As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. I loved books. In fact, the fresh smell of a brand new book still releases endorphins in my body. Being surrounded by the idea of reading books and learning; seeing the projects of budding minds lining the walls of classrooms, and surrounded by inspiring teachers — it all captivated me as a little girl. There was something so mysterious and magical about it. I was in awe of those teachers who stood out to me — those who provided a safe space, without judgement and who I experienced as smart and aware, patient and kind. That impact on me translated into a strong desire to one day be someone who would make a difference like that for others.
Fast forward to graduating high school and the prospects of what was next — it was not very promising for me, or so I thought. I wasn’t aware of the opportunities that were out there. I didn’t have the mentorship or support of anyone who could guide me. I, as many had, slipped through the cracks of guidance counselors and social workers. At the time, the circumstances I was living in demanded that I have a job that could support me living on my own immediately after high school. Therefore, the idea of any college seemed unlikely and university, impossible. It was simply a random day when I opened up the yellow pages (the literal yellow book of advertisements) with a curiosity as to what type of work or schooling might be out there. I landed on a half-page advertisement that promised a rewarding career, full training, ﬁnancial assistance, job placement and the prestige of working in the healthcare industry for those who love to help others. I can still remember taking the bus to my appointment, walking into the halls of that building and sitting in the student directors ofﬁce. It was a slow-motion moment. I sat there in total disbelief about the opportunity that was being presented to me. My tuition, books, uniform and all my supplies would be paid for with a grant which they researched and found was available to me. I didn’t even think about it or consider any other option. I had an out-of-body experience as I watched my hand sign the enrollment forms. In that moment, I committed to the dental assisting program. Six months later, I graduated. Their resources facilitated my testing to become a RDA and the program even located an ofﬁce for me to start working in immediately. I made more money than I ever thought was possible at my age. I honestly believed the heavens had opened up and showered me with grace. I was the luckiest girl in the world. And, truly felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Looking back, that feeling has been the theme of my entire career in dentistry.
Very soon after starting my career in dental assisting, I relocated and landed a job in a large group practice with even greater opportunity to grow. My time with this practice was a span of just over 15 years. My experience there expanded my personal and professional life in ways I never could have imagined. I became reunited with a foster parent with which I had lost touch — he came into the ofﬁce as a new patient never knowing I was working there. We established an amazing father-daughter relationship that still exists today. I worked with some of the most incredible associates that came through that practice. One doctor in particular, Dr. Oliver, kept nudging me to go back to school. She would tell me that I was a leader and should pursue becoming a dentist or at the very least, a hygienist. Every morning she would see me she would say, ‘What are you doing here? I thought I told you to go back to school.”. I had no clue as to what she was talking about. Honestly, I was just a kid at 19 years old and couldn’t see what it was in me that she could clearly see. Besides, I loved my job and couldn’t image anything more rewarding at the time. After Dr. Oliver left the practice, her voice kept haunting me and I became more curious about what she meant. When I ﬁnally summoned the courage to go back to school, the owners of the practice adjusted my schedule to accommodate every semester from day one of my prerequisites to the day I graduated hygiene school. At the time, I needed to work as much as possible in order to survive. I was going through a painful divorce and struggling against the urge to drop out of school in order to replace my fears with the quick and easy ﬁx of a full-time income — which is how I saw it at the time. With the encouragement and support of both doctors, I not only stuck it out and survived, my life would be changed forever. No one had ever shown up for me in the way they had. To say I was grateful wouldn’t even come close to the emotion that ﬁlled my heart. They offered me a hygiene position I couldn’t refuse and I stayed with them until they sold their practice. I am forever grateful to those men for seeing something greater in me than I saw in myself and for holding a huge space for me to step into.
In that practice, I also became great friends with Maria. She was one of the women who worked in the admin area of the practice. We would lose touch when she moved on but, would later reconnect in a way that is as magical as magic gets. I love telling the story so, if you are ever curious, just ask me and I will share it with you. Maria and I would work together again to grow a different practice — I, as the hygienist and she as the ofﬁce manager. We would then become business partners and build an incredible ﬁnancial nest egg for ourselves and opportunity for others. We became immersed in personal and leadership development together. We were traveling, growing and having the time of our lives. Many years would pass before we would each embark on the world of coaching and consulting dental practices. Maria got a head start but, would come to invite me to train with her and even landed me my ﬁrst client. She still refers some of the most amazing teams to me and we remain dear friends to this day — she’s a keeper!
As I began my hygiene career, one of the owners of the practice shared an exciting opportunity with me. He introduced me to a team of successful dentists across the U.S. who would open my world to opportunities outside the comfort zone of practicing hygiene. It was perfectly aligned with my love for patient care, serving the industry and using my experience and networking with colleagues to grow professionally. It would come to be the most exciting time in my career — personally and ﬁnancially. It was my introduction to personal development which created breakthroughs for me that I never knew were possible. I developed relationships with people all across the U.S. and Canada that would forever impact my life — many of whom, I maintain amazing relationships with today. It gave me the courage to look outside myself and create opportunity for others to have transformation in their lives. I am forever indebted to the gentlemen and women who coached, trained and lifted me up during those years. There are too many to name. However, I remain closely connected to two of them who are like family and will always be in my life.
There are countless stories of the evidence of how this career has shaped me and how it has all brought me to this place today. With the same enthusiasm and respect for this industry which I had in the early days, I feel like I’m just getting started. As I leap into a new phase in my career, I am honored that I get to create a life through my career which I am truly in love with. Today, I still practice clinically — because I can and I love it! And, I did not have the opportunity to have children so, Hygiene by Design was born. I feel like that little girl has come full circle. Teacher, coach, hygienist — call it what you will. Through synchronicity or by design, I ﬁnd myself being inspired every day by the breakthroughs I see in the teams I work with. I get to be someone who can inspire transformation in the lives of my patients and in the lives of my colleagues and their patients through the work we do. I share this often with my colleagues and teams, I love this career and the opportunities it continues to generously offer me, it has honestly saved my life — more than once!