In 2016, Lucinda Lewis (DDS ’92) decided it was time. Time to sell her successful Aurora-based dental practice. Time to move closer to her elderly parents. Time to, as she likes to say, punctuate the end of her career by returning home.
So, Lewis moved to Crownpoint, New Mexico, and took a position leading three Indian Health Service clinics, which serve the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation. The clinics are similar to the one in Dilkon, Arizona, where she worked right after graduation. As a member of the Navajo Nation--the first of whom to graduate from CU Dental, she recognizes the importance of helping her community.
“There’s always a need, an acute need in really remote areas,” Lewis says.
In less than four years, Lewis directed the transition from paper records to electronic dental records, obtained updated equipment including the WAND STA injection system, brought in digital x-rays, and advocated for the increased use of silver diamine fluoride for her patients. She also is responsible for obtaining additional nitrous oxide units to improve treatment for anxious children.
“Lucinda’s life choices embody educational rigor, sustained service, and ethical commitment to the greater community,” says Kristin Robbins (DDS ’79), a member of the CU Dental Alumni Council. The council selected Lewis as the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
In addition to Robbins, the council also includes Lisa Carlson-Marks (DDS ’95), Jeffrey Kahl (DDS ’01), Jesus Loza (DDS ISP '15), Kerry Maguire (DDS ’88), Carol Morrow (DDS ’06), and Kevin Patterson (DDS ’89).
For Carlson-Marks, Lewis commands enormous respect for her life’s work that epitomizes the word distinguished.
“Dr. Lewis provides pediatric dental care with integrity, honesty, and mutual respect,” Carlson-Marks says.
“It’s a very humbling experience,” Lewis says. “You don’t expect to receive an award for doing something you do every day, and you love.”
Her path to a career in dentistry is unique. Lewis, who is Navajo, was born on the Hopi Reservation in Keams Canyon, Arizona, attended the University of Arizona for a year before finding her place at Colorado College, where she earned a biology degree and a desire to help others, especially children.
She says she made many lifelong friends while at the CU School of Dental Medicine. At the time, only a third were female. Small classes allowed her to bond with all of her classmates, such as Tammy Tobey (DDS ’92).
“As an instructor for the Pediatric Dentistry for IHS General Dentists course, Dr. Lewis is dedicated to working with other practitioners to improve their clinical skills when working with children and special needs patients,” Tobey says.
After graduation, she completed a one-year general practice residency certificate program at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital. She followed up by completing a two-year, hospital-based pediatric dentistry residency program at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Boston Children’s Hospital focusing on behavior management and child development.
Lewis, the first Navajo pediatric dentist, is also a wife, mother of three and grandmother of five.