Faculty and Staff

Long-time staff member puts the “assist” in assistant

Deb York, with Carolina mascot Rameses, assists in the Dental Faculty Practice business office at Adams School of Dentistry.

Deb York assists in the Dental Faculty Practice business office at ASOD.

Deb York’s longtime dental career got started because she didn’t like to type. But she did like her dentist, and was inspired to become a dental assistant, attending the then-Alamance Technical Institute and completing a 1-year program.

Since 1968, York, 75, has been a dental assistant, getting her first job at UNC along with some girlfriends. York hails from Liberty, North Carolina, and moving to a larger city was a bit of a shock at first. “It was country come to city. It was an eye opener!” she said. She spent the next six years working in endodontics, then tried private practice for a while, before returning to UNC, where she assisted with prosthodontics.

“I have worked with some of the best clinicians here. They didn’t treat me like an employee; they treated me like I’m part of a family,” she said. “Dentistry has changed a lot, and they taught me a lot.”

York puts the “assist” in assistant, and during her time at ASOD, has worked in different specialty areas across the dental spectrum, including periodontics, the pain clinic and oral medicine. Instead of filling teeth, she filled in – helping out whenever a clinic was short a dental assistant or someone needed an extra pair of hands.

“When you’re a dental assistant in a large area, you might need to help your dental assistant friends,” she said. “We’re always helping people out with whatever they need. It made you feel like you were needed.”

York with her two daughters.

While some areas weren’t the right fit for York, there were others she enjoyed.

“Prosthodontics was the best,” she said. “When someone comes in and can’t chew or has cosmetic issues, and they’re almost crying because of the change, it’s exciting. It can change how you look, how you feel.”

York enjoys traveling to new places.

York found the work stimulating and also developed great relationships with the people she worked alongside during her years as adental assistant, and she is still friends with many of them, including ASOD’s Ken May, DDS, and Frank Brantley, DDS, and their spouses. They often meet up for birthdays and other events, and she even travels with a friend she made during her time as an endodontics dental assistant.

“Meeting all the different kinds of people was fun,” she said. “Dentistry’s been my life, and I love it. I treasure the friendships I’ve made and everything I’ve learned.”

Even though she “retired” in 2015, York has continued to fill in. She’s assisted in specialty areas, worked in the DFP business office, coming back by request and assisting with varied tasks and helping keep the office running. She’s in the office twice a week these days, but when she finally walks away from dentistry for good, you’ll find her in her garden among her plants or on a trip with a friend.

“I like to get out of the house, and you can’t garden seven days a week,” she laughs. “I enjoy the interaction. And [working in the business office] gives me a little money to travel with. It’s a nest egg for my hobbies.”

York has a unique perspective, as she’s seen ASOD grow and change from her first days as a dental assistant in the late ‘60s.

“Dentistry’s always evolving, from the time I started to when I stopped, it’s amazing how much it changed for the good,” she said. “When I got here I was the youngest dental assistant, and when I retired, I was the oldest.”