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Dr. Mandy Ashley, Sky Pediatric Dentistry

Story by Emily Robertson

For local pediatric dentist, Dr. Mandy Ashley, time spent all over the world led her here to South Central Kentucky and she couldn’t be happier to be helping the local community stay healthy and happy.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Dr. Ashley graduated high school at the age of 16 and moved to Finland as an exchange student, where she had a very unique experience. “I was in the right place, at the right time and joined a local punk/pop band as their bassist,” Ashley says.

“We competed in Finland’s Eurovision contest in 1992 and in 1993 we got a recording contract. After debating if I should stay and play or start my career, I decided to return to the U.S.” Ashley went on to attend an accelerated college program at Rensslear Polytechnic Institute in New York and graduated after two years. She then began dental school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and also completed a Master’s Degree in Education in the evenings. After graduation, Ashley took a job serving with the Indian Health Service on the northern tip of Alaska in a town called Utqiagvik.

“I thought I would stay one year,” Ashley says. “One year turned into 11 years flying in small Cessnas to villages across the Arctic and providing dental care to entire villages.” While in Alaska, Ashley worked to start a dental assistant training program, campaigned to have fluoride added to the community water supply and started a children’s dental program called the Cavity Free Kids Club.

After six years of working in the Arctic, Ashley took a three-month sabbatical to travel, explore and volunteer with the Smile Train in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her role was to fix the teeth of children undergoing cleft lip and palate surgery. She also helped with the dental needs of family members. While she had an amazing trip and treated nearly 100 children and family members, the experience helped cement in her mind that the day-to-day work she was doing in communities in Alaska was truly making the impact she wanted.

“I left my volunteer experience in Nepal feeling like I could do more if I stayed in my job in Alaska and really committed to educating a workforce who would be there to provide care to their community long after I had moved on,” Ashley says. “I thought volunteering for a short period would give me the fulfillment I was looking for, but it helped me see that committing to a community and educating other healthcare providers is what really creates sustainability and provides better long-term results.”

After several more years in Alaska, and having two children, Ashley decided to move to Columbus, Ohio to complete her Pediatric Dentistry residency, after which, she moved to Bowling Green. After just a few short months in town, she realized it was the place she wanted to raise her family and she started her own practice, SKY Pediatric Dentistry in 2013.

“I chose to become a pediatric dentist because it’s a great profession if you are an optimist,” Ashley says. “There are so many opportunities throughout the day to educate and course correct before irreparable damage is done. I am so thankful to have the chance to change a child’s dental outcome and get them on the right track for a healthy smile.”

Ashley provides dental care for children, as well as people with special needs. She also has advanced training and can provide dental care using nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, conscious sedation and general anesthesia. She strives to make her office a diverse workplace and hopefully help patients of all backgrounds feel welcome. “We have native speakers of Spanish, Bosnian, Arabic, Somali, Burmese, Karen, Karenni and more at our offices,” Ashley says. “I can see how much more comfortable families are when they can communicate in person with someone who understands their language and culture. Providing culturally competent healthcare is one of my personal goals in life and it brings me so much happiness to be able to do that right here in southern Kentucky.”

Ashley is involved in the local Pennyrile Dental Society, as well as the state and national chapters for pediatric dentistry. She also serves on the Warren County Board of Health, as well as the Barren River Health District Board of Health. “I want to make sure oral health is considered a critical part of total body health,” Ashley says. “I also lean on my experience in both the public health sector, and as a business owner in the private sector, to help guide public policy and ensure that children’s dental health remains a priority in our community.”

Outside of work, Ashley loves to spend time with her four children: Asa (14), Sabine (12), Wyatt (10) and Isaiah (7). She also enjoys mountain biking with her children and fiancé, Austin Clark, as well as keeping active in Crossfit. “I love being a pediatric dentist and I am going to keep working as long as I can,” Ashley says. “That’s part of my devotion to Crossfit and core strength. As a woman in my later 40s, it’s important for me to be strong and keep my body in the best condition possible. So many of my dental school classmates from 1999 have already retired. Dentistry is tough on the body with lots of twists, bending, torquing and repetitive movements. I focus on my physical condition outside of work to ensure that I am strong enough to keep doing what I love for years to come.”

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