Nov. 9, 2010
RDH eVillage Director Kristine Hodsdon attends the annual Dental Trade Alliance meeting and leaves with some thoughts about how every dental professional can enhance their legacy.

Many of us ask the question: “What am I here to contribute?” But we can take that question still further: “What is the legacy I want to leave behind when I’m gone?”

Leaving a legacy is not just a practice reserved for the wealthy. It’s a common human trait to want to leave something of ourselves behind. For some, that may be leaving their mark in the hygiene profession (Dr. Esther Wilkins, Irene Woodall); for others, it’s carrying on the family name through children.

Types of Legacies

Your legacy might include a combination of some of the following:

• A business or nonprofit organization that carries on your work after you’re gone.

• Beauty, inspiration, and wisdom passed on through creations such as books, articles, music, and art.

• Money, goods, and property, including endowing scholarships or creating a foundation.

• The “ripple effect” of your positive daily impact on friends, family, and your wider community.

• The values you impart to children and grandchildren.

Dental Trade Alliance

I recently had the privilege of being a guest at the DTA Annual Meeting, which followed the theme of “Unlocking Your Potential.” Many of my hygiene colleagues are asking ... DTA? The Dental Trade Alliance is the “who’s who” of companies that provide equipment, supplies, materials, and services to oral care professionals. The member companies are distributors, dental laboratories, and manufacturers.

When I mention “who ’s who,” I mean vice presidents, presidents, directors, CEOs — the decision makers behind the products we use and purchase daily in clinical practice. My point in sharing is that the members of this association are some of the most unpretentious men and women I have had the great fortune of spending time with in our profession.

The DTA Foundation is an aspect of the association whose mission is to “improve the access to, and productivity of, the oral health care system by identifying, nurturing, and leveraging promising projects.” One of their campaigns, which you may be familiar with is the “Oral Health Care Cannot Wait.”

Components of Legacy-Building

So as we scoot along in our daily lives, the following are some points to consider when and if you choose a path that may lead to building a legacy.

• Begin with the end in mind. The old saying goes: “You reap what you sow.” Accordingly, it’s critical to know what end result you want to achieve so that you — and those who come after you — reap what you deem to be of highest value. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says it’s imperative to first have a clear vision of your destination. He recommends developing a “personal mission statement.” Based on your core values or principles, the statement focuses on what you want to be and what you want to contribute or achieve.

• Clarify your values. Explore your values. What do you value most deeply? This is not about “morals” imposed from outside, but reflects what you believe at your core is of greatest importance.

• Determine your arena of impact. To clarify your desired impact, ask yourself:

1. Who do I want to impact? What people or community? (my town, Alma Mater, the environment, my profession, teens, uninsured.)

2. What gifts do I have to share?

3. What is the best vehicle for sharing my gifts?

4. Who can help me reach my goals? Who do I want on my dream team?

5. What’s my next step to go from where I am now to where I want to be?

6. How can my impact be sustained after I’m gone?

• Imagine your funeral. As a final step to motivate you into action, imagine your funeral. The speakers include your family, closest friends, patients, and even hygienists. What do they say about who you have been and the impact you’ve had on their lives and your world? Are you satisfied with what you hear? Is this the legacy you want to leave?

As Martha Graham said, “There is only one of you in all of time.” The DTA Foundation is building a legacy that reflects their mission and values. It’s up to each one of us, to leave a legacy that reflects our unique expression.

Kristine A. Hodsdon
Director, RDH eVillage