ADHA’s Center for Lifelong Learning Celebrates Start of Dental Hygiene Profession’s Next 100 Years
Greetings! As the newly installed President of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), I am honored to share a professional overview of the ADHA’s very successful 2014 Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL) at the 91st Annual Session! We had an exciting week June 18-24, 2014, in Las Vegas’ beautiful Caesars Palace. Every day, dental hygienists had incredible opportunities to network, gain new skills and knowledge, experience innovative technologies and impact their profession!
The week culminated in my presidential address, focused on our exciting future as dental hygienists, the collective power we hold and the ADHA’s vision for preparing us to seize opportunities in an ever-changing health-care environment. ADHA leadership is ready and energized to serve the association and our profession this year!
Nearly 2,000 attendees and more than 110 exhibitors gathered to see the latest technologies discuss and debate the impacts and opportunities that the constantly evolving world of healthcare presents to the profession, and explore and discover how dental hygienists can continue to help transform the field of oral health while improving the public’s overall health as well.
ADHA began the week by giving back, as more than 20 ADHA volunteers helped educate homeless teens on oral health during ADHA Community Service Day on June 18 at Las Vegas’ Shannon West Homeless Youth Center. Residents visited 15 different poster stations, receiving information on topics such as oral cancer, proper brushing techniques and oral health careers. After visiting all stations, each resident received a goodie bag of oral health products from industry supporters, and were entered into a drawing for prizes awarded at the conclusion of the volunteers’ visit.
The CLL began June 19, kicked off with an engaging keynote presentation from speaker Dan Thurmon. In that program, he encouraged attendees to expand their horizons and to work “off balance, on purpose.” Challenging yourself and pushing the boundaries are keys to success, he espoused to the audience. That evening, student researchers were honored during the DENTSPLY/ADHA Graduate Student Clinician’s Research Program Awards Banquet.
More than 30 CE opportunities were available to attendees from June 19-21, along with programs such as the ADHA student mega issues discussion and the graduate student clinician’s research poster sessions. Attendees could follow one of six tracks of study or take programs that fit with their professional needs and interests.
On June 20, the Exhibit Hall opened, giving attendees the opportunity to see the latest technologies and products from a worldwide assortment of exhibitors. For the fourth year, the ADHA/Henry Schein Dream Center allowed visitors the opportunity to go through a full operatory with six different product stations and learn about the technologies one-on-one with representatives from supporting organizations. We are grateful to all of those who showcased their products and services, as well as the attendees who benefited from having access to all of this technology in one place. The evening was capped off with the Institute for Oral Health/President’s Reception, including a highly popular (and successful!) silent auction that raised thousands of dollars to help improve oral health research and education.
June 21 also afforded attendees the opportunity to offer comments on the Commission on Dental Accreditation’s (CODA’s) proposed dental therapy education standards. The Federal Trade Commission made several recommendations to CODA regarding revisions to the standards, which CODA revised in January and is now circulating for comment. Dozens of attendees, myself included, shared their thoughts with CODA on the standards during the 90-minute comment period. My comments focused on removing restrictive language from the standards on supervision, evaluation and treatment planning, and I noted that “ADHA is supportive of CODA’s decision to remove the onerous and restrictive supervision requirements, which would have, in effect prohibited direct access for this new provider.”
Moving into the business meeting component of the 91st Annual Session, the excitement and expectation was palpable! Meetings and discussions centered around the ADHA’s new strategic plan, which is tied to three goals — education, alliances and advocacy. With the quickly shifting healthcare climate impacting us all, delegates talked about the importance of embracing the ADHA’s new core ideology, an ideology focused on leading the transformation of the dental hygiene profession to improve the public’s oral and overall health. Members explored what approaches are needed related to dental hygiene education, and what expanded knowledge is required by hygienists to become essential primary care providers in an integrated healthcare delivery system model.
I mentioned in my June 24 installation speech that “the diverse needs of a diverse public will demand that we change the way we practice. Our future will better position us to collaborate with other healthcare professionals and our strategic partners. The ADHA is harnessing our knowledge, experience and resources to make sure that dental hygiene will be at the forefront of innovation.”
Never has that been truer than right now. We have had terrific achievements that we need to build on. In January 2014, the National Governors Association issued a report titled “The Role of Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care,” which powerfully expressed the logic of using dental hygienists effectively to address unmet oral health needs. At the present time, 37 states offer the public direct access to a dental hygienist in at least one setting. And more states are looking at or adopting new oral health workforce models, including states such as Minnesota and Maine, which now allow dental therapists and dental hygiene therapists to perform duties that include simple extractions, placement of crowns and space maintainers, and many other preventive and restorative services.
We truly are transforming our profession, learning and adapting to the new realities of a changed healthcare landscape, and harnessing the power of our collective knowledge and expertise to shape our future reality. Through that transformation, fresh opportunities and new roles for dental hygienists will be created. And that is something truly worth roaring about!