DeW Dish–Questions with Tija Hunter

As originally published in part in DeW Life Magazine Autumn 2019


What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is traveling all over getting to visit dental teams and their offices and training them. I like to take my experience and share it with others. I love to see dental assistants grow and realize that they have an amazing career.

Who has been the most influential woman in your life?

The most influential woman in my life as far as dentistry would have to be Linda Miles. She was the groundbreaker in the beginning and set so many standards for us to follow. Not only is she still a mentor to me today, but she is also a very dear friend. Besides her, I have an incredible tribe of women that push me to be my best every single day. For them, I am totally grateful.

How do you measure your success?

I think you measure success by how you feel. I have a great career, I get to travel the world and meet people, I get to visit wonderful beautiful places, I get to share my love and my passion with others. When I get a text message or a Facebook message from someone telling me how I inspired them, or how I help them in some way or another, that’s the best.

What obstacles have you overcome in your career?

I think the biggest obstacle for any dental assistant is recognition and appreciation. There was a time when we were looked upon as the third wheel in the practice and I don’t believe that that’s true anymore. Sure, there are some doctors and offices out there that need to be more appreciative of their assistant but I think times are changing and the dental assistant now can do so much more. They truly are a valuable team member!

What obstacles have you overcome in your life?

Well like many dental assistants, I was a single mom, raising a little boy and trying to do that on my own in the beginning, and it was difficult. Eventually, things got better, and I was able to take care of us and build a good life. I think it’s always challenging in the beginning; everything is new, you’re not sure where you’re going, or what you even want to do.

What do you do to turn around a bad day?

Every day could be a bad day if you let it! You have to realize that just because one situation a day might be bad, you can’t let it ruin your entire day. I really think it’s all about your attitude. Does poop happen? Absolutely poop happens! But take a deep breath go outside and get some fresh air if you have to come back in and handle it. It’s not going to go away but if you let it get you down your entire day will be full of poop!

What is your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure would probably be traveling. I absolutely love to travel. I’m fortunate enough that I get to do it for work! But I always feel guilty that I don’t have my family with me.

What advice do you have for the new person in your office?

I think my advice would be to just hang on and don’t beat yourself up. Even if you’ve been in dentistry for a while, starting a new position in a new office is difficult and it’s frustrating and it can really wear on you. Just realize that you’re learning and it will come in time, and you don’t have to beat yourself up for mistakes. Mistakes are lessons and you can learn so much from them.

What “DeW” leaders do?

Leaders motivate, they inspire, they mentor, they lift! It’s not necessarily a title you have of leader, it’s more of an attitude.

What is your favorite Indoor/Outdoor Activity?

Well, I am at the beach right now and I think that my favorite outdoor activity is just being outside, being close to that water, listening to the sounds of the ocean. It’s very rejuvenating and peaceful. My favorite indoor activity would have to be cooking.

What famous person living or dead would you like to have lunch with and what would you ask them?

Wow, that’s a tough one, probably it would have to be my father. The only time I met my father was at his funeral, so it would definitely be my father.

They are playing your theme song as you walk on stage. Name that tune!

That’s easy, Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum!

What is your dream vacation?

 I’ve always wanted to go to Greece and Italy, that’s on my bucket list!

What is first on your dental bucket list?

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of them but I would really like to speak in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. And I will, one day!

What does balance look like?

I think when you absolutely love what you do, as I do, the balance is really there. For me, the balance would be time with family. My children live in different states and it’s hard to get to see them when I want, grandkids are getting older and more involved, so for me, the balance comes when I get to have them all together.

What movie always makes you laugh?

Well, the movie that brings out the most emotion in me whether that be laughter or a good cry is the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. So many good things in that movie, I could watch it all year long, and I do, LOL.

What is the best gift you ever received?

Every year I go through this with my kids. They want to know what to get me, and it’s just difficult because when I need something, I buy it. The best gift, hands-down, that I could ever receive is time with them. No material possession could ever give me the satisfaction I get creating memories with my family.

How do you take your coffee?

I hate coffee! So my answer would be, to dump it down the drain.

What is the best gift you ever gave?

I think the best gift I ever gave anyone; my dear friend Dan had hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. I found this guy online who would carve a cane out of a piece of wood and the handle was actually a tooth! You see my friend Dan is a dental lab technician, he’s actually a Master Dental Lab Technician, and just a couple of years ago was named CDT (Certified Dental Technician) of the year. Our love of teeth introduced us and now he and his wife are dear friends of mine.

What is your motto?

Go big or go home! Take the risk, think big, don’t limit yourself to anything!

Do you have a secret sauce?

I am a pretty darn good cook. I cook everything and real butter. Don’t tell people that because they get upset thinking they’re going to have a heart attack when actually it’s better for you than margarine.

What scares you the most?

I am absolutely petrified of the dark.

Share something about you that someone would never guess?

I was painfully shy as a child. When it came time to give a speech in front of my class I would fake being sick, so that I didn’t have to talk in front of anyone! I find that absolutely hilarious now!



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