Growing up in Belarus, Olga Smutko, DDS, was an aspiring ballerina. She was accepted into the esteemed Belorussian National School of Ballet, where she trained from age 10 until age 18. Then, her family moved to Gilbert, Arizona, in search of better work opportunities, sending her dancing in a different direction, altogether.
“As a child, in Belarus, I loved ballet. But in the United States, I had different opportunities and my interests shifted. I met a dentist here, Dr. Elliott, and she was the most delightful person I ever met. She inspired me,” recalls Dr. Smutko. “In Belarus, we didn’t have much dental care, and she was my first dentist in the U.S. She made such a difference. I wanted to make a difference the way she did, so I decided to study dentistry.”
Following high school, Dr. Smutko attended and graduated from Arizona State University, with a degree in microbiology. She then applied and was accepted into the prestigious University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco. During dental school, Dr. Smutko was at the top of her class and was introduced to oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS), as part of her training. However, she was encouraged not to pursue it as a career choice.
“I liked everything about oral and maxillofacial surgery. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I loved it. It built character and we made such impactful changes to people’s lives. I loved everything about it – but – at that time, if you were female, you were supposed to be interested in pediatrics, not surgery. I was literally told that surgery is not for women,” says Dr. Smutko. “That was 20 years ago, so hopefully things have changed some, since then.”
“After carefully considering all the options available to me,” continued Dr. Smutko. “I decided to practice general dentistry, like Dr. Elliott, who first inspired me.”
Dr. Smutko graduated Magna Cum Laude from dental school and began practicing general dentistry. She quickly gained a reputation for clinical excellence and exceptional patient care. As a dentist, Dr. Smutko enjoyed treating patients and making a difference in their lives. But, she felt like an important part of her was missing.
“I am grateful for my time practicing general dentistry — it taught me so much – but I missed the surgery aspect,” explains Dr. Smutko. “I learned that I enjoyed dentistry, but that I was truly passionate about oral and maxillofacial surgery. I really wanted to impact my patients’ lives at the surgical level, whether it was ‘for women’ or not – so I decided to pursue my passion.”
Dr. Smutko applied for and was accepted into the OMS residency training program at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. The four-year program accepts only three residents per year. Dr. Smutko completed the program, receiving her OMS certificate, after extensive training in dental implants and related procedures, maxillofacial trauma, orthognathic surgery and anesthesiology.
After graduating, Dr. Smutko joined Berkeley-Orinda Oral Surgery, in Berkeley, California. As part of the OMS team there, Dr. Smutko practiced the full scope of oral and maxillofacial procedures for several years, prior to relocating her family back to Arizona. She continues to live in Arizona today, where she is raising three young children and is a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon with Guyette Facial & Oral Surgery Center, a USOSM partner practice with locations in Avondale and Scottsdale, Arizona.
“Women surgeons are often discouraged from having families. We’re told, ‘you shouldn’t have kids,’ and that, ‘you can’t be good at both.’ While it is challenging to do both and to do them both well, it’s definitely possible. If that’s important to you, then it’s worth the effort,” notes Dr. Smutko. “I’m fortunate to have practice partners who are supportive of that.”
Guyette Facial & Oral Surgery Center was founded by Robert Guyette, DMD, MD, one of Dr. Smutko’s practice partners and a leader in the OMS profession. Dr. Guyette and Dr. Smutko practice the full-scope of oral and maxillofacial procedures. Patients come to their state-of-the-art clinic from all over the general Phoenix area and beyond.
“My partner, Dr. Guyette, is an absolute icon, here in the valley and throughout the OMS profession. He has so much experience and wisdom. He has been a tremendous mentor to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” says Dr. Smutko. “Our care philosophy boils down to excellent patient care. We try to focus on all of our patients as people, not as medical conditions. People have emotions, thoughts, anxieties – like we all do. It’s not just about what’s bothering them in their face or mouth – it’s about the whole person.”
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