By Theresa Pablos, associate editor

February 26, 2016 -- If there's one thing Desirée Walker, DDS, likes to do, it's break down boundaries. She's a two-time competitor on NBC's "American Ninja Warrior," owner of the start-up Lumber River Dental practice, and one of the engaging speakers at the upcoming 2016 Women in Dentistry conference.

Desirée Walker, DDS
Desirée Walker, DDS, is a two-time competitor on NBC's "American Ninja Warrior," a two-time national fitness champion, and the owner of Lumber River Dental. All images courtesy of Dr. Walker.

Dr. Walker, who is known as the "ninja dentist" online and to her patients in Lumberton, NC, has overcome many challenges to get to where she is today, and she doesn't intend on stopping now. She's excited to share what she's learned about overcoming barriers and becoming your best self at the conference, which will take place April 8-9 in Park City, UT.

"My biggest accomplishment is still a work-in-progress," she said in an interview with "And that's figuring out myself and really being able to challenge my beliefs on what is possible and to learn from my obstacles."

Becoming the ninja dentist

Before she was the ninja dentist, Dr. Walker suffered from debilitating physical pain that made her question whether she could finish dental school. It was only after she learned to incorporate movement into her day that she was able to overcome that pain and begin the journey to becoming a ninja warrior.

"As humans, we're not meant to be in those [seated and hunched over] positions. Over a period of time, it causes chronic wear and tear on our joints," she explained. "Movement gets the blood flowing."

Now that Dr. Walker has her own dental practice, she's designed it to allow for movement whenever possible. For instance, she keeps a chin-up bar over the doorway to hang from and writes her notes from a standup desk.

"We have to make movement part of our environment, part of our office," she said.

Using your strengths in your practice

Dr. Walker hangs from a chin-up bar
Dr. Walker hangs from a chin-up bar in her practice. She recommends every dental office should have one over a doorway, because it is an inexpensive way to align the back.

Being the ninja dentist also has perks within the community, and Dr. Walker is working to change the way her patients think of dentists.

"People don't come to the dentist because they're scared. If we can change that belief, if we can make them feel differently when they're here, then they will feel different," she said. "They can relate to me more as a ninja warrior than as a dentist."

Dr. Walker also emphasized, however, that you don't have to compete at the ninja-warrior level to help patients see you in a different light. She suggested thinking about what makes your personality special and relatable, and then tying that experience together for patients from the moment they first connect with your practice.

"Everyone has a unique personality," she explained. "You need to use that personality ... to be able to connect to patients. It starts from the first time they call your practice. When they walk into your practice, does it look like a dental practice? Challenge all their senses about how they see the dentist."

Setting realistic goals

Dr. Walker has goals for practically every aspect of her life. This year, she wants to focus on writing and sharing information about fitness and nutrition.

“Realize that you cannot do it all. Pick one thing and focus on it—one thing that's going to be a priority and set your goals.”
— Desirée Walker, DDS

She also has to remind herself that, while goals are important, the true reward is the journey. She learned that lesson when she was competing on "American Ninja Warrior" -- and ultimately failed.

"I was in shape, and I was ready. I was mentally prepared, and then I failed," she said. "Sometimes failure is the best thing, and we learn the most from our failures."

But for Dr. Walker, running into obstacles hasn't stopped her before, and she encourages everyone to continue setting goals and striving for them.

"A lot of the barriers are interior ... the voice that we have to be everything to everyone," she said. "Realize that you cannot do it all. Pick one thing and focus on it -- one thing that's going to be a priority and set your goals. Just realize that at the end of the day, it's a journey."

Copyright © 2016

To read this and get access to all of the exclusive content on create a free account or sign-in now.

Member Sign In:
MemberID or email address:  
Do you have a password?
No, I want a free membership.
Yes, I have a password:  
Forgot your password?
Sign in using your social networking account:
Sign in using your social networking