Boyd, who was on the front lines of the AIDS battle early in her practice, is training her poodle Max to help comfort her patients today
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
If going to the dentist makes you nervous, meet Max.
“Max is Dr. Carole Ann Boyd’s standard poodle. He’s being trained as a service dog and right now, he’s better at hand signals than voice commands.
That can be a problem, Boyd said, if her hand is in a patient’s mouth. So she’s working on his verbal skills.
Max was in Boyd’s ninth-floor office on Cole Avenue earlier this week learning office routine. He still needs some work, but pretty soon, the shrill sound of a drill in her office will be offset by Max’s head, whose mane looks like it’s been recently permed, plopped down in your lap.
In addition to his duties as dental assistant, Max has other interests outside the office. Max has his eye on Hollywood. In his spare time, he’s taking classes at What a Great Dog Training Center in Plano and has been going on casting calls.
After one of his first auditions, he was hired for a video that’s already been filmed but hasn’t been released yet. And Max’s chances look good for an upcoming commercial where he’ll play the dog interfering with his owner’s ability to drive.
Despite the fame that Max’s budding Hollywood career may soon bring, his daily work remains in the office where Boyd promised his service would be strictly optional. Her care for patients will be the same no matter what.
Boyd has been practicing dentistry in Dallas since her graduation from Baylor Dental School in 1984. Her first office was in North Dallas, near Medical City hospital, and one of her patients that first year was a commercial pilot. Boyd said as soon as she looked in his mouth, she knew he had candidiasis, also known as thrush, a condition caused when the immune system can’t keep a common yeast in check.
Boyd said that diagnosing the thrush made her realize her patient had AIDS. He died within two weeks, but making that diagnosis led to her gaining a reputation: “You can go to Dr. Boyd and she can tell you if you have AIDS,” the pilot told friends before he died.
This was before there was a reliable, easy-to-get test for HIV, and while she couldn’t always diagnose HIV, Boyd could recognize a variety of opportunistic oral cancers and other diseases that arose as a result of the virus. “That was a scary time for me,” she said. “I got exposed all the time.”
Boyd said dentistry in the 1980s involved a lot more blood than it does now, and it wasn’t until 1984 that dentists first begin wearing gloves. Researchers still didn’t completely understand how AIDS was transmitted then, and the HIV virus hadn’t been discovered yet. So Boyd was tested for AIDS regularly, and once some drugs were available, went on preventive dosages several times in case the virus had transmitted.
Boyd said people were afraid to work in her office, so she recruited her wife, Barbara Hudson, then an executive in marketing at AT&T, to work with her. At one point, she even consulted a mentor about continuing to treat patients with HIV.
“She said, ‘Carole Ann, if you’re not going to do it, who’s going to?” Boyd recalled.
She knew her mentor was right, and instead of refusing to treat those with HIV, she expanded her work with people with HIV.
During the ’80s, Boyd left Dallas for San Antonio for four years to continue her education. While there she helped set up the dental clinic for people with AIDS at UT San Antonio Health Science Center.
“Sometimes we’d lose 10 patients a week,” she said.
When she returned to Dallas, Boyd volunteered at the Nelson-Tebedo dental clinic run by Parkland Hospital. When the county lost its grant, Resource Center went after funding to continue the service and received it, and Boyd helped restart the clinic.
She called her work there “down and dirty” — not only was she providing dental services, she also repainted and helped rebuild the office. It was, she said, some of the most rewarding work she has ever done.
As a result of her work with people with HIV, Boyd’s practice always attracted a large LGBT clientele.
Her work with people with HIV continues. While losing patients to the virus is no longer a weekly event, she’ll occasionally notice something in someone’s mouth.
“I’m seeing things here,” she said she’ll tell a patient. “Your viral load is going up.”
Today, she’s more likely to find signs of STDs during an oral exam. “HPV is huge,” Boyd said, and t hat sexually transmitted virus is causing oral cancer and showing up in young people.
Boyd said she has always made a conscious effort to welcome LGBT clients in other ways, too.
Hudson, she said, was her closest friend since 1981. They’ve lived together since 1988 and married in California in 2013. Yet, when she went to other doctors’ offices as a patient, Boyd couldn’t list Hudson as anything other than a contact.
“When people were still in the closet at work, we listed significant other/spouse,” she said.
Significant other came first on forms printed for her office, because she wanted her patients to know, “I respect you and your relationship.”
Today, LGBT patients make up about half of Boyd’s practice, but she doesn’t hide who she is from the rest of her clients. “They know exactly where they are,” Boyd said, but they’re comfortable with that.
After years of fighting the AIDS crisis on the front lines, Boyd said it’s nice to find a balance in her life — Max, golf, travel (she displays a number of her photos on a video screen in the waiting room), scuba, cooking and classical guitar lessons. And she has Max to help her relax and enjoy it all.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 15, 2016.