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Q&A with Lana Crawford ’68 and Leah Spittle ’11

Dallas Dental Hygienists' Society Mentoring Program

Leah Spittle ’11 and Lana
Crawford ’68, at the
Dallas Dental Hygienists'
Society Mentoring
Program annual pizza
party. Crawford
is in the first row, second from right,
and Spittle is in the
second row, third from left.

Photos courtesy Lana Crawford

At the start of the DDHS Mentoring Program’s 11th year, this mentor and mentee offer their take on how the program has helped them

The Dallas Dental Hygienists’ Society Mentoring Program officially began its 11th year with a Nov. 3 pizza party at Oak Tree Village Club House in Dallas. During the event, 23 bright-eyed dental hygiene seniors mingled with their new mentors. For many, the introductions will be just the start of a long-lasting and fruitful relationship.

Just ask Lana Crawford ’68, a longtime mentor for the program, which is devoted solely to senior students at the college’s Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. It’s no surprise that Crawford — also a founding member — strongly believes in the program’s impact on graduating seniors.

One of her mentees, Leah Spittle, has now switched gears and returned to the program as a mentor. Spittle, a 2011 graduate, has a lot of wisdom to impart; she learned firsthand this summer the value of the relationships forged through the program as she navigated her way from the halls of Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry to the realities of the private practice setting.

In this Q&A, Crawford and Spittle offer their take on the mentoring program’s unique benefits, with some real-life lessons learned, to boot.

Dallas Dental Hygienists' Society Mentoring Program
Spittle and Crawford

BDRO: Lana, as an active mentor for the past 10 years and as a founding member of the DDHS mentoring program with TAMHSC-BCD’s dental hygiene students, you must believe strongly in the guidance it offers. Just what benefits do you gain as a mentor?

Crawford: Personally, I gain a relationship with 10 outstanding young women. I feel like I could call many of them for a favor if I needed, and they would be there for me. That’s just so valuable.

BDRO: How many times would both of you meet during the year?

Crawford: The pizza party is when we meet the students for the first time. Then there’s an official student night where we give a talk; it’s a dinner that we have to honor the students. Leah had to put up with me because I gave the talk. She also came to my office. I can remember a really fun time when we met on the side of the road when she was moving.

Spittle: That’s right! At the time I lived in Addison, and Lana lived in Carrollton. She was very sweet and brought me a graduation gift. Even to this day we communicate via email and phone calls. Right after I graduated, Lana invited me to her office — the Dallas periodontal practice of Ron Stukalin ’88 ’90 — so I could see what it was like in a private practice clinic. It was an awesome opportunity to see how it actually works. You’re in a ‘Baylor bubble,’ and then getting to see the private practice offered great exposure.

BDRO: Leah, regarding the transition to private practice, what has been your biggest challenge or adjustment since graduation?

Spittle: This summer, I was “temping” and things of that nature. I was put in a position in an office that ethically was not meeting my standards. After advising with Lana and some Caruth professors at Baylor, I ended up leaving that job. There are some real-world aspects out there that you don’t realize until you’re in the thick of it. I have gained such a strong respect for my profession. The experience taught me a lot of things I couldn’t learn in school, and it all happened in a period of four months.

Crawford: I’m very proud that she would be so prudent with the Texas Board rules and regulations. We are required to study the board rules and regulations, and Leah has taken it a step further to keep a current copy handy to reference.

BDRO: That’s an awful lot of change for such a short time period. Lana, how have you watched Leah change since becoming her mentor a year ago?

Crawford: When I first met Leah at this pizza party, there was just this bright-eyed young woman who was so eager to be the best, to be the finest. She had such a desire to be in the profession, it just exuded from her. As she was graduating, we knew she would be top of her class, which was a wonderful event and thrilled me to death. Now that she is a practicing dental hygienist, she’s thinking how she can practice in the best place with the best people and give back professionally.

BDRO: Leah, how does your future look now?

Spittle: I recently took a job with a company based out of Oklahoma City that has opened three offices in Dallas-Fort Worth. My Dentist opened Nov. 28, and it is sort of my baby. I am the first hygienist, and I worked with the doctors to help open the practice. It has been a great blessing, and I think that it came at exactly the right time. I am more than excited to do the best I can with this new opportunity.