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Timeless Dentistry: Reflections from the Emerging Leaders in Dentistry Conference

December 8, 2021
Seeing Beyond the Chief Complaint January 29, 2019

As we continue in this season of gratitude and reflection on the meaning of Christ’s birth, I am especially grateful for the time I spent at the 2021 Emerging Leaders in Dentistry Conference. On Friday, October 29, 2021, I made my way with classmates Rachel Wians and Malory Peterson through the Minneapolis airport with the destination of Athens, Georgia in our sights. That weekend, we gathered with Christian dentists of all stages to reflect on what it means to be Christ’s image bearers in our field. Held in the spirit of passing wisdom on to future generations of Christian dentists, this conference has deeply impacted my vision and mission for living as a believer in the field of dentistry.

To me, faith and dentistry both have associated languages that respective members share. These are the language of faith in Jesus and the language of the science and art of dentistry, and to gather with others who love both Jesus and dentistry is to instantly share those languages in common. In Acts 4, the believers are described as being “…of one heart and soul…” (Acts 4: 32, ESV), and that was without even sharing a common vocation. When we add in our profession, to which we have dedicated countless hours to studying and practicing, it is evident how unique and special the bond is that we share. I believe this is particularly meaningful with dentists of different generations when we realize how much we have in common regardless of the nuances of our times. However, what has continued to ring true to me is that we share the most important thing in common: we are on the same mission. Regardless of age, background or placement, we are all living to make Jesus known and to serve His people. “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30, NIV). It is evident that these relationships are of paramount importance as we navigate two areas of such deep meaning and impact in our lives.

As I sat in the audience and gleaned wisdom from the speakers, a resounding theme entered my mind: we don’t simply incorporate faith into our dentistry…dentistry is what is getting incorporated into our faith. I will admit this is something I am still personally growing in, but listening to these men and women who have passionately lived out the call of Matthew 28 to go and make disciples in all contexts—including the work environment—I was both inspired and challenged. I believe when the gospel changes our lives and we surrender to the call and will of God, nothing is ever the same. However, now more than ever, it is evident this transformation should change the way we approach each day. We spend too much of our lives working to put our faith in Jesus into a box that is only opened at Bible study or church on Sunday. Dentistry is the tool the Lord has granted us to use for His glory and to love and serve others. Our faith is not just for us, and it is meant to be shared.

Another theme that stuck with me beyond the conference is to “pass it on.” From the moment we arrived in Athens, we experienced radical hospitality. We were absorbed by the most warm and welcoming group of doctors who genuinely wanted to know our stories and how they could support us. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by living examples we can look to as we continue to refine our practice of density in light of the gospel. What a gift it was to be in the company of so many who have gone before us and tangibly seen the Lord’s hand in their careers. Moving forward, I am inspired to not simply acquire and absorb experience for myself, but rather to always look for how I can pass it on—because it matters. It matters to pave the way for the next generation of Christian dentists, and I am so thankful to have been a recipient of such an outpouring.

As I move toward graduation in the spring and my future service as a dentist in the United States Air Force, I will remember the words of Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (NIV). I hope to imitate the faith of many who have gone before me and exemplified what it is to be caregivers who love God, love people and live to make the gospel known—caregivers who are changed by the life, death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus.

Liz Flaherty

About Liz Flaherty

Elizabeth (Liz) Flaherty, DDS, received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Baylor University in Waco, TX, then returned to her home state of MN to attend dental school at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry where she graduated in May of 2022. She now serves soldiers and their families as a dental officer in the United States Air Force. In August 2020, she married the love of her life, Kevin, who will be alongside her in the Air Force adventure! Jesus changed her life and continues to mold and shape her into the person that he planned for her to be. She is living each day on a mission to share the hope that she has found in Him.

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