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Role Models

   We all need role models. Here are some ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary success.

To comment on this page, please email ddeford@ordinarypeoplecanwin.com

Grandmother Becomes a Dentist

Submitted by her proud husband - David DeFord

Dr. DeFord reading to five of her six grandchildren

Kathy DeFord found herself alone most of the day. She had been a stay-at-home mother for over twenty years, but now her four children were grown, or nearly so.

She had been so focused on caring for her family, that she didn't see this time of life coming. What to do?

Kathy found some part-time work in a dental office-receptionist, records clerk. After some time in the office, she requested the opportunity to learn dental assisting. Given the chance to prove herself, she greatly enjoyed the clinical work. Her chair-side manner made her a hit.

Over time, as she assisted the dentist, she realized that she had the ability to learn to perform his work. First, she considered going to dental hygienist school. Then, feeling that would be selling herself short, she investigated dental school.

With just a few hours of college, she found that she would have to take four years of undergraduate work before applying for dental school, also a four year program.

Kathy assessed the risk and counted the cost in time and money, and decided to go for it. She attended the University of Houston for three years, and transferred to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to obtain the necessary credits.

Scoring well on the Dental Aptitude Test, she received her acceptance letter from Creighton University Dental School. Her previous decision four years before, while a significant risk, was beginning to pay off.

Dental school made for a very difficult four years. Kathy was the only grandmother in her class. But she pressed past the endless exams and the extreme pressure to succeed.

She was given the award "for exceptional compassion in patient care."

In 2001, her family celebrated Kathy's dental school graduation. That summer, she also attended the college graduation of two of her sons, and the high school graduation of another.

Kathy's number three child, Willie, said this about her achievement, "When I was a kid, I thought you had to choose one thing to "be" when you grew up, that adulthood was a static thing, and you were stuck with your choice. Then Mom went back to school and showed me that even a grown-up could reinvent herself. It changed the way I viewed professions: I learned that a job can be more than a way to pay the bills; it can be a means of developing and challenging yourself. I watched Mom work hard at her studies, make friends, and learn that she was good at science, a fact that I don't think she had known about herself. It seemed difficult, but exhilirating. I'm in law school now, and I think back to Mom's experience a lot. I learned from her that to get what you want you sometimes have to take chances and work hard, and that it's worth it. "

Dr. DeFord now works in a private dental practice in Omaha, Nebraska.

To comment on Kathy DeFord, this week's role model, send them to ddeford@ordinarypeoplecanwin.com

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