Meet Distingushed Dental Alumna Deborah Lien

Dean Keith Mays, Deb Lien, and Shivan Nelson pose with Deb Lien's distinguished alumni award plaque

Deborah Lien, DDS ’83, MS, is the 2021 recipient of the Distinguished Dental Alumni Award at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

The Distinguished Dental Alumni Award is an honor given annually to an outstanding alumnus or alumna in recognition of exceptional achievement. Candidates must be a graduate of any program of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and are judged based on their participation, service, and leadership in the advancement of dentistry and dental health, their public service, community service, and/or civic affairs, and their dedication to continuing education.

The School of Dentistry Alumni Society Honors Task Force chose Lien based on her commitments to community involvement, public service and leadership.

Lien owns Lien Orthodontics in Blooming Prairie, MN. After graduating summa cum laude with high distinction with her Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1983, she attended the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine to pursue her Masters of Science in Orthodontics. She practiced in Rochester, Owatonna and most recently opened her practice in Blooming Prairie, MN in 2000. Lien also does locum tenens for her colleagues needing medical, disability or maternity leave. A fierce advocate for rural communities like the ones in which she grew up, Lien has made whole-body wellness for patients in outstate and rural Minnesota a priority.

She first became interested in oral health care after following in the footsteps of her sister, a dental assistant—continuing along that path through dental school and to a specialty in orthodontics. 

“Lien deserves this award because she is the consummate volunteer, the consummate orthodontist,” said Steve Litton, DDS, Lien’s mentor and nominator. “She is the epitome of what all the graduates of the School of Dentistry should do.”

“She has participated in so many activities that have changed the direction of organizations and enhanced their effectiveness,” added co-nominator and fellow mentor Arnie Hill, DDS. “She is totally committed, and she deserves this award not only for those activities but because of who she is.”

Lien received her award at a ceremony held during the 2022 Alumni Weekend at the School of Dentistry.

“The University of Minnesota has shaped every one of us in this room, and it certainly had a profound impact on me,” Lien said as she received her award, reflecting on her love for the school and for dentistry. “Few professions allow you a front row seat to seeing a life transformed—and what is more beautiful than that?”

Watch the video below to learn more about Lien and why she received this award.