When my daughter, Rochelle, was a child, she didn't really know what her mom did at work every day. But one day, as an active 7-year-old, she fractured her front tooth in an accident on the school playground. To her surprise and delight, "Mom" fixed it right away. Rochelle and her friends were so impressed! From then on, she wanted to be a dentist just like me. That dream will be realized at her graduation from Temple University in May 2005. Rochelle and I plan to practice together in Fort Washington, D.C.
I have two other children, Robin and Leon, who, along with Rochelle, attended Howard University at the undergraduate level. Only Rochelle chose to pursue a career in dentistry, and I am a proud mother! Receiving my BS, MS, and DDS degrees from Howard University, I graduated from dental school in 1980. I also completed a residency in general dentistry at Howard University Hospital, and an externship in general dentistry in Georgetown, Guyana, South America.
Taking care of patients is just one aspect of my work in dentistry. Giving back is also the philosophy I hope to pass along to my daughter. That aspect of dentistry was one that was nurtured in me at the Howard University College of Dentistry as a student. In turn, I organized my practice to be successful and to continue to serve my profession, community, and nurture those ideals with dental students.
Active in organized dentistry, I have been a leader in the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society (RTFDS) as president and executive board member. I am on the National Dental Association's (NDA) board of trustees and the board of the Congressionally appointed National Museum of Dentistry Board of Visitors. A native of Guyana, I currently serve as treasurer of the Caribbean Association of Professionals and Scholars (CAPS), a D.C.-based organization with a focus on outreach supporting a cadre of professional growth and development in the Caribbean.
As president of RTFDS, I worked to galvanize resources, cultivate and motivate team players, and achieve ambitious goals. These qualities enabled my team to spearhead a movement to raise a record amount of scholarship funds for Howard University College of Dentistry for needy dental students, as well as to conceptualize an innovative mentoring program for students. RTFDS members have sponsored Student National Dental Association (SNDA) students at every dental society function.
I have been recognized by many of the organizations that I have led, including the Women Dentists National Dental Association.
In 1998, my involvement with CAPS and the NDA inspired me to fulfill one of my dreams of providing access to care for those in need. Making a five-year commitment to the small South American country of Guyana, I arranged to bring delegations of dentists to deliver dental care to needy school children. It was the right thing to do, since more than 80 percent of the world doesn't have access to a dentist. Enlisting NDA colleagues in the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, and Philadelphia, I arranged collaborative partnerships with the Ministries of Health and Education, the Rotary Club, CAPS, school teachers, and community volunteers. These trips were financially supported by friends, colleagues, and dental suppliers who donated money and supplies. Over four years, a total of 15 dentists, including two oral surgeons, paid their own expenses and took a week away from their busy practices to accompany me on this mission.
For me, this is a dream come true! Selecting a different school each year, the CAPS team has treated more than 1,000 school children, providing a full range of dental services from a mobile clinic. Valuable data was systematically collected to provide critical evaluation criteria needed for donors to have confidence in providing more money to expand the program. I am living my dream, reaching for the goal of building a sustainable community health infrastructure with adequate funding, producing measurable oral health outcomes and thousands of smiling children. Indeed, it's a Happy Mother's Day for me!
Valerie Andrews, DDS
Dr. Andrews practices dentistry in Fort Washington, Md. Her daughter, Rochelle, is a junior dental student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. You may contact Dr. Andrews at [email protected].