EMU’s 2020 Alumni Award recipients will be honored during the Oct. 16-18 Homecoming Weekend. Read about Alum of the Year Luke Gascho ’74 and Distinguished Service Award recipients Susan and Stan Godshall, both 1965 graduates.
Lyubov Slashcheva ‘11 bikes to work year-round, whether in rain, sun, sleet, snow, or ice: and the latter three are pretty common in Rochester, Minnesota. While she calls cycling a “cherished practice” developed during her time on the EMU campus, Slashcheva notes that “Iowa and Minnesota winters have expanded my gear to include studded snow tires, handlebar mittens, and ski goggles.”
Her devotion and perseverance in biking are qualities also apparent in her professional path: a practicing dentist since the age of 23, Slashcheva works with the nonprofit Apple Tree Dental as a specialist in public health and special needs and geriatric patients. She also works as a research collaborator with the Mayo Clinic’s departments of dental specialties and health sciences research in Rochester, and holds leadership positions in the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, the Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship, and the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions.
In honor of her achievements and service work, Slashcheva is the 2020 recipient of Eastern Mennonite University’s Outstanding Young Alum award.
“The times I feel most alive would have to be instances where I am able to work with others to creatively consider a challenge – clinical, organizational, or personal – and develop a uniquely-suited solution,” she says.
Slashcheva has always been driven to achieve, achieve early, and achieve across a diverse array of interests. She speaks three languages: English, Russian, and Spanish; plays the flute; holds an amateur radio license; and has won more awards and scholarships than can be listed in this article.
She says her parents “had the confidence that I would work hard and jump through all the hoops” of such a rigorous field as dentistry, despite the fact that most of her female immigrant peers didn’t plan on pursuing education to that extent. Slashcheva came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan with her parents at the age of five – which she says set her up for a unique perspective on life.
“Perhaps because of my early experience of being an immigrant – interpreting for my parents, co-navigating complex adult systems with them, and experiencing their strong work ethic – each new opportunity has looked more exciting than intimidating,” Slashcheva says. She enrolled at EMU after graduating from Turner Ashby High School at age 16, and finished her undergraduate degree in biology just two and a half years later.
After a four-month service term in Latin America, she earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, followed by a Master’s in Dental Public Health and a number of graduate certificates from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.
Her position at Apple Tree Dental fulfills a service commitment to the National Health Service Corps, which provided a scholarship for her dental training.
“I hope to continue using my unique training and skill set to address the gaps in oral health for vulnerable populations in whichever local region we reside, as well as on the larger scale professionally,” says Slashcheva.
A serendipitous encounter with dentistry
If not for being the child of Russian-speaking parents, Slashcheva may have never pursued dentistry in the first place. She was 16, preparing to begin her studies at EMU, when she accompanied her father to a root canal appointment to translate and keep him company. The endodontist asked about her aspirations; she told him she was about to begin nursing school at EMU, in the footsteps of her older sister. He asked why she hadn’t considered a higher degree, like in medicine or dentistry, offering a glimpse into possibilities that Slashcheva hadn’t previously had anyone to nudge her towards.
After that conversation, Slashcheva found herself in a “mini-existential crisis, because I thought I had everything figured out.” While she normally plans out her life years in advance, Slashcheva switched to a biology major a few short weeks before classes at EMU started, in preparation to study dentistry. And she ended up working for the endodontist who inspired her for two and a half years, alongside her studies at EMU.
Slashcheva says that “EMU both widened the scope of my curiosities, and grounded my interests and values in scholastically and vocationally relevant ways that continue to challenge me to seek the greater good, rather than my own personal achievement or benefit.”
Besides a plethora of professional activities, Slashcheva and her husband, Scott, also foster three children, ages eight, 10, and 13, on their urban vegetable farm in Minnesota.
Editor’s note: Since publication of this article, we learned that the Lyubov and Scott Slashcheva’s adoption of the three children has been finalized.