My name is Lydia Lancaster, a third year student at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and the humbled recipient of the ASDA Ryan Turner Memorial Scholarship. I write to tell you today that anyone can be a leader. Yes, including you.
My path to organized dentistry is a winding one. Born and raised in a farming community in Southeast Missouri, I was a small-town girl with big dreams of pursuing a career in health care. After high school, I moved to Memphis, Tenn., where I attended Rhodes College, a small liberal arts college. Those four years taught me to be a lifelong learner and a contributing citizen of the world, especially in the form of service.
Because of my late decision to pursue dentistry, I spent a gap year at home, where I was a substitute teacher and a temporary dental assistant for a local mobile dental unit. Once a month, I would assist my general dentist as he co-founded an extraction clinic, Smiles of Hope. During that year, my eyes were opened to the harsh reality of barriers to dental care.
It was my time working at the clinic that cultivated my passion for addressing barriers to dental care. After each event, my dentist would collect the data and calculate the dollar amount of dental care donated, which was then sent to the Missouri Dental Association and government officials. That was the beginning of my interest in organized dentistry—if the clinic took time to share information with this organization, they must have power to accomplish things.
That’s what persuaded me to join ASDA. I really wasn’t sure what I was doing , but my interest was strong. It was my first state lobby day, the Ohio Dental Association (ODA) Day at the Statehouse, where my ASDA fever truly sparked. Seeing first hand how normal, regular people could cultivate change inspired me, and there was no going back.
Thus, my ASDA leadership path began. I spent my D2 year as our Ohio State chapter legislative liaison and student consultant to the ODA Council on Access to Care and Public Service. After an unsuccessful trustee election, I further involved myself at the local level as chapter vice president and District 6 legislative liaison, as well as the ODA Council on Dental Care Programs and Dental Practice and Columbus Dental Society Student Liaison. If there was an opportunity present, I seized it.
What have I learned from the past year and half?
Leaders are simply normal people with two things: a vision and passion. My leadership experience at Rhodes was insignificant to my story. It was not until I found my passion in organized dentistry that I became a true leader. Never settle for complacency, because the best can always be better. Persistence will always lead to eventual success. There will always be setbacks and failures through the process, but persisting through those is what defines a leader. Most importantly, I have learned anyone can be a leader with a little heart and effort.
“Humbled” is the word that fills my mind when I reflect on receiving the Ryan Turner Memorial Scholarship. To be chosen for an award that remembers someone who led with such passion, and to follow such inspiring recipients is an honor. My hope that is with the Ryan Turner award, others will be inspired to pursue their own leadership path in ASDA and work together to continue to make real progress in our profession.
~Lydia Lancaster, Ohio ’16