West Virginia University’s Dr. Lauren Yura Godwin on trust, finding inspiration (and balance) every day and gaining the confidence to take on a major role at her alma mater at just 28.
I knew I wanted to do something to help people but wasn’t sure in what capacity. My oldest brother, Jon, was already a dentist when I was in high school. I assisted him one Saturday while he was doing a procedure on my dad, and I really admired his chairside manner and how he could relieve someone’s pain. I loved all the procedural steps, so
I thought this would be a good profession for me.
Trust is a very important part of dentistry. When you’re performing a procedure on someone you just met, you need to learn how to connect quickly. Nothing feels better than gaining that trust, executing the procedure and hopefully making them better than when they came in.
I realized I love academics as much as practicing dentistry, so I moved toward becoming a full-time assistant professor. When WVU was awarded a CRET designation, I was approached about becoming the director of our innovation center while it was still in the planning stages.
Channeling insecurity or self-doubt into drive helped me prove I was the right choice. Managing all the components, from construction to curriculum development, was a lot. I would have been hesitant to engage in such a big role so early in my career without support from my mentor, Dr. Michael Meador; Dean Tom Borgia; Donna Haid; Dr. Christina DeBiase and others for their confidence.
It sounds cheesy, but every day is rewarding. We’re taking something broken, diseased, infected, unaesthetic and making it whole, beautiful, better. There is always a way to improve, both as an academic and a practitioner. That idea keeps me excited and energized because I know that I’m barely off the starting line.
I thrive off doing physically challenging things. My husband and I just rafted the Upper Gauley River—one of the top five sections of whitewater in the world. I played college volleyball and my brothers also played sports collegiately, so for better or worse they groomed me to be very competitive.
Having nothing in your life but work won’t make you the you the best in your field. You need family, giving back outside of work, time with friends. Some weeks you spend more time in one than another. You have to be diligent with planning, but it’s important to strive for balance.
Dr. Lauren Yura Godwin, 30, is an assistant professor and director of West Virginia University’s Dr. W. Robert Biddington Center for Dental Innovation. She received the Pierre Fauchard Academy Special Appreciation Award in 2018 and was co-recipient of Faculty of the Year at WVU in 2018. Dr. Yura Godwin lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, with her husband, Stuart, and is an MHA candidate at Ohio University.