African–American male hygienist pursues a variety of career options
by Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH
Though he became a hygienist in the U.S. Army in 1979, it was 1987 before Clifford Jones of Cincinnati encountered another hygienist like him. “The other male hygienist was working at an office in Atlanta where I interviewed,” Jones said. “I was shocked, and I think he was also shocked.”
Male hygienists are becoming more common these days, but 30 years ago they were rare. And as unusual as it was back then to be a male hygienist, it was even more uncommon to be an African American male hygienist.
“I was the only man and only black in my class,” he remembers.“I was also older than most of the other students. I never felt out of place, but at times I did feel disconnected. I enjoyed the challenge and the experience, and I had good relationships with other students, and I had my faith to help me make it through.”
He not only made it through, Jones became an exceptional hygienist, both clinically and politically. He is a past president of the Ohio Dental Hygienists Association, with a long history of service there, and is a current member of the Ohio Dental Board.
He has earned several honors, beginning with a nomination to Who's Who in American Junior Colleges in 1984. “In 2000 I won the Gail Benninger Member Scholarship Award from the ODHA, as well as the Outstanding Effort Award. In 2005 I was presented with a resolution from the city of Cincinnati on becoming the first male president of the ODHA, and in 2006 I was given a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Cincinnati's Raymond Walters College.”
Besides the ODHA, Jones is a member of the ADHA, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, and the American College of Health Care Executives. He is also a former co–chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.
Jones's career in hygiene began when he decided that social work wasn't his field. He graduated from Erskine College in Due West, S.C., in 1977 with a bachelor's degree in social services. After completing an internship as a social worker, he decided he was better suited for something else.
“Dentistry was a subject I became interested in, and I decided to join the U.S. Army's dental specialist program,” he said. “They trained me as a hygienist. I enjoyed it, so when I got out of the Army I came to Cincinnati to find a job as a hygienist.”
When he discovered he'd need to go back to school first, he entered Raymond Walters College, and graduated with an associate degree in dental hygiene in 1984. He subsequently earned a master's degree in administration from Central Michigan University in 2003.
Jones began working in private practice in 1985. After his employer had a stroke in 1991, he did temp work before a friend encouraged him to apply for a job in public health. “I became the coordinator of the homeless dental program for the Greater Cincinnati Oral Health Council. My job included 20 hours of clinical and 20 hours of administrative work every week. I'd go around to different shelters, transient and emergency housing, and give oral health lectures. I did prophylaxes at a clinical site, and I signed people up for dental services.
“In 2007 I interviewed and was hired at Neighborhood Health Care Inc., which had just gotten funding for dental services,” Jones continued. “I joined that team as a clinical hygienist, and we provide services at the Walnut Hills/Evanston Health Center. I'm still there for two reasons. First, it's rewarding to me to be able to provide a high standard of care for individuals who can't afford it, and second, I've always been a community–minded individual.”
His resume as a dental hygiene activist is also impressive. “When I moved to Ohio I got involved with the Cincinnati DHA, and from there I ended up as sergeant at arms for the ODHA annual session House of Delegates. After that I became a director of Ohio Hy–Pac; then I was nominated as ODHA vice president. I served as president in 2004–05. One of the highlights of my career was serving on an ADHA reference committee to structure policy in 2005.”
The ODHA then recommended him as an Ohio Dental Board member, and in 2007 the governor appointed him to a four–year term. The board meets in Columbus eight times a year. Jones serves on two committees, Scope of Practice, and a new ad hoc committee called Board Operations.
“Our main mission,” he says of the board, “is to protect and serve the public, and to handle licensure and regulatory operations. My personal goal is to ensure that the public is continually protected and that the business presented to us is done in a manner we are legislated to do. There's always room for improvement, but the board has made a concerted effort to understand the difficulties of adjunct members of the dental field, and at the same time respect them. Dentists are becoming a little more sensitive to our existence and needs.”
Jones believes there will someday be an Ohio Dental Hygiene Board charged with licensure and regulation. “I'll see it in my lifetime. It's a goal for the state association.”
On the issue of independent practice, Jones is a firm proponent. “Folks talk about economic development, and independent practice for hygienists would be part of that. It wouldn't be as bad as some make it out to be. Being independent wouldn't stop us from collaborating with and referring to other professionals. Right now all we have on the table is collaborative agreement, which would allow a hygienist to operate without a dentist as long as certain criteria are met. Hygienists would have to have a dentist sign off on their ability to provide therapeutic and preventive services to the community. They'd also have to have a certain number of years' experience.”
One thing that bothers Jones is the limited scope in any discussion regarding independent hygiene practice. “Every time we try to provide services, it has to be in a subset of individuals who either don't receive services or have low economic status. In other words, we can only go to areas where services are not readily available or affordable. We should be able to set up shop anywhere, not just in economically or dentally deprived areas.”
It's no surprise to learn that Jones is busy and successful in his personal life as well. He and his wife Shasmé, a nurse, have four children between them — Clifford, James, Victor, and Dana. One son is a barber, two work for a gas company, and Dana is an education major in college. There are also two granddaughters, Mariah and Madison.
Besides working in their respective careers, both Joneses are entrepreneurs. Shasmé owns a home health–care company and an Internet–based health–care equipment company, www.wheelchairsabound.com. Clifford owns a mobile entertainment company, Another Class Production Inc., www.acpdj.com, which provides disc jockey services. He has been a wrestling referee for 23 years and is treasurer of the First Baptist Church of Woodlawn. This year he is preparing Form 1023, an application for 501C3 status to make the church a nonprofit organization. He occasionally speaks publicly about oral health care. When he has spare time, he spends it in his home studio enjoying music, photography, and videography.
Clifford Jones, as you can see, is a man of many talents. Whether he's laying down hip hop at a wedding reception, providing health care to the homeless, playing piggyback with his granddaughters, or contributing to state dental board policy, he gives his best effort. As a hygienist, he's doing more than his share to advance the profession.