The Way I See It: Dr. Ety Friedman ’72

Consider this column a virtual office water cooler, a forum for our alumni to offer a glimpse of life as they see it. Whether these insights come at the outset or end of a career or somewhere in between, they might just spark some inspiration for the rest of us.
November 6th, 2018
Dr. Ety Friedman

Dr. Ety Friedman, left, with Dr. Valerie Slater ’18 during a campus visit in fall 2017

What was especially distinctive about your time at the college?

I was an odd addition to my class at Baylor University College of Dentistry in 1969: I was the only woman in a class of 97 men, and I was foreign born with a foreign dental degree. In my class at the University of Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela, only two of the 30 students in the class were men.

Eight years after I graduated from dental school the first time, I moved to Dallas with my husband, an American who was working in Venezuela in the oil industry when we met, and our two young sons aged 3 and 4 ½. I wanted to revalidate my degree so I could practice in Dallas.

I was accepted as an advanced-standing student in the sophomore year after a lengthy interview with the dental school’s department heads and a trip to Houston to take a Sciences Achievement Test as required by Dean Kenneth Randolph. A stipulation was that I take biochemistry again with the freshman class, which meant dedicating an hour of clinical time every week my junior year to attend the class.

What I loved most about dental school the second time was being able to do four-handed dentistry, which was then in its beginnings.

Did your early practice years teach you a thing or two?

My experience probably was different than that of my classmates because at the time there were not too many woman dentists.

After practicing for a while as an associate with another dentist and a few hours a week in public health dentistry, which I had done in my native country, I decided to open my own practice. Surprise of surprises! I could not get a loan unless my husband co-signed. I imagine any of my classmates with a dental degree and potential for a decent income didn’t have to have their wives co-sign.

The bank requirement was so distasteful to me, I decided to pay cash for the equipment needed to open a dental office. I used some inherited money and, with my husband’s help, opened an office with one chair, eventually adding two more chairs.

Over time I hired a dental hygienist plus an office manager and two dental assistants. I practiced in that location for about 15 years. I also worked at the dental school once a week as a clinical instructor in the Department of Endodontics under Dr. Patrick Ferrillo.

How did your professional journey continue?

When my older son got married, I decided to sell my practice. I didn’t want to be tied down with the responsibilities of a private practice and not be able to travel and see my grandchildren and babysit. I went back to work part time in public health at Dental Health Programs in Dallas, which allowed me the option to travel when needed. That way, I worked for another 13 years before I retired in 2001.

Is dentistry something you shared with your children?

As my children grew up, I used to enjoy having them help me in the office during their vacations from school. I don’t know if that experience influenced them in choosing careers in the healing fields, or maybe it is my wishful thinking. Neither of them wanted to be a dentist, but my older son is a cardiologist, and my younger son is a psychologist.

What is the best part of your life these days?

No big responsibilities most of the time. My husband finally retired at 80 — I think he is a workaholic — so we travel, volunteer, take classes and do yoga. We have been blessed with good health, two wonderful sons and a daughter-in-law, and three beautiful and accomplished granddaughters.

— Carolyn Cox