Leslie Sanders, RDH, caught the dentistry bug after her first visit to the dentist.
Growing up at a time when only a toothache or other dental pain justified a trip to the dentist, she and her parents learned that she had 11 cavities at age 11. This discovery provided her with her first exposure to a career that would define her life for nearly four decades.
“The dental hygienist was so kind and caring, she made sure I knew I was safe, and that she and the dentist were going to help me,” Sanders said. “I literally got over the fear of the upcoming treatment process, became interested in what was going to happen, and I began to ask a lot of questions. From that visit on, I was drawn to dentistry as a profession.”
Creighton University played an early role in her professional development when her dentist, a Creighton University School of Dentistry alumni, recommended that Sanders join the Boy Scout-sponsored “Dental Explorers’ Club” hosted by the school. Sanders experienced various aspects of dentistry there, sparking an interest that led to her first job in a dental office at the age of 16.
After graduating high school, Sanders continued her career and completed the Iowa Western Community College Dental Assisting program (also conducted at the Creighton University School of Dentistry). Thereafter, she enrolled in the dental hygiene program at the University of South Dakota, completing her associate’s degree in 1982 and her bachelor’s degree in 1983. Sanders has been licensed as a Registered Dental Hygienist since 1982 in Nebraska and has also held licenses in Colorado and South Dakota.
Sanders has been continuously licensed and practicing for 38 years. She worked for many years in the Denver area both as a hygienist and as a compliance and safety consultant during the AIDS crisis. She has owned and operated her own businesses, and began her teaching career with the dental hygiene program when she returned to Iowa Western Community College in 2005, spending many hours on the clinic floor at the School of Dentistry. Sanders joined Creighton as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Diagnostic Sciences in 2012.
She remains actively involved in the sponsorship of dental education and has endowed an annual scholarship for a dental hygiene student at her alma mater.
Her last day at Creighton was Friday, April 24, 2020.
Sanders said she will miss her daily interactions with her students, the clinic staff and her fellow professors.
“Leslie has been a tireless and dedicated faculty member, positively impacting the lives of our students through the years. We wish her well in her retirement; she is going to be sorely missed,” said Timothy Durham, DDS, MPA, senior associate and vice dean in the School of Dentistry.