Women in Dentistry - Lorena Surber

Featuring women in oral health professions

Through a special project named "Women in Dentistry: A Glance Back and a Look Forward", the School of Dentistry celebrates women and their contributions to the healing art and science of dentistry.

Lorena Surber, DDS, BSDH

WVU School of Dentistry dental hygiene class of 1972
WVU School of Dentistry DDS program class of 1990

Deciding Dental Hygiene

I was inspired to become a dental hygienist by my aunt who was a dental hygienist. She often talked to me about the dental hygiene profession which motivated me to become a dental hygienist. I wanted to go to WVU because it was a four-year degree program with a BS in Dental Hygiene. I always knew I would go on to further my education. The faculty and staff were very motivating in the transition from student to oral health professional. One summer I also volunteered as a dental assistant for a dentist near my hometown.

Deciding Dentistry

After 14 years as a dental hygienist and caring for patients, I knew I wanted to go to dental school. I had worked in 3 different states for wonderful, caring dentists. I witnessed how a healthy smile can improve someone’s life. I was proud to be a part of this profession. When I decided to go to dental school, I was 36 years old with three children, ages 2,3 and 6. I remember talking to a friend of mine who was also my patient. I was worried about being 40 years old when I would graduate from dental school. She said “Lorena, you are going to be 40 years old no matter what you do. So, you might as well do something you want.” Her words still echo in my head. That was a turning point in my life! I realized that age doesn’t matter when you want to pursue your passion. I have truly found my niche in dentistry.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
-Brene Brown

Having three small children during dental school was also a challenge. As a mom you worry about doing the right things for your children and how it may affect them later in life.  Now, all my children are adults with successful careers. My daughter, Claire, is a veterinarian.  My son, Mac, is a Special Forces Green Beret and Jonathan is a Fireman. They saw my passion for dentistry and helping others which inspired them to find their own passion for serving others and their community.

We shall never know all the good that a simple can do.
-Mother Teresa

This is an exciting time in dentistry with the advances of new technology and the focus on total health. We as dental professionals can really make a difference in not only improving smiles but improving the quality of life.

Mentorship and sponsorship are crucial for career progression.
-Sheryl Sandberg from her book Lean In

     My advice for future dental/dental hygiene students is to pursue your passion. Don’t let age or other obstacles get in the way. It’s not how smart you are-it’s how determined you are to follow your dreams!

     Time flies when you are having fun! This year marks my 50th anniversary from graduating as a dental hygienist!