Dentistry grad committed to service

Michelle Lauwers hopes to team with family members to create a dental mission to Mexico - photo by Martin Dee
Michelle Lauwers hopes to team with family members to create a dental mission to Mexico – photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 55 | No. 5 | May
7, 2009

By Sean Sullivan

For Michelle Lauwers dentistry is more than a science: it’s a charitable calling and an art.

“An artist may take a piece of wood or stone and carve it into something beautiful,” Lauwers says. “In the same way we’re taking a piece of composite or amalgam and sculpting a smile.”

The graduating Dentistry student will have plenty of support as she embarks on her career: Her husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law are all UBC Dentistry graduates.

“We try not to talk too much about dentistry,” she says of husband Ryan Lauwers (DMD’04), brother-in-law Kevin Lauwers (DMD’05) and sister-in-law and long time friend Candace Woodman (DMD’07).

Choosing dentistry as a career wasn’t on Lauwers’ mind while growing up in Port Moody, B.C., though she says she was never one to shy away from visits to the dentist. “I loved getting the prize at the end,” she laughs.

After two years at the University of Victoria, she studied to become a dental assistant at Vancouver Community College. After completing the certified dental assisting program she realized that she wanted to further pursue a career in dentistry. A degree in cellular and molecular biology at SFU followed before she began Dentistry at UBC.

As the clinic representative for her class and team leader of the mentoring program, she’s received a number of awards, including the Dr. Cal Waddell Memorial Scholarship and the Dr. Cal Waddell Western Canada Dental Society Scholarship.

Lauwers has also been active in the program’s volunteer efforts, which include free and low-cost clinics in the Downtown Eastside. She describes her volunteer work in the neighbourhood as “eye-opening and rewarding.”

“People have preconceived ideas about the Downtown Eastside, but many of the residents are just everyday people who have not had access to dental care,” she says.

Patients the students see in the community are frequently in pain, due to a lack of preventive treatment and education in oral self-care. The UBC students perform extractions, fillings and the beginnings of root canals to ease the patients’ suffering.

Lauwers’ leadership and desire to help others has led her to future aspirations of a dental mission to Mexico. Along with her husband, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, she hopes to partner with their church, which has already established an ongoing ministry in Mexico.

“As a family we are hoping to provide much needed preventive and restorative dental treatment for the people of this community,” she says.

There’s a host of logistics to be contemplated before planning of this ambitious project begins, but Lauwers says she feels a calling to help.

have a skill that can be used to serve people who are less fortunate than me,” she says. “The major goal would be to alleviate pain and provide education on preventive oral self-care.”

In the immediate future, Lauwers is hoping to begin the next chapter of her career as an associate dentist.

“I’d like to find a principal dentist who will be a good mentor and shares a similar philosophy of practice,” she says, “someone I can learn from and who will help me grow as a clinician.

“As dentists, we are committed to lifelong education, in order to provide the highest quality of care for our patients.”