The 2024 Businesswoman of the Year Is a Proud Living Wage Employer: Meet Dr. Shaina Holman

Dr. Shaina Holman, who moved to Chapel Hill as a teen and attended East Chapel Hill High School, always pictured herself in a career related to medicine or research.

When she went to Duke University, she thought about becoming a surgeon, knowing she is good with her hands. But she wasn’t too keen on the rigor of being constantly on call.

While doing a project for her ethnobiology class in Costa Rica, she saw how dentistry combined her love for people and her love of science, research, art, and community impact.

It started to all click. She could be an entrepreneur, while working regular hours and building a desirable life. She could help underserved communities that don’t have access to regular dental care.

Dr. Holman

In late 2017, Dr. Holman launched her practice – Holman Family Dental Care – on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. “I had one assistant and one office manager,” she says. She paid a living wage from the jump. The practice grew quickly, as nearby businesses moved out and she was able to acquire more space.

“It’s been drinking out of a firehose since the beginning,” she says. To what does she attribute this ascent?

“I used social media a lot early on to let people get to know me personally and share my value system,” she says. Patients made it clear – they wanted to see her. It wasn’t just about her practice accepting their dental insurance. It wasn’t about the location. It was a personal connection. Word spread throughout the community.

“I stick out quite a bit,” says Dr. Holman. She is younger than most other dentists. She is of Indian descent. And she makes it clear that social justice and human rights are a top priority, even when that means a social media post about LGBTQ+ rights garners some nasty responses.

The practice accepts Medicaid. “I’m one of the only dentists in Chapel Hill who will see adults on Medicaid,” she says. “That’s a problem.”

Whitnee Baldwin

But she acknowledges the challenges of accepting Medicaid. The practice loses money because the reimbursement doesn’t cover what a hygienist is paid during a cleaning. And accepting Medicaid can be stigmatized. “If someone doesn’t want to come to my office because I accept Medicaid, that’s OK,” Dr. Holman says. “They are not my people.”

The team also volunteers at pop-up health care clinics, working to combat the grim statistic that multiple counties in our state have no dentists at all.

Dr. Holman’s team is 26 people strong – four dentists, including herself; nine assistants; five hygienists; and eight front office workers. Five current team members joined the practice in its first year, including the office manager, Whitnee Baldwin who started on day one.

The team prioritizes customer service and strives to make the environment a welcoming one. They offer 24/7 online scheduling, and many patients like that they can make an appointment for as early as 7 a.m.

Dr. Holman was just named 2024 Businesswoman of the Year by the The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

She was joined at the awards ceremony by her husband, Trevor – who was her high school sweetheart and who also won a Business Excellence Award from The Chamber in 2022 – and the oldest of their three children, Shreya. In receiving the honor, Dr. Holman was struck that the little things she does to improve her business are apparent to others. “I tend to keep my head down and be really critical of myself and think of how I can do things better,” she says. “It’s nice to know that people notice.”

When her practice first opened, it took a few months to become profitable, but she told staffers: “As soon as I start making a little money, I’m going to get you guys health insurance and 401ks.” She kept her promise.

“Having good people means paying people well, good benefits, treating them well,” she says. “When you’re trying to recruit good employees and patients, you have to communicate your value system around that.”