Almost 50 Years Ago

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Giggling ladies holding teacups in 1960s style

Almost fifty years ago, my father wished me “good luck” on finding a job where I could ride the Dallas city bus or find a carpool as the “college thing” didn’t work out! Needless to say, I was mortified! “What? No car!!

As “luck” would have it, I found a dental assistant job where I could carpool, and the dentist preferred to train his own assistant “his way”. I loved it. The only problem was I wanted to do the procedures, and I asked too many questions, (so he said).

After a year he said I needed to go to college and then try to get into dental hygiene school. My father was very pleased to ship me off to the middle of the New Mexico desert. Did I happen to mention that my aunt was the Dean of Women at N.M.S.U?  There would not be too much monkey business? Well, that is another story some other time as my cousin was a sophomore there, and we could “fly under the radar” on occasion.

I worked part-time for a dentist who was the university’s sports team dentist. Always learning more because someone took a little bit of extra time to educate and give me a boost in self-confidence. I vowed to pay it forward whenever possible.

In 1970 I was accepted into dental hygiene school in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was certainly an academic struggle for me. At least I didn’t blow out the window in the chemistry lab like I did at SMU the summer before trying to get organic chemistry out of the way. I learned you could not let H2O and acid mix in a heated three-neck flask and talk to friends at the same time. You guessed it. I had to take it again in dental hygiene school. It’s a “college thing”.

I met my late husband in Corpus at a social event with the nursing department as a small group had formed because it was six weeks after hurricane Celia had a direct hit in Corpus.

He was a motivation and much more academically oriented than I ever was. I didn’t know you could graduate from high school in eleven years, attend college in three and a half years, and go to law school!!

He was “floored” when I had been to a study group each week for three hours on anatomy and physiology, and all I made was a “C”! I, of course, was overjoyed that I had passed. There again, share with others. With that being said I told both of my now adult children when they were young, “C stands for average, and your kids are not average” hoping they would never ask for my college transcript and only their father’s.

The good news is my husband did not have to buy the junior college to get me out! I actually passed the national exam and the Texas State Board exam in the first round. However, let me publicly apologize if I got someone else’s FMX at the State Board. They were textbook perfect. I had never taken one to this day that perfect. I’m sorry to the poor board applicant that maybe got my FMX by mistake.

In 1972 after the board exam I worked on a research grant at Baylor College of Medicine prior to back surgery that August. I was in a plaster vest cast for nine months. During the last three months, I taught at a dental assisting program only for ninety days because I couldn’t wait to have the cast removed so I could start my dental hygiene career.

I have always been fortunate to be employed by some outstanding dental practices. I always learned and sharpened my skills not to mention my scalers. The doctors required me to educate my patients about their individual oral health needs always treating and caring for my patients as if they were one of my family members. Not very hard to follow the Golden Rule. I always wanted my patient to want what they need, not need what I want. I was not hired “to sell crowns and bridges”. Teach them how to take care of their mouth, educate them on what the condition is and if problems and concerns present options of how we “the dental team” can fix it.

I worked near the Texas Medical Center, and many of our patients had other health issues so it made me rely on a higher skill technically to focus on more than just a “recall” appointment.

In the early 70s we saw many of Dr. DeBakey’s patients prior to transplants.

Dental hygiene is such a wonderful health care profession as a young married woman. Now with one daughter I went back to practice in a perio office covering for the hygienist who was on maternity leave. Looking back when you work in perio, you really learn the art and science of dental hygiene.

My husband was transferred to Albuquerque, NM in 1980 so I passed another state board, even the FMX! New Mexico made you develop and mount your own and have them chairside.

Lisa and her son, Zach

One evening at my children’s PTA meeting, now my son was four, I’m still in scrubs and another parent asked if I was a nurse. I said, “Nope, just a dental hygienist.” He started to laugh, and I asked what was so funny. He said because he owned a dental lab. We both laughed out loud. In 1986 I went to work for him as a sales representative! I wanted a break from hygiene as my father had passed away, always keeping my CE’s and CPR current. Again, someone helped educate me and took the time to train me in laboratory sales that his lab needed.

I think if people understood the benefits and features of product and or service, they can make an informed decision. It would be difficult for me to try and “Pawn off” a product I wouldn’t use for myself or family. No one should ever have to lie, steal or cheat to sell or provide a product or service.

A year later I left the laboratory sales position. I liked sales so much that I opened up my own Scientific Industrial Supply Co. I would contact manufacturers, put myself on State Bid Lists, incorporate and lease warehouse space.

Being a woman helped as I met the requirement of Women Owned Small Business in state preferred and even economically depressed zip code! Because of the warehouse location, imagine that! It worked for me!

When you think about it, a glass beaker at the end of the day is still a glass beaker. Whether “the end user” is Department of Defense or Department of Energy or Exxon, it’s still a beaker. Whereas, in dentistry “the end user” as it is so often referred to in sales, is the patient. Not the DDS, not the lab but the patient. There again if you would not use the material or product you’re selling or recommending, how do you face yourself in the mirror?

Owning my own business was a wonderful learning and personal growth experience. Knowing that I sold seventeen items that would fly on every shuttle for NASA was a proud moment. I gained the self-confidence to step up and step in and face the challenge only because someone “paid it forward” for me.

After moving back to Texas in 1990, I did dental hygiene and opened a second location of my business. With kids in junior high and high school, hygiene was easier and less time consuming than being CEO and janitor all in the same hour! Remember, the best sales call is just a presentation unless you ask for the order!

I have been with SHOFU going on fourteen years and have learned so much more than I thought this old brain could hold! I laugh when I think about the job interview, and they asked how many hours of computer time I had. I said three. I guess they had my college transcript. I wasn’t sure. They said OK. The truth is I had probably “played on a computer three hours”. Trust me. They know it now.

Hurricane Harvey on Labor Day

The dictionary is the only place I know of where success comes before work. Any success that I might have achieved is because an entire team (the village) has helped me to that level. The rise to the top is slow and laborious, the fall is quick and can stun you, but if you pick yourself up by the boot straps and get on that horse again, tomorrow is another day.

I have so much to be thankful for as we can all lose all our worldly possessions in an instant, but family, friends and relationships are what matters. Money isn’t everything, just a fun way to keep count. If money fixed all your problems, then you really don’t have any.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Lisa! Even knowing you as long as I have, I am still amazed at your tenacity, passion for learning and graciousness of “paying it forward”. You are a true role model. And you do this all while having a great sense of humor. May you continue your many successes while keeping us entertained.

  2. Lisa, you are a true original and I am proud to call you both a colleague and a friend. Your experience in the dental industry represents a perspective that many could never imagine, but much is possible with the right attitude. Your upbeat attitude, amazing wit and zest for life are infectious as anyone who knows you can confirm. Shofu is lucky to have you on our team.

  3. In this great world of ours, we all pass by each day without making much noise!
    However just a few of us manage to pop our heads above the throng and shout out our voice and we hear.
    Lisa is one of those special people who are vibrant, energized and just a people person! She is obviously quick to challenge situations and has an aptitude for life!
    I loved her flowing text as it says much of her and the people around her!
    Congratulations!!!

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