By Elicia Lupoli, RDH, BSDH
In dental hygiene, there are devoted individuals who respect the licensure they worked so hard to obtain and also refrain from publicly bashing the profession. The decision to showcase a few of the most successful dental hygienists was in hope for readers to understand that the journey to success is achievable, with a bit of footwork. Dental hygienists have demonstrated over and over again that (together) we can do anything.
Here is a list of prominent dental hygienists I have profiled in past issues of RDH eVillage:
Meet the Guygienist, Elijah
Elijah’s initial footwork: Watching another mentor at work and opening up to help others.
Elijah Desmond, RDH, BS, is a speaker, philanthropist, writer, entrepreneur, and implant marketing consultant, and he is one of a handful of male dental hygienists who I know. I asked Elijah where the term “Guygienist” originated?[Native Advertisement]
Elijah replied, “I don’t know. I thought it was me, but then someone else said it first. I can tell you where ‘Mr. RDH’ came from—Rafael Rondon, RDH.” Talk about an amazing Guygienist.”
Elijah became first licensed in 2009 and moved to Hawaii to start his own business, a dental professional temp agency and first of its kind in the islands.
I asked him, “What year do you remember first wanting to do something other than private practice?” His answer started our journey.
“Two months after I started!” he said. “My office manager at that time told me I had to put my cell phone away and that was it.” My knee-jerk reaction would have been the same if I had been the office manager. However, I knew there had to be more to the reason, and there was. It became clear Elijah Desmond could not be contained in an operatory.
“I felt trapped in an op,” Elijah said. “Little human interaction, same thing every day, no more than those three walls around me, and I felt claustrophobic.”
In 2012, Elijah moved back to the mainland from Hawaii. “My professional life skyrocketed from 2012-2015. I was still who I was. I never changed, my focus changed. In 2012, I went to my first convention at RDH Under One Roofaazddfraezxydv, and that is where I met Tracy Anderson Butler, CRDH, MFT, (a dental hygienist who is the national director of hygiene education for Straumann). Tracy took me around to every CEO and president of many companies and gave me this world-class introduction! Come 2015, a transition happened. I watched Tracy impact so many other professionals. Here she was with her own objectives and still constantly came with ‘How can I help you? Let me know what I can do for you.’ She had so many things on her table. Her own objectives and goals, but she still put her hand out each and every time to others. The thing is, you can’t just sit there and think that you will get success. You have to take action to get it and follow through! No one is going to take your hand and put success in it. Once you are ready and willing you will find a mentor to lead you. That is what Tracy did for me and I realized my focus was on the wrong person the whole time, me. I learned that I needed to change the direction of my attention to helping others.”
I asked Elijah what he had done to help others.
“Mark Frias, RDH and I did a podcast called, Going from the bus stop to the BMW. After that podcast, I had about 400 to 500 professionals reach out to me who needed help, and I knew there was no way one person could help all those people, except I found the way. I created the Facebook group, Trapped in an Op. So rather than email and talking to others on an individual level, I could help the masses at one time. I focused on helping people. I helped thousands of people, and it felt so good that I took both hands off the ladder of life. Did you ever hear me speak about that?”
I responded no, and Elijah continued.
“I was in constant motion trying to advance my career, visualizing myself at the top of this ladder of life. Trying to make the climb to the top step where the athletes, singers, actors, and multi-millionaires stood. I would look at these people and see fortune. Luckily, my eyes were opened to seek the truth. I started to understand that success couldn’t be measured by outer appearances and financial strengths. The people I viewed as successful were lonely and miserable on the inside, their outer appearances a façade and yet enticing to the impressionable.
“The sad reality was these people I thought had it all were committing suicide, getting into drugs, and even thrown in jail. This changed my perspective and made me not want to be at the top of the ladder any longer. My why changed from me to others. At that point, I decided to take one hand off the ladder and help others to get where I was. I had even hoped that they would pass where I stood. I admit this was very stressful. I was used to the attention being on myself. I felt like I was taking my hand off the steering wheel of life! Something clicked, though, and it felt great. I decided at that point I would remove both of my hands off the ladder of life and dedicate my career to helping others. I never looked back after that. I won’t ever be at the top, and I will continue to help those dental professionals who think as I once did.”
I started to wonder if Elijah’s gender had helped him along the way with dental hygiene, being mostly a female profession, and I asked him if he thought this true.
Elijah responded, “Definitely not. There were those out there who may have been uncertain about me in the beginning when I came into the industry, as fast as I did. I can be loud, boisterous, and full of energy. And, I love my loud music. I think my fast growth and outgoing personality may have been taken incorrectly. The ‘higher ups’ in dentistry … I don’t think they knew what to do with me. To be honest, I was at a point thinking should I shut my mouth and be quiet. Concede? Or should I be who I am and let people see who I am and just be me? I think you know the direction I chose. The best part is that I never changed; my focus changed.”
I asked him about what qualities that he possessed that led to his success.
Elijah replied, “The ability to follow through and the ability to motivate. I was born into the business world. I was fortunate to have a father who was a businessman. Being born into that life and lessons from my father taught me honesty, hard work, and self-respect. Self-respect and self-confidence. If I faltered there, how could I motivate others? I have been a motivational speaker since the age of 15 in middle schools and high schools, and even some colleges. Many of the schools are in the inner city. I also spoken to many athletes.”
In 2014, Elijah’s father won the NAACP’s Business Man of the Year Award in Ohio. He has had multiple businesses throughout Elijah’s life. His father was his role model. Elijah had the tools from the start to be a successful businessman, but he also chose his path and could have gone another direction. No matter what your background is, your education or lack of, the direction your life follows is your own choosing.
Wrapping up the interview with advice from Elijah, “If you are a dental professional that wants opportunities outside of clinical, network with the people who you see are like minded, can form relationships with, the movers and shakers that you can vibe with. Surround yourself with people who lift you up not ones that push you down. If you are a dental hygienist who feels stuck, go on the FB page Trapped in an Op and come to our cruise, Smiles at Sea. And be yourself.”
Two things to know about Elijah: He started a charity called The Ladder of Life, which sends motivational speakers to kids all around the United States. These children have the chance of receiving scholarships and cars. There will also be missions overseas and to third world countries. Secondly, Elijah has his first book coming out this summer titled, “Serial Entrepreneur: From Start Up to Success.”
Elicia Lupoli, RDH, BSDH, is on the editorial board for RDH magazine and Hygienetown, as well as an editor for her state association’s quarterly newsletter (ADHA Connecticut). Elicia attributes the start of her writing career to Shirley Gutkowski, RDH, BSDH, and other success to her many mentors.
Nothing happens in our comfort zone: Fleeing that ‘trapped’ feeling