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Letitia Edwards '20

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Pacific News

Grade-school assignment led Dugoni student to her passion

Student-dentist wants to lead others to healthier lifestyle through understanding, compassion
Apr 10, 2020

Letitia Edwards ’20 recalls a class assignment in second grade in which she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I happened to have a dentist appointment that same week and I remember thinking how nice and happy my dentist seemed,” Edwards said. “I thought that would be a good profession for me.”

At 23 years old, she is not only one of the youngest students in her class at the University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, she also sits on the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Board of Trustees and has lobbied Congress on behalf of dental students in California.

Edwards grew up in the Bay Area in a family that valued education and encouraged her to pursue a profession that would lead to a purposeful life.

With her sights set on Dugoni, Edwards attended UC Irvine as an undergraduate pre-dental student. While there, she explored avenues outside of the traditional laboratory setting.

“I wanted to work with people instead of pipettes,” she said, referring to the laboratory tool used to move a measured volume of liquid.

She interned at the Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Center that is dedicated to improving health outcomes for children with cerebral palsy, autism and ADHD through exercise. Edwards is a classically trained ballet dancer, so when the opportunity arose to study the benefits of ballet in children with cerebral palsy, she jumped at it.

“It ended up being one of my favorite experiences. I found myself,” Edwards said. “It got me thinking that I might want to work with children with special needs in the future.” Her goal of becoming a pediatric dentist and an advocate for patients from vulnerable populations was solidified.

As a trustee for the ASDA, Edwards, along with 1,000 other dental professionals, met with members of Congress last spring to discuss many issues, including student loan debt, health insurance reform and support for the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act that guarantees children suffering from congenital anomalies and birth defects receive the treatment they need.

“Right now about 200 congressmen are supporting this legislation,” said Edwards. “We had some incredibly productive conversations and I feel so fortunate that I got to be there.”

Now in her final year of dental school, Edwards dreams of integrating a desensitization area in her future practice to relieve the anxiety and overstimulation that patients with special needs often experience when visiting the dentist. She also hopes to join the faculty of a dental school so she can pay forward what she has learned and continue to be engaged in organized dentistry.

“At Dugoni, I have discovered that my purpose is to lead others to a healthier lifestyle through understanding and compassion.”

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