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Carrying the Torch: Dr. Hollie Ellis’ Journey from Inheriting Her Father’s Legacy to Mentoring the Next Generation of Dentists

Articles, Practice Life

By Ethan Webb, Managing Editor of Dental Lifestyles Magazine

Dr. Hollie Ellis’ journey into dentistry began long before she ever set foot in a dental school. Growing up as the daughter of a dentist and a dental hygienist, she was immersed in the world of dentistry from a young age. Hollie’s earliest memory of her father’s profession was at the tender age of four, standing on a chair and proudly proclaiming, “That’s my daddy!” as he graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.

Despite this early exposure, Hollie initially pursued a different career path. After earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, she soon found that engineering wasn’t her “true calling.” She then obtained a master’s degree in public health and biostatistics from George Washington University but, again, Hollie felt unfulfilled. It wasn’t until Hollie’s father suffered a cardiac event that she had the profound realization that dentistry was what she was destined to do. As she sat by his bedside in the hospital, she reflected on her own life choices and the impact she wanted to make in the world. 

This turning point led Hollie to reconsider dentistry, and she soon enrolled in the University of Maryland School of Dentistry—the same institution where, years earlier, she had witnessed her father’s achievement as a jubilant little girl. Hollie embarked on her journey to earning a DDS with a newfound sense of purpose and a desire to carry on her family’s legacy of compassionate care.

Hollie will forever cherish the mentorship—and memories—that came from working side-by-side with Dad.

One of the most influential experiences in Hollie’s dental career was the opportunity to practice alongside her father for five years before his retirement. During this time, he served as her mentor, guiding her through the transition from the academic setting to the realities of clinical practice. 

Hollie cherishes the memories of working side-by-side with her father, blessed with lifelong lessons from the expertise and compassion he exhibited daily. Currently practicing in her hometown of Sykesville, Maryland, Dr. Ellis still abides by the invaluable wisdom her father bestowed upon her—from the technical aspects of dentistry to the importance of building strong patient relationships.

Beyond the clinical realm, Hollie’s father also helped her navigate the business side of running a dental practice—even after he retired—between ordering supplies, hiring staff, introducing new services, and more. She particularly values this aspect of her father’s mentorship because—as many new dental school graduates eventually learn the hard way—dental school never really taught Hollie much about how to run a business efficiently.

“Listen to your elders.”

When she entered her father’s practice, Hollie readily embraced new dental technologies—such as lasers and advanced tools—which sometimes contrasted with her father’s more traditional approach. 

As a dentist from a younger generation, Hollie was savvy with the evolving nature of dentistry and the importance of staying current with the latest tools and techniques. She wholly believed that embracing change was essential to providing the best possible care for her patients, and she also understood the value of continuing education. Thus, Dr. Ellis regularly attended courses and workshops to expand her knowledge and skills, constantly pushing the envelope. Meanwhile, her father mostly stuck with what he was comfortable with, reluctant to embrace the latest advancements and modernities within his dental practice and often resisting any substantial changes.

The contrast between Hollie’s and her father’s attitudes toward technology exemplifies the generational divide within the contemporary dental landscape. “Old-school” practitioners often clash with their “new-school” counterparts when adopting cutting-edge advancements and evolving best practices, with younger dentists more eager to incorporate these innovations into their work.

For an “old school” dentist to reach their full potential, Hollie firmly believes that a willingness to embrace change is crucial. After all, dentistry is a field where new materials, procedures, and digital tools are continually developing to improve patient care and streamline dental processes. However, Hollie also recognizes the importance of balancing tradition and innovation. She acknowledges that the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by “old-school” dentists is invaluable and that much can be learned from their time-tested methods and dedication to patient relationships. 

From mentee to mentor.

In a poetic twist of fate, Hollie has seamlessly transitioned into the “old-school” dentist role, working hand in hand with her younger associate, Dr. Trevor Golden. Just as her father once passed the torch of knowledge and expertise to her, Hollie has now taken up the mantle of mentorship, guiding Trevor’s professional journey with the same dedication and care.

Believe it or not, Trevor was once a wide-eyed five-year-old patient of Hollie’s father. After completing his dental degree and a challenging one-year residency program, Trevor’s potential and commitment to the craft were unmistakable to Hollie. Recognizing the opportunity to continue the tradition of excellence that her father had instilled in her, she extended an offer for Trevor to join her practice as an associate dentist—a role he embraced enthusiastically.

Over the past six years, Hollie has diligently passed the torch of wisdom to Trevor, sharing the invaluable lessons and insights that her father had once bestowed upon her. This unique mentor-mentee relationship strengthens their professional bond and ensures that the legacy of exceptional patient care and expertise is preserved and carried forward. As Trevor grows under Hollie’s guidance, he becomes a living embodiment of the values and skills passed down through generations of dentists.

Hollie is carrying the torch of compassionate care—both within and outside of her dental practice.

Dr. Ellis takes great pride in displaying her father’s name on the wall of her dental practice, paying homage to the man who constructed the building with his own hands. She speaks fondly of him to her patients, sharing stories and memories that highlight his dedication and craftsmanship. In the waiting room, a photograph of her father takes center stage, ensuring that his presence is felt by all who enter the practice. Through this tribute, Dr. Ellis acknowledges the literal and figurative foundations her father laid, recognizing that his hard work and determination not only built the physical structure but also paved the way for her own success as a dentist.

Hollie’s dedication to her patients would make her dad proud. Her father was the kind of guy who would get out of bed to help a patient with an emergency at two in the morning, and likewise, Hollie is always willing to make house calls to those in need. She understands that for some patients—particularly the elderly or those with mobility issues—accessing dental care can be a challenge. By bringing her services to them, she ensures that everyone in her community can receive the care they need.

Hollie has also found a way to give back to her community outside of her dental practice by volunteering at her local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. She serves as a bartender, using the opportunity to connect with veterans and hear their stories. This experience has been profoundly rewarding for Hollie, as it allows her to express her gratitude and appreciation for those who have selflessly served their country. Hollie’s passion for supporting veterans stems from a personal connection—her son is an active-duty sailor in the United States Navy. In one particularly heartwarming instance, Hollie provided free dental care to an 80-year-old veteran, relining his ill-fitting denture and bringing him to tears with her kindness.

Folks like Hollie are the beating heart of dentistry.

Dr. Hollie Ellis’ journey proves the power of family, mentorship, and compassion in the dental profession. From her early childhood memories of her father’s graduation to her own experiences as a mentor to Dr. Trevor Golden, Hollie’s story is one of legacy, growth, and giving back.

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities of the ever-evolving dental landscape, let us look to role models like Hollie as shining examples of what it means to be a true healthcare provider. With compassion, dedication, and a commitment to lifelong learning, we can build a brighter future for the dental profession—one where every patient feels valued, every practitioner feels supported, and every community thrives.

By sharing stories like Hollie’s, Dental Lifestyles Magazine hopes to inspire and empower dental professionals to lead lives of purpose, balance, and joy. When we take care of ourselves and each other, we can create a world where everyone has a reason to smile.

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