Lisa Marie Samaha, DDS, FAGD
Port Warwick Dental Arts Center
for Cosmetic Dentistry and Dental Medicine
251 Nat Turner Blvd
Newport News, VA 23606
Bachelor of Arts, English, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1977
Doctor of Dental Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry, 1982
Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations in which you are/have been involved and positions held:
I began my solo practice of comprehensive and reconstructive dentistry in 1982 in Newport News, VA. Our practice commits to a significant level of pro bono work within our office each year and also attends to mission work outside of the office. Continuously, we support a wide range of local and national charities with donations of dental treatment and artwork, to include Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Operation Smile, Peninsula Fine Arts Center, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, March of Dimes, American Breast Cancer Foundation, Orphan Helpers and many others. In addition, we have given tens of thousands of dollars of comprehensive, life-saving dental care to members of the Hampton Roads community through our very own Smile Makeover contest.
I have held numerous state and local professional positions in dentistry, and in 2007, I founded and became the director of the Perio Arts Institute, an institute dedicated to the leading-edge diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. In addition to a teaching division, the institute has a research division which is in the process of preparing and publishing scientific articles in the field of oral systemics.
As a published author, lecturer, consultant and clinician, I am involved in all aspects of comprehensive dental care. I have also been featured nationally and internationally on television, radio and in print.
Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?
I have had one primary mentor in my life who profoundly impacted my life, particularly with regard to my profession. This person was my Dad, a former Air Force Periodontist who began his own private practice upon retiring, while maintaining his role as a Professor of Periodontics at Georgetown University and University of Maryland’s dental schools. I trained with him as a young girl and became his surgical assistant at the age of 16. His inspiration encouraged within me an inquisitive mind, a desire for excellence, and an eye for detail – as well as an ability to look at every patient situation from a global, comprehensive health view. He instilled within me, a passion for healing and for teaching.
What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?
It is hard to distinguish my biggest accomplishment, as there are two significant ones I would like to share. My private practice is the first – especially as I have succeeded in developing a unique, comprehensive model for patient care, which has at its basis, the goal of optimum health and integration of oral health with every part of the body. Additionally, in 2007, I founded and became the director of a nationally recognized teaching and research institute for the leading-edge diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. I teach physicians and dentists the significance of oral health on total body health, and how – and why – it is critical that they integrate the care of the oral cavity with the care of the whole body. An integrative philosophy is now becoming widespread within our profession, thanks to others who have joined me in embracing this point of view.
What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?
Search yourself and your surroundings until you find what makes your heart sing. Think: What would I do in my future if I could do anything? Create a vivid vision in full color. See it, feel it, hear it, smell it, taste it! Then determine, one step at a time, how you will manifest that vision. Lay it out on paper – in words and pictures. Include in your vision a way to make your passion “pay.” Think outside the box: How will I get there? Who do I need on my path? What is my end goal? Note: if the end goal is self-serving, self-fulfillment will not be your reward.
Extend yourself – be willing to sacrifice yourself for the opportunity to achieve your vision. Seek out and surround yourself with those you wish to be like; those you admire.
Reach for excellence and accept nothing less from yourself. Focus on what you want more of in your life, instead of what you don’t want. When rough times come, instead of wallowing in what others might consider defeat, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this experience?” Seek value in every challenge or disappointment, and you will remain optimistic about life – one of the most critical qualities of great men and women.
Even in great accomplishments, remain humble, never forgetting to recognize those who support and have supported you on your journey. Humility is a key characteristic of inspirational and effective people.
And remember this one simple fact – throughout life, give people more of what they want and you will get more of what you want.
How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?
I paint whenever I can create down time. I typically have to go away – out of town – to make this happen, and do so at least two weeks out of every year. On a daily basis, I try to walk or bike and eat a very healthy Mediterranean diet.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
A mom (of two) and an artist. I got to be both of those things, and so much more – a healer!
What is your favorite book or movie and why?
It is impossible for me to choose just one. I am most drawn to foreign and independent films and documentaries, though. I love learning about real-life, relational situations which allow me to better appreciate the experience of people throughout the world. I most enjoy learning about cultures through their art, song, dance, music, clothing, customs, struggles and folklore. I enjoy the independent filmmakers’ artistic, unique approach to story-telling and cinematography.
What are two things about you that not many people know?
I was always an entrepreneur, of sorts. At age 11, I sold my first piece of original art. Due to challenges at home, I began earning my way at age 13, by starting my own business making men’s custom-designed shirts and ties. I worked through high school, college and dental school cutting hair and waitressing to pay for my expenses and to eventually begin my own dental practice at age 25. Years later, after becoming a dentist, I became an award-winning professional artist.
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