A visit to the dentist office for a cleaning can sometimes get confusing for patients at St. Mary’s Dental in Mechanicsville, Maryland. That’s because one of the dentists, Dr. Kara Demer, B.S. ’10, biological sciences, and one of the dental hygienists, Audrey Kimmel, are twins. And they both look remarkably similar to the dentist who owns the practice—their mother, Dr. Gina McCray, B.S. ’82, zoology.
While dentistry is a family affair for these ladies, their collective passion for the University of Maryland and its programs also runs deep.
“We truly are a Maryland family,” says McCray, who met her husband, Milton, on campus when they were students.
McCray chose College Park for its location and reputation. She loved attending sporting events and being able to participate in a wide range of activities. Looking back, she says Maryland really prepared her for dental school at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she received her D.D.S. degree in 1987.
A few years later, McCray bought St. Mary’s Dental, and her daughters grew up helping around the office. When the time came for the twins to attend college, both followed in their mother’s footsteps to College Park with plans to pursue dental careers.
“I chose Maryland because I knew it was one of the top schools, and it offered a physiology and neurobiology specialization that always interested me,” says Demer, who followed up her bachelor’s degree by earning a D.D.S. degree in 2014 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Kimmel also attended UMD, but later transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she received her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene in 2013. After graduation, she went to work at the family dental practice while she continued her academic pursuits, earning her MBA in 2015.
Today, McCray says she is “tremendously blessed and grateful” to work side-by-side with her daughters.
“My daughters do my personal dental work too, which says a lot about how much I trust them,” remarks McCray.
Impressively, the family keeps a strict divide when it comes to work and family.
“When we are at work, we are truly colleagues—we’re not mother and daughters,” says McCray. “And we don’t bring work home. We’re able to separate the family aspect from the workplace.”
However, that work-family separation doesn’t stop them from working together to give back to their community. In fact, community outreach plays a big role in the practice. The office participates in the Crown Council, an alliance of dental teams passionately committed to protecting oral health and serving their communities through charitable work. Currently, St. Mary’s Dental has teamed with the Smiles for Life Foundation on a teeth-whitening campaign to raise money for children’s charities.
“Serving the community I was raised in is fulfilling and certainly makes me feel connected to the patients and their families,” says Demer.
The women also welcome the chance to share their knowledge with aspiring students. McCray regularly invites pre-dental students from UMD to shadow her staff at the practice and has a dental assistant program taught at her office to students from the College of Southern Maryland.
Over the summer, she was also excited to mentor her 13-year-old niece, Natalie Plantamura. The teenager from Georgia already dreams of following in her aunt’s footsteps—and already has her heart set on attending UMD when the time comes.
Written by Rachael Romano
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- Aspiring Humanitarians: Meet four University of Maryland undergraduates who plan to pursue careers in medicine.
- Supporting Aspiring Humanitarians: The University of Maryland's Reed-Yorke Health Professions Advising Office is dedicated to helping students who want to pursue a medical career after college.
This article was published in the Fall 2016 issue of Odyssey magazine. To read other stories from that issue, please visit go.umd.edu/odyssey.