At 23, many students are still working to finish a bachelor’s degree, but Lyubov Slashcheva was still a teen when she finished a bachelor’s regimen, and in May she graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. Not bad for someone who spoke no English when she and her family moved to Virginia in 1998 from Kazakhstan, when she was 5. She’s been on an accelerated schedule throughout her life: Slashcheva graduated from high school at age 16, and then finished her undergraduate degree in 2 1/2 years. There’s little down time in her life, with school breaks frequently filled with medical mission and indigent clinic work, and other hours spent working with youth and music in her church. After a post-graduation mission trip to India, she is now working on a three-year residency in dental public health and special needs dentistry at the University of Iowa School of Dentistry. Slashcheva recently found time for a question-and-answer interview. Here’s a condensed, edited version of what she had to say:
Richmond magazine: Why did your family move to the United States from Kazakhstan?
Slashcheva: My family immigrated to reunite with family (much of my father's family had already settled in the Shenandoah Valley, where a large Russian-speaking Protestant community was forming). In addition to reuniting with family, my parents were aware of the U.S. having a reputation of increased opportunities for their children.
RM: You were just 5 when you moved here. What was that like?
Slashcheva: I remember many tears on the school bus as I was separated from my mom for weekdays for the first time. Naptime was definitely not my favorite time of the day, but I remember finding friends on the playground by distinguishing myself as the fastest runner in the class.
RM: Now, you’re 23, and you’ve finished dental school. You graduated high school two years early as well. What drives you?
Slashcheva: Being the youngest within a family of immigrants with an excellent work ethic, I had the benefit of my siblings' educational experiences to understand how to most efficiently go about reaching the goal, which for an immigrant was a stable and suitable career. Balancing the many tasks at one time likely stems from a family where my father was a lay minister (he worked full time while serving as an associate pastor for our church); providing for family was on the same level of importance as engaging within the church community, so that there was little free time for developing hobbies and a lifestyle that didn't serve some purpose. Adopting this worldview/perspective, I simply don't notice that all the endeavors that I enjoy are “hard work” or leave little time for leisurely activities.
RM: How did you go into dentistry?
Slashcheva: My father was getting a root canal treatment, for which I joined him to interpret. During the procedure, I stayed in the operatory, completing my Spanish homework from a community college summer course I was taking. I had just graduated from high school and was prepared to enter [Eastern Mennonite University’s] nursing program in the footsteps of my sister. The endodontist, Dr. Dave Kenee, took interest in my academic journey and suggested that I demonstrated the academic potential to pursue a doctoral degree. Within a week, I was back in his office, shadowing and soon assisting during procedures. Many had doubts that a young woman from the ethnic community in which I was raised ought to devote so much time to a career if she would likely become a wife and mother as was common for my contemporaries emerging from their teens and into early 20s. My parents, however, were fully supportive of my interest and offered their blessing that I take the necessary steps to actively move towards this goal.
RM: You’ve also managed to find time for an extensive amount of community service and mission work. Why is that important to you?
Slashcheva: Being raised within a lay minister's household, service has been an integral part of my worldview and lifestyle. Coming from humble immigrant heritage, I most naturally relate to those who have also had to transition and adapt to their surroundings, whether due to economic or cultural adversity. I find resonance with the resilience of these communities and individuals, and it inspires me to continue using the opportunities I've been granted to honor the perseverance we all aspire to maintain within our unique circumstances.
RM: It seems like you have little spare time, but when you do, how do you fill it?
Slashcheva: I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to know Richmond from the perspective of my bike. Pedaling five miles nearly every day from the Carillon neighborhood to the downtown medical campus and back has provided 15 to 25 minutes of time devoted to breathing and letting my thoughts settle or sift without much direction.
Being actively involved in the First Mennonite Church of Richmond, I've enjoyed employing my musical skills and interests in singing, playing the flute and directing music.
Time spent with family in the Shenandoah Valley involves much time spent in the kitchen and at the dining table over a cup of tea and Russian treats, compliments of a mom trained as a chef and taking joy in her current role as a homemaker and sitter for grandkids.
RM: What's your takeaway from your time in dental school?
Slashcheva: VCU, being the premier urban research university that it is and by nature a diverse melting pot of many disciplines, has offered fertile grounds within which to establish foundational skills as an oral health care professional as well as grow these in the context of other colleagues' work. Opportunities to partner across professional lines as well as experience levels has inspired me to not limit myself to expectations set by myself or others but define my potential by those with whom I can collaborate to achieve common goals.
Investigators are trying to unravel a medical mystery of how a Utah resident contracted Zika virus though they had not traveled to an area where the disease is occurring, and had not had sexual contact with someone infected with the virus. The person has since recovered. They were caring for an elderly family member who apparently contracted the disease in travel and died in June. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping with the investigation and reported on Monday that the deceased family member apparently had more than 100,000 times higher amounts of the virus in blood samples than had previously been detected.
In Florida, CDC and state health officials are trying to determine whether a Miami-area case of the virus may have been acquired in-state, according to The Miami Herald.
There have been 1,304 cases of Zika reported in the continental United States through July 13. Most occurred through mosquito bites that occurred outside the country, while 14 were through sexual transmission and one is attributed to exposure in a laboratory.
You can learn the latest about the Zika virus from a research perspective in a free seminar at noon on Wednesday, July 27, at the Science Museum of Virginia. The session will be led by a microbiologist, Arthur Guruswamy. It’s free, but seating is limited.
A weekly roundup of health and medicine news
- Heading to the coast? You can check out bacterial levels in the water at select Virginia beaches courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health. Bacterial levels are monitored at 46 public beaches in the summer, with samples taken weekly. Check their Twitter feed here.
- Closer to home, you can check out water quality for swimming in the James River through resources offered by the James River Association’s James River Watch and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.