|Dr. Sophia Balis was raised in Athens, Greece, the eldest of three children.
She enrolled in the University of Athens, School of Dentistry, graduated
with a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree in 1957 and spent 1958 as a
Teaching Fellow in Operative Surgery. Her early experiences shaped her
values and perspective based on community welfare and human rights.
In 1959 she came to the United States, enrolled at the University of Pittsburg and worked as an Intern in Pedodontics and Oral Surgery at the Children’s Hospital, Pittsburg. From 1960-1961 she interned in Oral Surgery at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, and supervised senior dental students in Oral Surgery at the School of Dentistry, Pittsburg.
In 1963 she enrolled at the University of Toronto Dental School, Ontario, Canada and received her second Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1966. She is licensed to practice dentistry in Greece, Canada, and the United States. In 1966 Dr. Balis was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, School of Dentistry (UMDS). She was a lecturer and clinical supervisor of sophomore and junior dental students until she retired in July 1991.
Dr. Balis was the first woman to be appointed to the previously all male faculty of the first dental school in the world, established in 1840. Her career in Dentistry at the UMDS spans more than four decades. She opened the way for women in Dentistry and introduced the study of Humanities in Dental Education. She was the first to initiate programs to prevent caries in children with fluoride application in Baltimore in 1968, now a universal practice. Due to Dr. Balis’ efforts, thousands of women have graduated as dentists and dental hygienists, and achieved academic appointments as faculty members at all levels of training for dental professionals. Dr. Balis has held academic appointments since her graduation in 1959 from the University of Athens. She served as Dental Attending at Kernan Hospital, Supervising Faculty at UMDS, and as president of the Hellenic American Dental Society regional chapter. She presented at the VIII World Congress of Psychiatry, held in Athens, Greece as well as other international conferences. Dr. Balis received grants from the Maternal and Child Health Services Department. Her research focused on periodontal disease in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome. Her lasting contribution to education is her paper on Humanities in Dental Education.
Dr. Balis worked tirelessly in the community promoting dental health education by lecturing in Baltimore City schools. She worked for Baltimore City Health Department and collaborated with the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene. She has membership in the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Balis continued teaching long after her retirement.
She was honored in 1974 by the Who’s Who of American Women, was the winner of the IJ Preneech Prize in Endodontics from the University of Toronto, School of Dentistry and was appointed Professor Emeritus of the University of Maryland Dental School in 2006.
Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2016.
© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2016