ACCOMPLISHED dental professional Dr Heather-Dawn Lawson-Myers says she is in her 'legacy season', in which she is giving back.
Her most recent title is educator, whereby, through DAME — Dental Assisting Made Easy — Educentre Limited, she launched an online training course for dental assistants. In addition, she heads Abigail, The Freedom Movement, a ministry that supports women who mentor girls and young ladies.
"We go through different seasons in life... mentoring has always been important to me," she tells All Woman. "Our hearts cry out everytime we see a woman who has struggled... making the same decisions that her mom or grandma may have made. Having a mentor, someone to give you a different perspective, can be life-changing. And it doesn't take a lot of money, it just takes a desire and interest to pour into someone."
The mentors in Abigail, The Freedom Movement have been doing phenomenal work, something Dr Lawson-Myers said is absolutely rewarding for its impact.
"We have ladies who are serving victims of sexual abuse, we have women who go out every Friday to certain spots to minister to women who make their living selling their bodies... no judgement; we provide food, sometimes we pray with them," she said. "What has been most rewarding has been being in the company of women who mentor other women, seeing the fruit of those who we have mentored. When we can make a difference in a life and see it in real time, that is extremely rewarding."
She said this kind of work was important for her because many people had also poured into her life. "And I don't think as women we understand the value of hearing from a sister — support from a sister is fantastic. It encourages you, it pulls out of you what you thought you didn't have. The more you pour into other people, the better you feel."
As for DAME, Dr Lawson-Myers said when the pandemic hit in 2020 a lot of people suddenly didn't know what they were going to do, because so many industries were closing down. "As a Christian I'm a praying woman. I sought the Lord and said, 'What can I do, I feel so helpless,' and it came to me that I could support people not just in Jamaica but throughout the world by training them in such a way so they could continue doing what they were doing in the day while they learned online."
So DAME was born — an online programme that allows people to go at their own pace to learn the principles of dental assisting so they could apply for a job as a dental assistant despite their working background.
Most dentists train on the job, Dr Lawson-Myers explained, so learning the peculiarities or specifics in that office on the job, plus learning the basic building blocks of dental assisting online is a win-win combination for the person who is looking to switch into the field, and also for the dentist who is trying to get somebody up to speed as quickly as possible as they continue to provide quality service to their clients.
"And so I have found that it has ended up being something that so many people have been drawn to because there is a big void in dentistry. We don't have enough dental assistants in Jamaica, in the world, so if you have this training, no matter where you go in the world it can be used immediately," she said.
Inspired by a potpourri of people, the St Hugh's High School old girl said being able to give back in this way is a blessing. She teaches for DAME, fulfilling her first dream, which was to be a teacher, and in the daytime she's head of Liguanea Family Dental Centre, where together with her dental team she serves a broad cross section of patients in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. The significant emphasis on exceptional quality dental care and optimum customer service keeps the team striving for distinctiveness.
Dr Lawson-Myers received her Howard University College of Dentistry training in Washington, DC, and practised in the United States for some time before returning to Jamaica. In 2016 she decided to further her studies and obtained a fellowship from the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain. She is also a member of the American Association of Dental Sleep Medicine. In addition to practising general dentistry, she serves many clients living with upper airway resistance syndrome, sleep apnoea, and temporomandibular joint issues.
"To be able to share what I've been doing on a regular basis, consistently for 35 years... let's face it, if we are not here to serve each other, what are we really purposed here to do?" she posited. "I may be serving patients by physically restoring ill health in the mouth, or overall health with the dental sleep medicine, or I may be serving people by helping them to elevate themselves to come into a field that is very rewarding. It's a win-win-win situation being able to pour into the lives of people in one way or another."
Born and raised in Kingston, Dr Lawson-Myers is an active member of the Jamaica Dental Association and has served on the executive as president and vice-president for three terms, respectively. She holds the distinction of being the first and only female chairperson of the Dental Council of Jamaica; before that, she served the council for six years and has held various positions including chairperson of the Dental Board of Examination Committee and chief dental examiner.
For her, being able to support her clients above and beyond repairing diseased teeth or gums is a privilege.
"The body is one complete structure and often things can be going wrong with the entire body and there are clues in specific parts of the body. Having had the privilege of being trained to identify dental manifestations of overall problems, allows me to work along with the person's physician to determine what is going on," she explained. "So we're not just looking at fixing the dentition, which is important, but we're looking at life and death, because somebody who has airway issues, it's not that they're having dental problems, they are having health issues that are serious enough to shorten their lifespan."
And, above all, "It has to be people first".
"The fact that [my clients] choose me, I have to make sure that they understand the degree to which I appreciate the choice they made," she said of the importance of always providing good service. "Dentistry is one of those professions that rely heavily on trust. If my customer service skills are not what they should be, the trust can't come. We don't fix teeth, we work on people who have to have teeth...
As a professional woman, mom, and first-time grandmother, Dr Lawson-Myers isn't too caught up with optics — it's all about putting people first.
"True success is being able to live a life that when you close your eyes you will be missed, because you poured into communities, because you poured into people," she said.
"Because you were a sounding board for somebody. Because you planted a seed so someone could go to school... Success is really defined by how you have showed up in the world. Successful people are not self-serving. Successful people are those who can look around and see what they can do to make a difference," she said.