Dr. Sharon Parsons

Dr. Sharon Parsons is the 2023 recipient of the Ohio Dental Association Joseph P. Crowley Distinguished Dentist Award.

Dr. Sharon Parsons is a leader in organized dentistry, demonstrating strong leadership in particular through the COVID-19 pandemic. For her efforts, she will receive the 2023 Ohio Dental Association Joseph P. Crowley Distinguished Dentist Award on Friday, Sept. 22 at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 157th ODA Annual Session.

“Dr. Parson’s commitment, dedication and leadership in dentistry has not only had a positive impact on how dentistry is practiced in Ohio for many years, but also – and most notably – her leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of dentistry in Ohio served as a model for the country,” wrote Dr. Kyle Bogan on behalf of the Columbus Dental Society Honors and Awards Committee in his nomination letter.

Parsons said she is very humbled and honored to receive the award.

When Parsons was growing up, her orthodontist talked to her about becoming a dentist.

“I was raised in Newark, a small town, in the ’60s,” Parsons said. “I had never seen a female dentist, and when he said ‘why don’t you think about being a dentist,’ what popped out of my mouth was ‘girls aren’t dentists!’ He said ‘you can be whatever you want.’”

A few years later when Parsons was in high school, her father took her to the library to research different professions. When he dropped her off, he asked her to consider whether she wanted to depend on a man to live.

“So that made me think about it more seriously,” she said. “I talked to my orthodontist again and the rest is history.”

Parsons earned her DDS degree from The Ohio State University in 1981 and she was the first in her family to go to college. She was accepted into dental school after three years in undergrad at OSU and at that time dental school was three years, so at age 24 she went into private practice as an associate dentist. She now practices in Columbus, where she has owned her practice since 2007.

Parsons said her favorite part about being a dentist is the patients.

“A lot of people see their dentist more than their physician,” she said. “I’ve watched families grow up, I’ve attended weddings and funerals; I feel like an extended part of their family. Not a day goes by that a patient doesn’t hug me. Knowing I’ve made a difference makes it all worthwhile, that really is what does it for me.”

Parsons has been a leader in organized dentistry, serving as president of the Ohio Dental Association during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“Undoubtedly, Dr. Parsons is best known by dentists in Ohio for her unwavering leadership through the most challenging time our profession has seen in recent times – the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated shutdown of dentistry in Ohio,” Bogan said. “I had the privilege of working with her as chair of the 2020 ODA Annual Session, and that allowed me to see her devotion to the profession firsthand. Not only was Ohio able to be one of the first states in the country that allowed dentistry to fully reopen, but also, we were able to quickly and innovatively pivot our annual meeting to meet the educational needs of our members. Dr. Parson’s swift action and leadership as president of the Ohio Dental Association allowed all dentists in Ohio to continue to safely protect our businesses and provide the care our patients desperately needed – she truly exhibited the virtues of a distinguished dentist.”

As president, Parsons brought together a group of people to help guide the profession during the pandemic and shutdown.

“The thing is we didn’t know. Now we look back and have the advantage of knowing what the disease is,” she said. “But we didn’t have any answers, and we had to walk that tightrope between helping dentists not go bankrupt and keep their practices open and keeping patients safe.”

She added that working with ODA Executive Director David Owsiany during the pandemic was an amazing experience.

“He really put in 110%, and I don’t think that people realize everything that went into that and how much effort he puts in,” she said. “None of this could have happened without him.”

As president, Parsons also formed the Opioid Coalition, which includes representatives from the ODA, medicine, pharmacy, the addiction recovery community and other relevant groups and works to share information about addiction prevention and any new emerging substance abuse issues.

Parsons and her family have been directly affected by the opioid crisis and addiction. Her son, Sean Herman, died from an overdose in 2016. Since then, Parsons has worked to educate dentists on the potential dangers of over prescribing opioids and how addiction is affecting families. She has presented as part of an online opioid CE course for the ODA, and she has presented to multiple component dental societies in Ohio, ODA Leadership Institute, Lucy Hobbs Project events and Smile Con for the American Dental Association.

She has served on many councils and committees with the ODA including as chair of the Council on Dental Programs and Dental Practice and is currently chair of the ODA Services Corp. She has served on many councils and committees with the Columbus Dental Society and served as president in 2015.

Parsons said she thinks organized dentistry is important because it does something no one else can do: advocate on behalf of the profession.

“Anyone who’s done any work with Day at the Statehouse or talking to lawmakers knows that if you don’t represent over 50% of your organization, they really don’t care what you have to say,” Parsons said. “There’s no standing in their eyes. And there is no other organization that can say its numbers are over 50% of practicing dentists, and that’s why it’s so important for people to join and do their part. People want a piece of us, people think dentistry is a good thing and they’d like to have a piece of the pie. If we don’t keep control, once you lose it, you never get it back.”

Parsons is a member of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, International College of Dentists, American College of Dentists and Association of Women Dentists.

Outside of dentistry, Parsons enjoys gardening, bike riding, hiking, traveling, reading and cooking.

She would like to recognize her son Michael, who practices dentistry with her, and her son Sean, who encouraged her to run for president of the ODA and serve as a role model for other women dentists.

The Joseph P. Crowley Distinguished Dentist Award is the ODA’s most prestigious award. It is given to a leader in the profession committed to the advancement of dentistry who is dedicated and committed to organized dentistry at the local, state and national level.