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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

April 10, 2015  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

St. Pete dentist to receive Breaking Glass Ceiling award


Dr. Charlene Wygodski Dr. Charlene Wygodski Dr. Charlene Wygodski, a dentist from St. Petersburg, is one of four women selected to receive the 2015 Breaking the Glass Ceiling Awards by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU).

The awards ceremony, Sunday, April 19 at 2 p.m., will feature the honorees discussing obstacles they faced and how they broke through the proverbial glass ceiling in professions normally dominated by men.

Along with Wygodski, the honorees are Suzanne Lasky-Gerard of Miami, television reporter and executive; Amy Singer, Ph.D., of Fort Lauderdale, a jury consultant, and Elayne Weisburd, the first female commissioner of the city of Miami Beach.

Wygodski said she was delighted to be named an award recipient and looks forward to the presentation ceremony in Miami Beach.

Since establishing the award in 1995, the Jewish Museum of Florida has honored more than 80 women from across the state, representing a wide variety of fields such as medicine, banking, accounting, academia, politics, law, aviation, journalism, sports and entertainment. Nominees are also judged based upon activities in the Jewish and civic communities and serving as role models for other women.

“This event is always an uplifting experience,” said Tamra Sheff-man, a chair of the award committee. “We especially encourage students to attend, as it is such an inspiration to hear these women’s personal stories of their often rocky paths to success.”

Wygodski was one of the first women to earn a doctor of dental surgery degree from Emory University, and in 1986 she became the first Jewish female dentist to practice in St. Petersburg.

Wygodski, who specializes in treating children, practices alongside her husband Dr. Steven Bloom, a general and cosmetic dentist.

Wygodski said at the time she received her degree, women students made up only about 10 percent of the dental school class, while in many other nations the percentage of women dentists was much higher.

She said she felt the “good old boy network” had not entirely ceased to exist and that there were probably some school officials who felt that the women in the dental school should not be there – that they were taking a seat that a male applicant should have had.

Women did not get as much support as boys to study math and science when she was growing up and that likely led to fewer dental school candidates, she said. But Wy- godski said her parents “were great role models and placed a very high priority” on her getting a good education. She said she is grateful for that.

Being the first woman Jewish dentist in St. Petersburg was not a hardship in terms of attracting patients, Wygodski said, because she was returning to her hometown and had contacts.

Getting a loan to set up her practice, however, was a challenge and she was required to get a co-signer, even with her DDS degree.

“I can tell you the challenges for women dentists are diminishing,” Wygodski said. “If schools still carry a bias, it is decreasing and I believe this is a good time for women to become dentists and that in the future women may change the way dentistry is practiced, and do so in positive ways.”

Following graduation from dental school, Wygodski volunteered on a kibbutz for the American Dental Volunteers for Israel. Her volunteerism has continued throughout her professional career with the Pinellas County Health Department dental clinic, Head Start Program, Rotary Dental Mission to Mexico, and the annual Give a Kid a Smile program.

The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Wygodski is a second-generation board member of the Florida Holocaust Museum and Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg.

In 2014, she received the Maimonides Society’s Alfred M. Schick MD Memorial Award for her outstanding commitment to the medical community and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties.

Wygodski and her husband have two children, Matthew and Jeremy, both in their 20s.

***

Cost to attend the program is $15 for JMOF-FIU members; $20 for nonmembers; free for students. To RSVP, email membership@jewishmuseum.com or call (786) 972-3164.

The Jewish Museum is at 301 Washington Ave. on South Beach.


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