Ratchford to Retire from Hinman Dental Meeting

Dentistry Today


Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting executive director Sylvia Ratchford will retire in May 2021, following her twenty-fifth Hinman Dental Meeting. Ratchford has led the Hinman Dental Meeting and Hinman Dental Society since 1996. She will continue to serve in the role in some capacity through May alongside her successor, Annette Sullivan, who has been named incoming executive director.

During Ratchford’s tenure, the organization said, it achieved many accomplishments including:

  • Growing the Hinman Dental Meeting to its peak of more than 23,000 attendees and more than 430 exhibiting companies
  • Elevating Hinman to be consistently one of Atlanta’s top 10 professional conferences, contributing an average of nearly $20 million annually to the local economy
  • Expanding the Hinman Dental Society’s membership to more than 800 dentists who volunteer their time to ensure the success of the Annual Meeting
  • Establishing Hinman Dental Society fellowships and scholarships over the past 20 years that have contributed more than $10 million in support of dental education and have benefitted countless students at universities throughout the Southeast

“For the past 24 years, Sylvia has been the lifeblood of Hinman and has played a very critical role in making Hinman the success it is today. She has been a tremendous leader who has been instrumental in growing Hinman and maintaining its position as the premier dental meeting in the country,” said Dr. L. Maxwell Ferguson, chair of the Hinman Board of Trustees.

“We are sad to see her retire, but greatly appreciate her many contributions over the years, including the capable team she has developed. We are fortunate that she is able to stay on through May to work alongside and share her experience with Annette,” Ferguson said.

Ratchford has more than 40 years of experience in the hospitality, meeting planning, and association management industries. Previously, she worked in sales management for nine years at the Westin Peachtree Plaza. She then worked for another nine years at AmericasMart, including the pre-opening of INFORUM, where she was responsible for the marketing and sales of the exhibits and meeting space in all four buildings.

Also, Ratchford has served on the board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and as president of the Southeastern Chapter of the Professional Convention Management Association. She is a longtime member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events as well. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Georgia.

“The past 24 years have been a blessing for me both professionally and personally. My hope is that the many relationships I’ve formed with colleagues and friends, as a result of Hinman and my career in Atlanta, will be lifelong,” Ratchford said.

“Annette is well respected in the Atlanta hospitality community, and I feel confident that Hinman is in very capable hands going forward. I know that the Hinman leadership, members, and staff will support her as well as they have me over the years,” Ratchford said.

A native of Atlanta, Sullivan began working full-time for Hinman this month with the goal of transitioning many of Ratchford’s duties by the end of the year. She brings more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality and meeting planning industry. Most recently, she was a member of the national convention sales team at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Also, Sullivan has worked on the sales team for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and spent 10 years in Washington, DC, working with associations. She worked for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau as well. Prior to working in sales, she served in management roles with the National Association of Computer Consultant Businesses and Associated Builders & Contractors.

“We are thrilled to have Annette join Hinman as our new executive director and lead the meeting into the future. Her experience and unique perspective will play an important role in positioning Hinman for years to come,” said Dr. J. Sedgie Newsom, president of the Hinman Dental Society.

“While she certainly has big shoes to fill, we are confident that Annette has the expertise to guide and shape Hinman and successfully navigate the challenges that the pandemic has created,” Newsom said.

Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University and has been very involved in professional associations and charitable associations in both Atlanta and Washington, DC, Hinman said.

Additionally, Hinman has promoted Lynn Leidel to director of meetings and education. She will assume additional responsibilities that will aid in the transitioning of executive directors. She has been with Hinman for more than 16 years, most recently as senior meetings and education manager.

Leidel is responsible for building and executing the continuing education program for the Hinman Dental Meeting, often coordinating more than 300 courses and more than 80 speakers each year, Hinman said. She also manages the production of Hinman’s publications, special events, and training of volunteer committees.

Before joining Hinman, Leidel worked for the Georgia Lottery Corporation for more than five years. She is a Certified Meeting Planner and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida State University.

Planning is currently underway for the 2021 Hinman Dental Meeting, which will be held March 11 through March 13. The educational program, speakers, and events scheduled for the 2020 meeting will be moved to the 2021 meeting.

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