Lily Garcia received the 2012 Hispanic Dental Association (HDA) Women's Leadership Award in September. She is the first female Hispanic president of the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP).
One of HDA's objectives is to provide a voice for the Hispanic oral health professional in the U.S. The organization also works toward eliminating oral health disparities through advocacy, education and leadership, according to its website.
This year, the HDA has focused on national advocacy and collaboration among the dental specialty organizations, and Ms. Garcia led a comprehensive strategic plan for ACP's future.
"I can only hope that I can represent to others that, with work and dedication, one can reach levels in which contributions are noteworthy and beneficial to others," Garcia told HispanicBusiness.com. "For me, I am so humble and proud to represent my fellow prosthodontists on a national level for advocacy and recognition of the specialty."
Ms. Garcia, who began her one-year term as ACP President on Nov. 2, 2011, led the ACP's sponsorship of the Ad Council's first oral health campaign in its 70-year history to raise awareness for the specialty of prosthodontics.
Born and raised in Alice, Texas, Ms. Garcia is one of seven children. Both her grandmothers were teachers and set a standard for education in their family.
"My career is based on the values instilled by my parents in their efforts to support their children in obtaining a solid education," she said. "Whether it was taking the highest level of courses available from early grades through high school or a focus to excel in whatever we chose, it all lad to the goal of getting a college education."
Ms. Garcia earned her degree at the University of Texas at Austin, followed by Baylor College of Dentistry. She then pursued specialty training in prosthodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA).
Her husband's Air Force career led them to Tokyo for some time before they relocated to Denver, where she worked fulltime at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She is a professor and the division head of Advanced Education and External Affairs in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry at UTHSCSA.
"Throughout my professional work life, I have been actively engaged in local and national dental organizations to contribute at whatever level possible," Ms. Garcia said.
As noted, family has served as a base for Ms. Garcia's success. To further explain her success, she uses her "mother's perspective" as a touchstone.
"She felt that, despite whatever you accomplish, it means nothing if you don't have the integrity and honesty to remember who you are as a person," Ms. Garcia said. "This ultimately translates into trying my best to do my job well in the hopes that if done well, my actions can serve as a model of behavior."
Now that she is serving as a role model for other Latinas, she offers some advice: "Nothing so special comes without perseverance and hard work," she said. "In the end, it is not the titles or plaques; it is simply your word and integrity as a person that defines your success."
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