Tameka Schley Lee has found her beautiful smile and nothing can stop her from smiling now! But it wasn’t always that way. Tameka grew up in a working-poor, single-parent home. There was not enough money for health care and dental visits. She was ashamed of the spacing between her teeth and reflexively raised her hand to hide her teeth every time she smiled or laughed.
But Tameka knew that a beautiful smile is a valuable attribute and brings confidence, and she was determined to achieve a smile that she could be proud of. She had her first dental visit at age 19 and was happily surprised to find that she had no cavities. But she still was embarrassed about the esthetics of her smile.
Not only did Tameka want a beautiful smile, but she also wanted to help others find confidence in their smiles, so she enrolled in dental hygiene school and managed to maintain an A-B grade average while working full-time. It was during her first year of hygiene school that Tameka began the orthodontic treatment that led to her beautiful smile.
Tameka is married and has two young daughters and a son in college. She worked through her guilt about having a career and young children and has practiced clinical hygiene for 17 years. She also has served on the dental hygiene advisory board of a technical college; as secretary of the Georgia Dental Hygienists’ Association; as a hygiene mentor for a large DSO; and recently has been recruited by another DSO to support iTero digital scanning integration into dental practices. Tameka also cohosts the Truth Scalers podcast along with Kari Carter-Cherelus, RDH, Astrida Curis, RDH, and Lisa Gordon, RDH.
When the pandemic struck, like many of us, Tameka struggled with anxiety and burnout. During the weeks of shutdown, she reread Jon Gordon’s book The Energy Bus. Using the power of positivity described in this book, Tameka learned to start each day with positive affirmation. This led to a reevaluation of her life, and she realized that her greatest passion comes from supporting and inspiring others.
To help reach her goal of inspiring others, Tameka enrolled in graduate school and has begun an accelerated master’s degree program in public administration, with an emphasis on health-care management.
She also founded Empower, RDH, a consulting company targeting dental hygiene clinicians with the purpose of empowering and inspiring leadership, increasing productivity, and improving the patient experience. Each Wednesday is “Women Empower Wednesday”(#wew), when Empower, RDH highlights one hygienist—who is nominated by another hygienist—to share their story. This is not a list of accomplishments, but rather stories of inspiration and support that show how individual hygienists are making this world a better place.
Tameka describes her leadership style as a “servant leader,” in which the main goal is to serve and inspire by example. This concept was described by Robert K. Greenleaf in a 1970 essay entitled The Servant as Leader. According to Greenleaf, the servant leader should be focused on the following: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?”1
Tameka has found her passion in helping to empower women to find their own passion, sharing their struggles alongside them, inspiring them with her own experiences of overcoming hurdles, and sharing other hygienists’ stories of inspiration. Life is a wonderful and challenging journey that is best accomplished with the help of others. Not only has Tameka found her passion, but she has also found her smile, no longer hidden behind her hand, but there for all the world to see.
“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”—Seneca
Servant leadership. Wikipedia. Page updated Feb. 25, 2021. Accessed Mar. 3. 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership#History
Kirsten Brancheau, BA, RDH, has been practicing clinical dental hygiene since 1978. She earned an associate degree in applied science in dental hygiene from Union County College in 1977 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Montclair State University in 1988. She is a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Brancheau is also a freelance proofreader, editor, and writer. She can be reached at [email protected].