the Chattanooga Area Dental Society.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
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ABOUT HER

• Age: 57.

• Family: Husband, Dr. Anthony Hodges, general dentistry; daughter Rachel, an attorney; twin sons Jeb and Benton, who will graduate this year with degrees in criminal justice and biology, respectively.

• Pet: Cat, Belle.

• Education: University of Tennessee, Bachelor of Science, Class of 1977; University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences, Memphis, Doctor of Dental Surgery, Class of 1981; University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, Memphis, Master of Science (Orthodontics), Class of 1983.

• Favorite movies: "The Right Stuff," "Gone With the Wind."

• Favorite music: Old-time rock 'n' roll.

• Favorite book: "Lord of the Rings" series.

• What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? "I hate being in front of people. I'd rather be sitting in the back of the room causing trouble."

Dr. Jill Hodges has a number of firsts.

Records show she was the first practicing female orthodontist in Tennessee and the first female officer in the Southern Association of Orthodontists. She recently was elected as the first female president of the Chattanooga Area Dental Society.

Though she's humble about her accomplishments, she admits to working hard to achieve each one.

A native of Memphis, Hodges knew early on in life that she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps, late orthodontist Dr. Bailey Prichard. She said she worked in his office doing everything from sweeping the floor (as a child) to treating patients (as a dentist).

In dental and orthodontic schools, she said, she had to prove herself worthy in a male-dominated profession.

"I was the only girl in my class (in orthodontics school), but I never asked for special favors," she said. "All the way through my education, I pulled my own weight."

Joining the dental fraternity did have its benefits, she said. That's where she met her future husband. They married soon after graduating.

Q: Did you join your father's practice?

A: No. I moved to Chattanooga right after graduating and started practicing with Dr. DeWayne McCamish on Brainerd Road. I opened my own practice in Hixson in 1990. My father died from pancreatic cancer when he was just 55. He did get to see me become an orthodontist, but he died before his grandchildren were born. But he was a happy man, and he lived his life to the fullest.

Q: You were the first female orthodontist in Tennessee. How many are there now in Tennessee?

A: There are around 30. There are, however, more women becoming dentists. In dental school (not orthodontist school), there were 13 females in my class. Today, one half of the dental students are female. When I first moved to Chattanooga, there were just a few women dentists. Today there are so many that we have started an informal female dentistry group. We get together once a year.

Q: Has your profession been affected by the down economy?

A: Yes. My practice boomed for many years, but orthodontistry is economy driven, and we've seen a downturn. It is, however, starting to pick back up. There's a personal responsibility to caring for one's teeth. People with a higher dental IQ will be aware of any dental issues and make sure they're taken care of.

Q: Have you seen major changes in your profession since you graduated?

A: Yes. I now surprisingly see a lot of adults. These days I am putting braces on all ages, including applying oral appliances that help with sleep apnea and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders).

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as president of the Chattanooga Area Dental Society?

A: The Chattanooga Area Dental Society is respected throughout the state. We have a program each month with guest speakers, and we help to organize the state meeting. There are around 350 dentists in our area, and 278 are members of our organization. Our members are involved in voluntary screenings, active in dental clinics in low-income areas and more. Almost every dentist I know helps out in the community. My theme as president will be for us to look for even more volunteering opportunities.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same profession?

A: I'm right where I need to be. I love what I do. But it's a very hard profession to get into these days because it's so expensive, and it's very time-consuming. The sheer cost of an orthodontist's education is so expensive that I don't know if you can recoup the money to pay back the loans.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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