Hometown: Livermore, CA
Career Plans: To become a pediatric dentist.
At Dugoni, I have discovered that my purpose is to lead others to a healthier lifestyle through understanding and compassion.
Letitia Edwards, DDS Class of 2020, recalls a class assignment in second grade where 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. I thought that would be a good profession for me,” said Letitia. And it stuck.
At 23 years old, she is not only one of the youngest students in her class at the Dugoni School, she also sits on the Board of Trustees for the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) and has lobbied Congress on behalf of dental students in California.
Letitia grew up in the Bay Area, cheering on the San Francisco Giants, 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, Letitia 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. 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. Letitia 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,” said Letitia. “It got me thinking that I might want to work with children with special needs in the future,” and her goal of becoming a pediatric dentist and an advocate for patients from vulnerable populations was solidified.
As a Trustee for the ASDA, Letitia, 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 Letitia. “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, Letitia 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.”