Lindsey Montileaux Mabbutt, a third-year student at the School of Dentistry, has been named to the 2020 cohort of the University of Washington’s Husky 100, the UW announced on Monday.
The Husky 100 annually recognizes 100 undergraduate and graduate students who are making the most of their time at the UW. Students are evaluated on the basis of what they learn to make a difference on campus and in their communities, as well as their capacity for leadership and commitment to an inclusive community.
Mabbutt, who grew up in South Dakota, is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation and the first in her family to complete college. In 2015, she received a BS in medical biology, cum laude, from the University of South Dakota, where she had a track and field scholarship. She went on to earn a master’s degree in public health from North Dakota State University, with a specialization in American Indian public health, in 2017 before enrolling at the School of Dentistry.
“I love science and working with my hands,” she wrote in her Husky 100 application. “When I started working on a fake tooth, I realized how much art was involved in dentistry and I knew I had found my calling.”
Mabbutt, who had never met a Native American dentist while growing up, said her goal became to change that narrative. She plans to become a public health dentist. “Public health has always been a passion of mine because I know the power in reaching populations in comparison to treating one individual,” she wrote.
Her second year in dental school, already considered the most intensive and stressful, was especially eventful. She and her husband welcomed the birth of a son who arrived more than two months prematurely and required a stay in the UW Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. Yet she returned to her studies just four days after giving birth.
“I spent increments of three hours at school and made it back to breastfeed him in between classes,” she wrote. “He was my motivation to not fall behind. I spent countless hours studying oral pathology at the foot of my son’s hospital bed.”
The summer after her second year, she served as a dental assistant in a rural rotation at a Seattle Indian Health Board clinic – the first UW dental student to serve at this site. “What I learned was that providing culturally competent care to those in need was just the first step in fighting for change,” she wrote. “Seattle Indian Health board emphasized traditional medicine at the heart of their practice in medicine, dentistry, and mental health. With this paradigm, patients were impacted on a more meaningful level than being treated by Western medicine alone. This experience gave me much more than a lecture ever could.”
She is also conducting research using her personal experience as a focal point. Before and after giving birth, she was concerned about exposure to hazardous materials during her studies. In the school’s Simulation Clinic, for example, 70 students simultaneously place mercury amalgam fillings. Now she is measuring mercury vapor in the Simulation Clinic and other clinical settings during amalgam use.
“This is one small step in making it possible for women to reach higher education while also having a family,” she wrote. She also worked with the UW’s Office of Occupational Health and Safety to be fitted for a mask to keep her from inhaling formaldehyde fumes in an anatomy lab.
As she looks to the future, she hopes to help increase the number of Native American dentists. Working with the dental school’s Office of Educational Partnerships and Diversity, she has received a grant to fund outreach trips to Seattle-area high school tribal communities and inspire young people to pursue careers in health care.
“I knew at UW I would get a great education, but I didn’t realize I would have the opportunity to pursue a career that opens doors for others and creates opportunity for change,” she wrote. “I am proud to be at the University of Washington and look forward to representing the values of the school for a lifetime.”
Dean Gary Chiodo of the School of Dentistry said: “I am absolutely delighted that Lindsey has received this very well-deserved recognition. Her accomplishments as a pre-dental student and now as a dental student are impressive.
“As a public health dentist, I am especially glad to see her interest in this field. She will be an influential role model for other Native Americans who may be contemplating a career in dentistry. She brings the perfect combination of expertise, determination, and motivation to the profession and to a population that is often overlooked by those recruiting dental students. I could not be more proud of her successes nor happier that she will be joining my profession as a public health dentist.”