10 Under 10: Raising profile of diverse leaders ranks high with Maryland new dentist

Fans: Alexandra Fitzgerald, D.D.S., visits the Baltimore Orioles dugout with her husband, Richard. Photos courtesy of Dr. Fitzgerald.

There’s only one stoplight in the Maryland town where Alexandra Fitzgerald, D.D.S., lives. That’s tiny but not so unusual. Funnily enough, the town has no grocery store, but it does have an ice cream parlor, owned by another dentist. That might seem rather ironic, but Dr. Fitzgerald finds it fantastic.

“I am a big fan of that mentality,” she said. “I worked at an ice cream shop when I was shadowing, so I understand the appeal. It’s just fun. Everyone likes ice cream but not as many people like visiting the dentist.”

She could probably argue a pretty persuasive case to doting parents as to why ice cream should co-exist in life with habits that still deliver a clean bill of dental health. The foundation for such debate emerged before her interest in health care was apparent.

“In high school, I thought I was going to be an attorney, to be honest,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s what many people were thinking — maybe Alex will go into law, or she’ll go into policy or maybe even journalism. I liked sciences, and I felt the way I could contribute the most was through health care.”

Her early career path proves that Dr. Fitzgerald, an associate at private practice Colliver Dental Group in Frederick, Maryland, chose well, as she is a 2023 ADA 10 Under 10 Award winner for her early career achievements.


Photo of Dr. Fitzgerald and other leaders
Advocacy: Alexandra Fitzgerald, D.D.S. (center), participates in the 2023 Maryland State Dental Association Dentist Day in Annapolis, Maryland.

Her father was in the armed forces when he met her mother, thus beginning her own story. 

“My mom is from Central America, so I grew up around a pretty diverse cultural group on military bases, plus having a mom who is Latina. My parents met in Panama when my dad was stationed there, so that was integral to my upbringing,” she said.

The itinerant lifestyle continued through her early teens and shaped her perspective in many ways.

“I kind of grew up moving all over the place and having to figure out what I like to do,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “I read books, played with my bike and Barbies, and did a lot of arts and crafts. I did a fair amount of pottery with my friends when I was in middle school. There was a place on our military base where we could paint pottery, so that was always my go-to gift from maybe age 10 to 12 or 13.”

At the University of Maryland, she earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences with a specialization in physiology and neurobiology. A dental exam while she was a college freshman was the inflection point for her choosing to pursue a career in dentistry. She had gone in for a cleaning and left with a potential new career path.

“My dentist was an alum of Maryland,” she said. “She was part of the honors college back in the ‘80s, and I was as well when I was there. She was like, ‘Hey, do you want to come shadow for a day? I’ll buy you lunch.’ I said, ‘Yes, I would love that. I would love to have lunch with you.’ That one day just changed the course of everything. I didn’t consider dentistry until I started to shadow her and I started to see how everything intersected: building relationships with your patients, the hands-on aspects of it, seeing results quickly.”

What Dr. Fitzgerald further learned about dentistry shaped her interests as she earned her dental degree and other credentials. She became increasingly interested in several aspects of the field: access to care, public policy and organized dentistry.

“As I was exploring it a little bit more, I was starting to see discrepancies, particularly in access to care,” she said. “I started volunteering at Mission of Mercy events when I was an undergrad, where we had big pro bono events. Those are great events to address some of these access-to-care issues. But the real way you change it is through legislation — through policy — to change what the system looks like and to put some groundwork in place long term.”


Photo of Dr. Fitzgerald and husband
Partners: Alexandra Fitzgerald, D.D.S., spends time in Baltimore with her husband, Richard.

At the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, from which she graduated in 2018, she was chapter president of the American Student Dental Association. In her state society, she has served as a vice chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee and chair of the New Dentist Committee. She also is chair of the Early Career Committee as a member of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry Board of Directors.

Dr. Fitzgerald is treasurer of the Frederick County Dental Society and president of the Maryland State Dental Association. She jokes she became a treasurer almost by default, but she rose to the challenge for good reasons, even amid other responsibilities.

“I’m organized, and I know how to make a really good Excel spreadsheet,” she said. “And, honestly, I was the only person who said that they would do it — a little reluctantly maybe, but I did it.”

Her desire to serve is multifaceted. As a woman of Latin heritage, she wants to fortify the profession, but she also strongly desires more representation among leadership.

“Personally, part of the reason I got involved was because I wasn’t seeing people who looked like me initially reflected in the leadership, and I wanted to change that,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “I wanted to show people — and inspire people — that it’s possible to get involved at a young age and to make a difference in organized dentistry.”

She suggested that expanding how people can serve has helped younger and more diverse leaders participate. Also: Newer generations appreciate the flexibility in how work is done.

“In trying to get people involved, you have to make it accessible to them,” she said. “One of the benefits of COVID, at least in Maryland, is that a lot of our committee meetings have moved to be on Zoom. I live an hour away from where our headquarters is and I don’t mind driving to headquarters, but other people might. Being able to jump onto Zoom and communicate with people from across the state is a little bit easier to do. I don’t have any children right now myself, but some of my friends do, so being able to balance work-life in your vocations and those extracurricular things that you’re doing can be really difficult to do for new dentists.”


Photo of Dr. Fitzgerald
Leader: Alexandra Fitzgerald, D.D.S., delivers her incoming president's address in September to the Maryland State Dental Association House of Delegates.

Being seen and heard at all levels of the profession, even from the outset, matters, Dr. Fitzgerald said. Seeking to serve early can be intimidating, and comments from veteran dentists can be off-putting.

“Even now, people remind me that my ascension to president-elect and subsequent presidency had been very, very quick because I’m just five years out of school,” she said. “And there’s always the ‘back in my day’ phrase. But ‘back in my day’ was before I was born most of the time. Thankfully, the people who have said that to me, they’re not having that big of an impact on the majority of people. But if that’s the only person that you’ve had an interaction with and you are interested in being involved, it can be discouraging.”

When she imagines possibilities down the line, she can see herself leading her own private practice.

“I still have hopefully a very long career ahead of me,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “That’s integral to why I am involved in the way that I am. I want to see the ADA, the Maryland State Dental Association and organized dentistry as a whole be successful. I think that being able to make those small changes along the way to stay relevant and to make sure that we continue to engage our dentists, especially those who are early career, is fundamental.”

When not ascending the ranks of leadership in organized dentistry, Dr. Fitzgerald is likely — aside from practicing, that is — to be found in a stadium. Having grown up in a baseball-loving family, she attends a lot of Baltimore Orioles games. She has partial season tickets. She even drafted her husband, Richard, whom she wed in 2019, into the family pastime.

“My dad played growing up,” she said. “My little brother has his master’s in athletic training, and he ultimately wants to go into being an athletic trainer for Major League Baseball. I come from a family that just really likes baseball a lot."

Recommended Content


© 2023 American Dental Association