Wade's story as dentist a continuing family saga

March 20, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: The Washington County Commission for Women is trying to document the county's women who were pioneers in their career fields. In honor of Women's History Month, The Herald-Mail is presenting, each Sunday in March, a sample of women who the commission is considering as "firsts" for a book. This is the third in a four-part series.

HAGERSTOWN - Why would a patient prefer a female dentist?

Dr. Margaret Wade has heard at least two reasons.

A woman's smaller hands are less cumbersome when someone is sticking fingers in your mouth.

A woman relates to children better than a man.

Neither generalization is necessarily true, said Wade, who lives and practices in Hagerstown. She called her hands "average to large" for a woman.

Rather, if Wade appeals to prospective patients, she said, it might be because she's a Hagerstown native.

Also, she's carrying on a family business her father, Richard L. Harrison, started in 1953.


Wade, 48, said she is believed to be the county's first female dentist.

She and her father practiced together from 1982 to 2002, when he retired.

A third dental generation is emerging.

Wade said her daughter, Hillary, 21, is scheduled to graduate from Wake Forest University next month.

She then will go to the University of Maryland Dental School - a descendant of the school Richard L. Harrison attended.

Hillary Wade plans to practice with her mother after she's done with school.

Margaret Wade has expanded her office on Howell Road, near Edgewood Drive, from three patient treatment areas to six. When her daughter arrives, she will have four more, for a total of 10.

This might sound like a lot, but factoring in emergencies and the time required to prepare each area between patients, it's not, Wade said.

She has equipped her practice with digital X-ray scans, which patients can see on computer monitors at their seats.

She figured the investment made sense so Hillary will have what she needs when the practice is hers.

"Why stick with old technology?" she said.

Margaret Wade smiled and said her father gave her "gentle encouragement" to go into dentistry. But he urged her to investigate other career fields, too.

Microbiology research at Fort Detrick was interesting, "but not quite it."

Dentistry won out.

"I'm a people person," she said.

Wade went to North Hagerstown High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Hood College. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry in 1982 and joined her father's practice.

Wade's mother, Lois S. Harrison, has been on Washington County Hospital's board of directors for many years and was president of the auxiliary.

Wade said her mother was her father's English teacher at Hagerstown Junior College, which now is Hagerstown Community College.

Hillary has helped her mother at the dental practice and so has Wade's son, Hunter, 19.

Hunter is interested in psychology and music, Wade said. He started at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, then transferred to HCC.

Wade, who has served as president of the Washington County Dental Society, said hers wasn't a tough field for a woman to enter.

Skill and preparation meant more than gender. A dentist needs good manual dexterity and coordination. And posture is important.

But "the big thing is running a small business," Wade said. "You learn that on your own."

Wade said Hillary will have a head start on running a practice.

"She'll be more prepared for dentistry than I was," Wade said.

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