We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Laila Hishaw and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Laila, we’d love to hear more about your end-goal, professionally.
As with many events that were canceled due to the pandemic, so was my 20-year dental school reunion from the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Dentistry. I was looking forward to seeing my old classmates and what has changed in our dental school. Although I’m not quite at the end of my career, I have had a lot of experiences that have shaped me into the dentist I am today. Quite frankly, my goals have changed as I have evolved as a dentist, a business owner, and an entrepreneur. Thinking back to that young new doctor I was twenty years ago, I simply wanted to be my own boss and build a practice that would treat patients the way I would want to be treated–with empathy, compassion, and excellence. I feel I have achieved those aspirational goals but I’m not done yet. I still hold on to those values as my guide in the decisions I make in both my professional and personal life. However, now my energy and passion have shifted with a desire to serve as a role model and mentor and inspire the next generation of leaders in dentistry by empowering underrepresented youth to explore dentistry as a profession through my non-profit corporation, Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships. I never envisioned I would be a Founder and President of a non-profit but my passion has led me to my new purpose which is taking me on a fantastic journey and I can’t wait to see where it leads me next! “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”–Michelle Obama, BECOMING.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Dentistry was the perfect career for me because I always wanted to take care of people and I loved to make them smile. But what gives me the greatest joy is working with kids so it was a natural progression to specialize in pediatric dentistry. I enjoy keeping the smiles of my patients healthy but what I love more are the kids behind the smiles. That is why I feel it is so important for each child in my dental chair to feel seen and heard. What excites me to go to work is knowing I can serve as a role model for young children and inspire them to believe in themselves to achieve their biggest dream. In 2003. I opened my first practice under my name, Dr. Laila B. Hishaw, DDS, PLLC. I’ll never forget finding out I was expecting my first child one week before I opened and how challenging it was to build a practice while fighting off morning sickness! As the first and only female pediatric dentist in Tucson, AZ, my practice soared–moms wanted to bring their kids to a mom! I quickly realized that if I wanted to maintain a healthy balance between work and home with a new family, I needed someone to share the responsibility and brought on my partner, Dr. Priya Abramian. Over the years, we have grown Tucson Smiles Pediatric Dentistry to one of the largest and continues to be one of the most respected pediatric dental practices in the city and surrounding areas because we treat families the way we would want our families to be treated. The biggest challenge that I had to overcome is one many healthcare professionals experience–compassion fatigue. Having this type of exhaustion, coupled with my life alteringmedical scare, I came to the realization that I was experiencing burn out. I knew I had to do something to reignite my passion for my work. The journey I went through to achieve this revealed the entrepreneur in me I didn’t realize existed! With a lot of self-reflection and personal development, I published my first book, CAVITY FREE KIDS: How to Care For Your Kids’ Teeth From Birth Through Their Teenage Years and launched an online business around the book to educate and empower parents to raise the next generation of cavity-free kids called “The Mommy Dentist”. I stretched myself out of my comfort zone and began speaking nationally at dental conferences and hope to be a keynote speaker one day. All of these experiences have shown that I can truly do whatever I put my mind to even if it scares me to death. But of all my passion projects, creating a non-profit organization that will change the face of dentistry, is one I am most passionate about–Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships. While I was writing my book, I came across a staggering statistic that Black dentists only made up 3.8% of dentists in America. It struck me that I was part of that statistic. I hold with a strong belief I strongly believe representation matters and that children will want to emulate that which they see in their lives and decided something needed to be done to change this statistic. I created Diversity in Dentistry Mentorships to educate, empower, and mentor Black students and other underrepresented minorities to know dentistry is a rewarding career and an attainable goal early on in life, getting them on the right educational path to be successful candidates for dental school and ultimately, valuable leaders in the profession of dentistry. I am confident a more diverse workforce in dentistry will positively impact both the lives of the dentists and the communities they serve, improving the overall delivery of dental care to everyone. My life’s purpose is to serve others. I continue to practice pediatric dentistry while making a social impact in my dental community and the lives of our youth. I hope others can hear my story and know they too can explore what their passions are and put their dreams in motion to reach their aspirational goals! In all professions, we do more than what is seen from the outside. To truly live your life’s purpose, you have to look deeper and appreciate what you REALLY do.

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I have lived in Tucson, Arizona for 18 years. I remember coming from Kansas City, Missouri I mostly looked forward to escaping the humidity! Over the years I have learned to appreciate the spirit of this city that includes the food, the community, and the beauty of the desert! Although I miss the delicious bar-b-que that Kansas City is known for, I love the food here too! When I have friends come to visit, the first thing they want to try is Mexican food! There are so many great Mexican and Southwestern restaurants and way too many to mention but a few that we frequent are Guadalajara Grill, El Charro Cafe, Cafe Poca Cosa, and El Guero Canelo for the Sonoran style hot dog. You have to try this bacon-wrapped frank with beans, grilled onions, fresh tomatoes, mustard, mayo and jalapeno sauce! A fun trip is to go to our newly revitalized downtown, “Rio Nuevo” to visit the shops, restaurants, clubs, and theaters! The Sonoran Desert is so rich in its unique beauty. We live close to Sabino Canyon, located in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. It is a great place to walk or hike. My favorite spot to take my kids and my friends to is “Seven Falls” which is a hidden oasis of refreshing waterfalls that cascade into a large pool. After a long hike, my girlfriends and I may indulge in a relaxing massage at one of the many world-class resorts in the world like Miraval or Westin La Paloma while the guys may take in a Wildcat basketball game at the University of Arizona or grab a craft beer in town. Of course, in any college town, there are usually a few great breweries to choose from! My husband’s favorite is the Dragoon Brewing Company! Whatever activity we experience with our guests, they are always surprised how much they enjoyed their stay in the desert and look forward to their return!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I humble myself in acknowledging my success is not due to my actions alone–it has truly taken a village!! My village is a gift from God that continues to pour into me and my family, so I can live a life of passion, purpose, and happiness. Over the years, the village has changed, manifesting itself in so many ways as I grow. I’ll start with my mother, Stephanie Mercomes, and grandmother, Gertrude Keith. When I was young, these two women modeled strength, resilience, and excellence for me. My mother is still my biggest cheerleader and sacrificed so much for me. My grandmother lived to see me open my three pediatric dental practices and meet her three beautiful great-grandchildren. She was always so proud of me but I don’t know if she truly knew how incredibly proud I was of her and that I live my life to honor her legacy. At a time when I faced my biggest obstacle in life, I experienced my greatest transformation! To this, I have to thank my life and leadership coach, Leslie Fuqua Williams, host of “Gather and Shine”. She helped me find my voice and my courage to do something extraordinary. With her motivational techniques and strategic tools, I authored a best-selling book, founded a non-profit, and began speaking nationally on topics passionate to me in just 2 years! I call it, “The Reinvention of Laila!” The best part is she is now part of my circle of friends who make up another part of my village. Cultivating my friendships keeps me both grounded and uplifted. I can trust them to be there for me through thick and thin, support me in all that I do, and tell me the truth even when it’s hard to hear. I am so grateful for all the integral people in my village who have and continue to impact my life.

Website: https://drlailahishaw.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.laila.hishaw/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laila-hishaw/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/diversityindentistry
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjr4aR_RJRU9qn3zdg90tgQ
Other: https://themommydentist.com/ https://www.tucsonsmilesaz.com/

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