Dr. Dana Truesdale excels in two careers: dental practice owner in Maryland and Major in the U.S. Army National Guard. As a Sistah in Dentistry in the Association of Black Women Dentists (ABWD) and as a soldier in Bagram, Afghanistan, some of her most life-changing experiences have taken place when everyone is united in the same mission, working as a team. On Veterans’ Day, this Sistah and soldier shares her story.
At her practice, Innovation Dental Center in Baltimore, Dr. Truesdale has seen exponential growth since the pandemic, and she attributes this success in part to her involvement as a charter member of the ABWD.
“My level of thinking is different, because now I have a team of people with similar experiences,” she said of ABWD, a national organization that empowers black women dentists and dental students through mentorship.
“Some of them have more experiences than I have or are more business savvy, and I’m like a sponge, just soaking up all this new information, applying these things in my practice.”
It was much the same in 2018, when Dr. Truesdale was deployed to Afghanistan from August to December.
“During my time in Afghanistan, I applied everything I learned in leadership and survival courses I took in the past. Everything that I saw in my residency, I applied, because every case I treated there was a result of trauma.
Everything there was very fast paced. You have to be able to make a decision in a hurry because it’s literally life and death over there.”
What did all-hands-on-deck mean to Dr. Truesdale?
Dr. Dana Truesdale
“Everybody came together. Whenever there is a situation, where there is a mass casualty, meaning they shoot one of our helicopters out of the sky or there is roadside bombing, we would get a lot of patients in. Sometimes you have to put people in different places. You save who you can save first and then those who you don’t think will make it, well that was my responsibility….We were responsible for taking care of the expected, meaning we’re not expecting them to live.”
Dr. Truesdale, then 42, also served as Dental Officer in Command while deployed at Bagram Air Base.
“There were a lot of gunshot wounds to the face, a lot of traumas, a lot of bombings. Every day we got bombed and every day we would get hit with rockets. All night there is gunfire and rockets flying across the sky. Those things can land anywhere, so your head is always on a swivel.”
“It was all-hands-on-deck. Sometimes I worked with cardiologists, sometimes with eye doctors. We were all in there reconstructing faces together, making sure patients were able to live. It was high intensity, an adrenaline rush. You don’t know who is trying to kill you, who is friend or foe. Being able to see everything, read people, caused me to grow up really, really fast.”Dr. Dana Truesdale, on her 2018 deployment in Bagram, Afghanistan, with the U.S. Army National Guard
What made Dr. Truesdale feel safe while deployed in the midst of the trauma in Afghanistan?
On her first day, while on a call with her staff back in Maryland, Dr. Truesdale heard a boom and felt the ground shake beneath her feet. A group of soldiers walking by explained that the bombing had occurred 60 yards away, less than the length of a football field.
Right after I left the place where I ate breakfast every morning, at the time that I would eat breakfast during the 7 o’clock hour, the place got hit. One of the rockets hit that building. I could have been in there. But fortunately nobody was hurt because the structures are really sound.”
“The soldiers are so brave. We had each other’s backs. We found peace and calm, knowing that everybody you were around would die for you. They would protect you to their death. I felt very safe there.
What led Dr. Dana Truesdale to the military?
“The seeds were planted young. Both my parents were in the military. My mother (Claudette Abert) was in the ROTC, my father (Elton Abert) was in the Air Force. After dental school, my student loans exceeded $250,000 and it was taking forever to pay off.
One of my colleagues asked, ‘Have you ever considered Army National Guard? They are doing an incentive to pay off student loans.’ “
“I struggled with my weight, whenever I’m stressed I eat. I’m from Louisiana, so I love to eat. So, it was a win-win for me: Pay off my student loans and get paid to stay in shape. Going in, I looked at it as just that.
But once I got in, it opened up the doors to a lot of possibilities. The leaders above me know I’m into politics, I just gravitate toward it. Whenever there are events, they want my face in the place.
It’s teaching me to lead in that aspect. they train you in clear communication and to get straight to the point. No fluff, cut to the chase.”
Dr. Truesdale finds commonalities in dentistry and war
As both a dentist and a soldier, Dr. Truesdale said she identifies the mission, communicates it clearly and trains others to execute the task.
On Veterans’ Day and year round, Dr. Truesdale applies the skills and knowledge she’s gained to lead others. In July of 2020, she was elevated to the rank of Major in the U.S. Army, and every day she continues on the path of her leadership journey.
Dr. Dana Truesdale resides in Baltimore with husband Nijui Truesdale. Their children, Jenai and Austin, both 22, live in New Orleans. After completing a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Dillard University of New Orleans in 1999, Dr. Truesdale earned a Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee in 2004. She completed her General Practice Residency Program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.
Dr. Truesdale received a Diploma of Ministerial Studies from Spirit of Faith Bible Institute in 2015. She is a member of the Dream Maker Network Foundation, which encourages personal self-development and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.