In the Spotlight
My dental hygiene education has afforded me so many opportunities that, at the time of my graduation, I didn’t even know existed. I finished hygiene school at Northampton Community College in 1979, fresh out of high school. I was a hygienist before I could (legally) drink ☺️ and vote. My first opportunity in dental hygiene took me several blocks from my home to an office where I used equipment that was so ancient that I had to be instructed how to use it, as in school, we had the cream of the crop, at the time. The belt driven handpiece would grab my long hair and rip it out of my head. Funny, the things you remember about hygiene 42 years ago. We didn’t wear gloves (unless the patient had hepatitis), masks, or any of the PPE that are standards of care today. Wow, am I ever dating myself! Oh, and I made $6.00/hour and bought myself a brand new Chevy Camaro, just as soon as I saved up some money. Upon my graduation, I joined ADHA, PDHA, and at the time, Lehigh Valley Dental Hygienists’ Association and never looked back.
Four years out of hygiene school, I applied to teach clinical hygiene at my alma mater on my day off. I continued to work at Northampton Community College part-time as a clinical instructor for 14 years. During that time, I met so many wonderful colleagues and students and networking with my dental hygiene friends was a huge part of my life. During that time, I became more and more involved in the local hygiene component and served as President of the Lehigh Valley Dental Hygienists’ Association from 1991 – 1994. I was a delegate to the PDHA Annual session from 1990-2003. It was during that time that I met amazing hygienists’ from across the state that inspired me in many ways to become more involved to make a difference in our profession and to put us on the map. Community service to bring awareness to dental hygienists’ became my passion. I took on projects including numerous dental health month programs, denture ID marking in nursing homes as well as training staff of nursing homes to do this service, Sealant Saturday programs, Adopt-a-Highway trash pick-up, blood drive chairperson for LVDHA through the Miller Blood bank, along with many others. PDHA honored me with the Community Dental Health award in April 1990.
Our local component decided in 1994 that we would volunteer to host the PA state meeting in 1995. I was named the local chairperson. At the time, this was a HUGE undertaking (and still is) but it’s truly what you make it. I had the support of so many of my hygiene friends/colleagues to make the meeting the most financially successful meeting to that point for PDHA. We found great national speakers that were fully sponsored by corporate groups, had hygiene friends chair very successful sub-committees, volunteering their time in planning and executing this event for a whole year. The bonds that were forged with this project alone continue to this day. The volunteerism of my Lehigh Valley hygiene friends during that meeting was second to none. They took such pride in hosting this meeting and making it a great success, as if it were in their own homes. When I look back on the volunteer participation needed to produce the outcome, we were simply blessed to have one another to lean on for help.
My career took a new path in 1997, when I accepted a position as a Professional Oral Care sales representative with Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals. Clinical dental hygiene was very fulfilling but when I saw this opportunity, it was perfect timing in my life to leap out of the box of clinical hygiene. My new sales position took me to 3,000+ dental offices in Northeast PA, covering at least 25% of the state. Colgate named me to the convention sales team, based on my sales success, which took me to conventions in cities and states that I had never been, including Hawaii twice. Sales is hard work….don’t let anyone tell you differently. The 8am – 5pm days, going home without additional work to do while in clinical hygiene, are now a thing of the past. But the rewards are rich. I’d drive three or more hours from my home to, say, a little town in Central PA to an office and ask to speak to the RDH, and there was David Tule, RDH who I met through PDHA. This happened day in and day out. I’d meet former students and colleagues that I’ve looked up to for years through their involvement/commitment to PDHA everywhere I turned. I also met hygienists that were looking for what professional involvement could help you achieve in the way of continuing education, networking with colleagues for professional fulfillment, etc. and encouraged them to join PDHA. If I may digress, this was BEFORE GPS. I would sit on my living room floor with a map of PA and literally circle cities that were near each other where I had accounts to plan my days/weeks. Never mind that once I found the town, I had to then find the street where these offices were located. This was before mapquest, etc. I think AAA was doing “trip tix” back at that time, when we drove somewhere on vacation. ☺️ Heck, I had a bag phone for emergency use! Overnight travel was involved, too, to maximize my days. I have to say that the benefit is that I know my way around the state now and don’t hesitate to drive anywhere!
Again, based on my involvement in PDHA, I met so many inspirational colleagues. Joanne Gurenlian and Brenda Martin became my friends and with each of them, we published articles in Access (June 1995) and Contemporary Oral Hygiene (Sept-Oct, 2002) on hygiene-related topics. The collaboration working with these professionals was simply amazing and so motivating to me. To have had the opportunity to work with both of them, separately, are memories that I will always cherish.
I’ve been honored to serve on the Dental Hygiene Advisory boards of both Northampton Community College since 1994 and Penn College of Technology since 2001. I was asked to join the Penn College Advisory board as I began calling on the school in my sales positions and through meeting many of the faculty and the director that are members of PDHA.
The next door opened for me when Colgate became an exclusive partner with Henry Schein Dental. I began co-traveling with distributor reps from Henry Schein, many times introducing them to my customers to help them to “get in the door” for business. I really enjoyed learning more about their careers and began exploring my options of going from a manufacturer rep at Colgate (selling only Colgate products) to a distributor rep at Henry Schein, and selling EVERYTHING! Henry Schein offered me a position in 2004 and gave me 200 customers who basically bought nothing from them and said, “Go!”, after training, of course. The training that Henry Schein offered was second to none in understanding the business of dentistry. No longer was I the hygienist looking at one aspect of the business but instead, looking at the big picture. After all these years in dentistry, I still had SOOOO much to learn. I was now responsible for helping Dr’s build their business from the ground up, in finding real estate to build or rent, working with my design department to design their dream office, working with contractors to make it happen, equipment specialists, technology specialists, manufacturers to all make these dreams come true. And, many of my friends still think I only sell supplies. ☺️ They also know that my work days don’t ever end, including weekends and vacations, and I’ve accepted that this is the nature of the business. The business has changed in my 17 years with Henry Schein. DSO’s and corporate groups are buying more offices now than ever before, changing many things about how business is done. I feel very blessed to have had the success and opportunities in sales that I’ve had and have forged many new friendships, as a result. I pray that it continues for many more years!
The pandemic has been a trying time for all of us. Truly! As a merchandise rep, I had the responsibility of the weight of the world to keep my customers/friends safe with necessary PPE supplies and informed with the latest information to prepare to go back to work after three months. My docs were desperate to get the necessary supplies and figure out a way to keep their heads above water with virtually no income for three months. Henry Schein had several training webinars daily with up to the minute info to keep our customers informed. At one point, I was doing daily eblasts for several weeks to my customers with that info, then went to two or three a week, to weekly and now maybe monthly. The pandemic created such a fluid situation that things were changing by the minute. PDHA honored me with the Academic Effort Award in Nov. 2020 for keeping my colleagues/customers informed, during this challenging time.
If there is one common theme that I’d like you to know from reading this crazy story of my several paths in dental hygiene, I hope that you know how important membership in your professional organization has been to me in my career and in my life. Having a career in dental hygiene is one thing. The fulfillment that is found through professional involvement can be your legacy, as well.
Bridget A. Dorsey, RDH
Field Sales Consultant
Henry Schein Dental
Cell - 610-217-5601
Henry Schein COVID-19 Resource Center - https://www.henryschein.com/us-en/corporate/coronavirus.aspx?utm_source=Corporate&utm_medium=External&utm_campaign=20200314VanityURL&utm_term=COVID19update&cdivid=Corporate
Summer 2021 -
Growing Smiles of Erie County-The Erie County Department of Health (ECDH) By Karen Omniewski
Growing Smiles of Erie County, a free preventive dental clinic at the ECDH, began services in October of 2016. Melissa Lyon, Director of Public Health, and Shannon Kleckner, Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner (PHDHP), designed and implemented the program with the generous support of the Highmark Foundation grant. It was established to provide preventive dental services and referrals to dentist for the uninsured, underinsured and low-income families in our community. I accepted the position of Dental Health Program Coordinator as a PHDHP in July of 2018.
Our program grew leaps and bounds since its inception thanks to our partnerships, collaborations, and the kindness and generosity of our grantors, including the ADHA Mars- Wrigley grant. Each day brings unique experiences and diversity to my position. Other departments at within ECDH, including Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), Parent Child Health (PCH) and the Tobacco Cessation Program, offer parents and children from pregnancy and infancy into adulthood referrals for preventive care. Thanks to the Tobacco Cessation program, Walmart offers gift cards to pregnant women and children in diapers who receive preventive dental services in our clinic. These efforts assist in encouraging early nutritional guidance and oral health education to families.
Reaching the youth of our community extends outside the walls of ECDH. In collaborations with a local dentist, Dr. Cortney Archbold, and Head Start programs, I provide Teledentistry exams and preventive care to students without dental homes on site at the schools using a mobile dental unit. With 48 – 72 hours (sooner in an emergency), Dr. Archbold reviews the Teledentistry photos and contacts guardians to establish dental homes. Additionally, the local Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) enables secure access to their software to enable quick appointments for dental screenings I perform at ECDH and Pre-K Counts programs in case urgent care is needed. Pre-COVID, classroom education was given to all children within the Pre- K Counts programs.
Our adult population seen at the clinic is approximately 50 percent immigrant/refugee patients. I work closely with the Multicultural Health Evaluation System (MHEDS), a local health center for the underserved in our community, and ECDH’s Refugee coordinator to provide any necessary interpretive services, both live and telephonic. I adjust time slots for patients to provide adequate preventive care and oral health education on a case-by-case basis. Dexis radiographs are taken when needed and advised. Tobacco cessation is recommended to patients who use tobacco, and referrals are made to our Tobacco Cessation program if patient desires cessation assistance. Every patient seen at the clinic is either scheduled at the FQHC or other Medicaid provider of the patient’s choice.
I also have a passion for the elderly and pre-COVID provided education to the GECAC adult centers in Erie County. My position allows for my passions to expand to any population my heart desires.
In my “free” time, I have learned, through successes and failures, how to write grants. I am credentialled by two Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, and reimbursement for services has been simple. There is such an unmet need for PHDHPs, and I encourage any RDH interested in working independently, and with a desire to serve the underserved population, to get their PHDHP license and become credentialled. It is the most rewarding position! The patients appreciate all we can do for them….with NO out-of-pocket expense.
Karen Omniewski is available at [email protected] if you are interested in more information or have any questions.
September 2012 -
The Sparkling Smiles Mobile Dental Hygiene Care, LLC story. By Kery Jo Leader, RDH, PHDHP and Justine Kuntz, A.S. in HIT, Dental Assistant
It all began three years ago when I (Kery Jo Leader) was working for a not-for-profit Health/Dental Clinic in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania that serviced the underserved and underinsured of our area. The overwhelming need and pervasive dental disease that was prevalent in this population was heart wrenching. Due to the lack of fluoridated water, lack of education, and limited access to care, there seemed to be no end in sight.
After a few twists in the road, my colleague and assistant of three years, Justine Kuntz, came up with the idea of reaching more of our rural community through a mobile dental hygiene unit. She had read an article in an RDH magazine of a hygienist in the Southern part of the State who was doing just that. She said “lets hit the road!”
So, where do we go from here? We researched, contacted dental agencies and Justine developed an awesome power point presentation that explains who we are as Sparkling Smiles Dental Hygiene Care, LLC. The presentation will help to educate the non-dental individuals of the services and parameters of a Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner.
We next decided to establish the need and acceptance of our highly innovative idea by contacting various agencies and organizations who would benefit from our services. We began with a few local nursing homes, a mental health organization and a tri-county Head Start Program. The response was staggering. Even with these few contacts, this would give us a patient base of 500 to 600, and we still have many more doors to knock on.
Now that the need was established, the lender, the banker and the accountant secured, we needed to contact a dentist for billing purposes before proceeding any further with contacts, tax ids, etc. Unfortunately, the dentist we contacted was concerned about liability and felt we would need to be on his malpractice insurance despite us assuring him otherwise and informing him that both of us carry our own liability insurance.
This roadblock lead me to get in touch with the ADHA again who gave me a few more contacts. My hope was to find some answers to the questions that the dentist posed and see what the other hygienists who are doing this across PA are doing to overcome these obstacles. Beth Zimmerman, PDHA Public Health Co-Chair, has been very helpful and wanted me to write my story for all of you.
We will continue to knock on doors until one opens to assuage the billing issue. It is our passion to bridge the vast gap between access to care and those with such extreme need.
If you have any insight or information that you can offer to help us in our quest, please feel free to contact us via e-mail at [email protected].