Dental Depot may be celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, but Pam Foster is celebrating her 41st anniversary as part of the Dental Depot family. Pam was founder Dr. Glenn Ashmore’s first ever employee, even before Dental Depot was established.
The two have known each other since childhood. Glenn moved to Texas to attend Baylor’s dental school and then served in the Navy. After completing his service, he returned home to Oklahoma City to start his private practice.
“He happened to need a dental assistant, and I was a dental assistant,” Pam said matter-of-factly. “I’ve been with him ever since.”
The original private practice was located at NW 17th St. and Shartel Ave., in Oklahoma City, just 10 minutes from the now Dental Depot Central OKC office. There, Pam, Dr. Glenn and his mother, Pearl, worked out of two operatories.
“[Pearl] was a kind, sweet lady but she could be feisty,” Pam recalled. “She always thought that I worked Dr. Glenn too hard. She would say, ‘I don’t care what he says, you work him too hard.’”
All that hard work paid off, though. Soon the trio began renovating a pair of duplexes at NW 23rd St. and N. Drexel Blvd., that would become the first Dental Depot office. The new office had five operatories. The trio’s patient list grew thanks to Pearl’s networking ability and to an ad they placed in the phone book. The ad announced the budding company’s emergency service, where patients needing emergency dental attention could call a number to set up a time to be seen by a dentist outside of regular business hours. Often, the patients who came in for emergency service became regular patients because of the friendly service.
Soon enough, Dr. Glenn’s children came along to the office with him, and both got a taste for dentistry with Pam and Pearl watching them.
“Casey was very inquisitive, he always wanted to know why and how,” Pam recalled. “When Pearl would watch him, they would read together. He was a very smart kid.”
“Cody was cute,” Pam laughed. “She would come into the office and talk to dad quite a bit. She’s a hard worker and cares a lot.”
Dr. Glenn and his kids weren’t the only Ashmores around, either. Pam also worked with Dr. Glenn’s cousin, Dr. Winn Ashmore, who still works out of the Central OKC office with his sister.
“Dr. Winn and I would have water fights every now and again,” Pam said. “If we were walking by his operatory, he might get you with the water syringe!”
And a far more sobering moment in our collective history made an impact on Pam and our Dental Depot family. Pam and the team were at the office like any another other Wednesday when on April 19th, 1995, they felt the shake of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing.
“It was really, really loud. You could hear it,” Pam said. “Dr. Glenn was in the middle of seeing a patient so I went out to see what it was because everyone was wondering. You could just see this big plume of smoke.”
Pam went back inside and they gathered around a small TV to try and learn about what was going on, because at the time, the office didn’t have computers.
“We had two of our patients who died in that disaster,” Pam said. “We had to find dental records for them. It was such a sad time, you could see it in everybody’s attitudes and demeanors. I couldn’t believe it.”
Over time the office’s patient list had grown, and in the early 2000s, with Dr. Glenn’s two children out of the house and away at college, he had too much time on his hands. He decided to expand by building a second office at SW 104th and Western Ave.
Pam was getting ready for the day when she turned on the news to discover that a late night fire had burned down much of the original office. As the Ashmores and the rest of their employees started to learn of the fire, they decided to head to the office to see just how extensive the damage was.
Thankfully, 90% of the charts were salvageable. A mobile office was brought on site and a warehouse was rented to sort out the damaged remains. Phones were set up and they got to work to find places for their doctors to work until the new office would become ready..
“It wasn’t quite six months before we got over [to the South OKC Office]. We got at least the west wing where we could start practicing,” Pam said. “You can go to our office [on 23rd] and see some of the charts that have burned edges.”
Over the years Pam has held many roles. While Pam started as an assistant, she later became the office manager of Dental Depot Central OKC, a position she held for more than 20 years. When Dr. Glenn decided to practice fewer days a week, Pam decided it was time for a change as well. Now, she works as his patient care coordinator on Mondays and Tuesdays when he’s in the office and travels to our other locations the rest of the week to train up-and-coming employees.
One story in particular from her assisting days stood out. She and Dr. Glenn were seeing a patient and Pam had the water syringe.
“I reached over to get something and when I turned back around I was squirting Dr. Glenn in the face and his hair and I was so embarrassed,” Pam said with a laugh. “It’s something he may not remember, but it’s something I’ll never forget!”
Dr. Glenn laughed it off. Probably.
Over the years Pam has learned that having her priorities in order has made her life happy and healthy and that same mindset has helped shaped the culture of the Dental Depot. The focus for Pam is faith, family and then work – advice that her own mother passed down to her.
While Pam says more of her time is spent at work than at home, she’s still made the most of her life. She and Jesse celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this month and just returned from a vacation to Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“You have to take the good with the bad to make a marriage last,” Pam advised. “We all have things we do and we have to compromise, and that’s something you have to learn in a marriage.”
Jesse is a retired school teacher and enjoys his free time, but Pam isn’t done working just yet. She says she can’t sit at home without anything to do. When she’s not at work she enjoys volunteering with her colleagues, especially at the Toby Keith Foundation’s OK Kids Korral, a home away from home for families traveling to Oklahoma City for pediatric cancer treatment.
“I went with our first group about two or three years ago,” Pam said. “I like going over there, even when it’s just to clean and help them out. That’s probably my favorite thing we do.”
“Respect others and treat them as you would want to be treated,” Pam said. “Love for the Lord makes you love others. I try to be helpful and respectful to each patient. I feel that that is part of what makes Dental Depot work, too.”
Pam and Jesse have two grown daughters, four grandchildren and their first great-grandchild will be born in June. Pam and Jesse spend their time at Lake Tenkiller where he likes to fish and Pam enjoys lounging on the deck. Their current project together involves remodeling their bathroom.
When she’s at home, Pam enjoys spending time with her two Yorkies, Missy and Onie. The dogs keep them busy with mischief and Onie would sneak out of the house often. Returning from dinner one day, Jesse noticed a Yorkie down the block so he went to pick it up and bring the dog back home.
“Your dog got out again,” Jesse had said, and was surprised when Pam told him it wasn’t their dog. They called their vet to check the tags – which belonged to a bulldog – and decided to keep the pup.
Pam was nominated by her team at Dental Depot Central OKC and at our Executive Leadership Office (ELO).
“Pam Foster is the cornerstone of the Dental Depot. She was the first employee hired, the first Dental Assistant, the first employee trained by Pearl, the first employee promoted , the first non-family Office Manager and now holds the title of the longest employed! She is the epitome of our Mission Statement and daily teaches all of us how to do it the Dental Depot Way. Thank you Pam for your leadership, professionalism and kindness.” – Sandy Pembroke, director of accounting.
“Pam always goes above and beyond to help everyone at Dental Depot, Pam truly demonstrates Dental Depot’s Core Values. Pam always has a smile on her face and is ready to serve our patients and help new PCC’s grow! I adore Pam Foster!” – Rebecca Sommer, director of office management
“Every employee at Dental Depot should strive to be more like Pam. She is kind hearted, hard-working, honest, compassionate. I could go on and on about how amazing she is. She leads by example, and makes the most of her time and inspires others to do the same. Having worked for Dental Depot, well for a long time. She deserves to be EOM so we can recognize her for all of hard work and dedication, and to show her how much we all appreciate her!” – Brittany Ritchie, patient accounts service trainer
“After my initial interview as a Patient Coordinator I was told I would have a working interview at 23rd St. At this point of my life I was fresh out of college & had never done a working interview so I was very nervous! When I got there I met Brian Ward [office manager, Dental Depot Central OKC] and he introduced me to the lovely Pam Foster. I quickly observed how much respect her fellow employees gave her and how elegant she carried herself. That day Pam showed me the ropes and kept me engaged the entire time. She may not remember that day but when I went home I wanted to be a Pam Foster. A woman to be admired, respected, and passionate. I felt so empowered and motivated. I just want to say thank you Pam, thank you for everything you stand for and have done for all of us. You’re amazing!! God Bless!” – Nicole Wittmann, accounting assistant
“Pam is an exceptional employee and as a person there is no one kinder. With her compassion and empathy she treats everyone, patient and coworkers alike. She exudes the core values of the company. I have grown significantly because of her guidance and look forward to many more years of working with her.” – Jill Goldie, business office training specialist
Dental Depot is a locally owned and operated family company. As such, we believe that the incredible group of doctors, hygienists, assistants and staff that make up Dental Depot are more than their job titles; they’re members of our extended family. In our family, we like to recognize when someone goes above and beyond, living the Dental Depot values. This May, we are proud to shine a spotlight on Employee of the Month Pam Foster.