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The family album

July 1, 2000
If dental hygiene is not the most family-oriented profession there is, then the "league" consists of just two players, and dental hygiene is not a distant second. Basically, a hygienist`s family consists of the nuclear family, a family of co-workers, as well as a family of patients and other members of the community. Sometimes the family units blend together - daughters become dentists, patients become hygienists, etc. There are more people at a reunion hosted on Independence Day at a hygienist`

Since we`re talking about hygienists` families, this is a big album - so get comfortable.

Mark Hartley, Editor

If dental hygiene is not the most family-oriented profession there is, then the "league" consists of just two players, and dental hygiene is not a distant second. Basically, a hygienist`s family consists of the nuclear family, a family of co-workers, as well as a family of patients and other members of the community. Sometimes the family units blend together - daughters become dentists, patients become hygienists, etc. There are more people at a reunion hosted on Independence Day at a hygienist`s house than there were Continental Army troops who fought in the Revolutionary War. When you ask a hygienist about "family," sit down and get comfortable - we`re talking about a big family here.

RDH has published a series of articles that referred to hygienists with pets (February 2000 issue), inspirational stories to tell (March 2000 issue), sporting conquests (April 2000 issue), some unusual pastimes (May 2000 issue), and unique career twists (June 2000 issue). Obviously, 99.9 percent of the hygienists written about in those articles also have wonderful families in their lives. But we dedicate this issue to some letters and photographs received from readers who have a special connection with others. Maybe they`re blood, maybe they`re not - the love`s there, though.

All in the family

Gretchen Bufo, a 14-year veteran hygienist, met her husband, Dr. Michael Bufo, when he was a second-year dental student. They opened up his practice in 1990 and, along the way, have had two children. The photograph of the family was taken at a beach in southern Maine.

"As you may have guessed, we love the beach," Bufo wrote from Scarborough, which is on the southern outskirts of Portland. "My husband and son surf, and my daughter and I spend long summer days swimming, body surfing, and relaxing at the many beautiful beaches near our home.

"When summer ends, we spend time picking apples, camping, and hiking. Autumn is especially beautiful in Maine. It truly is nature at its best."

We also received several scenic photographs from Amy Lieberman. The most stunning one, of course, is the photograph shown of Lieberman and her husband, Billy, while on vacation. She wrote, "I am a photographer, specializing in children`s portraits." The vacation photos are not too shabby either. "Billy" has practiced pediatric dentistry in Red Bank, N.J., for 25 years. They met while enrolled at Temple University. "Although we have never worked together in dentistry, we both love the field and dedicate ourselves to excellence," she said, adding that she works with a prosthodontist in Red Bank.

The couple have two grown children - a son who is currently managing two political campaigns for the state assembly and a daughter who is a predental major at the University of Maryland.

"At 49 years old, the physical strain of root planings, sometimes poor posture, and long hours can be exhausting," Lieberman wrote. "I attribute my endurance to having balance in my work and family life; by working a 24-hour week; having a loving, supportive family; occasional massage therapy; and many outside interests."

The photograph of Nancy Marchand and Dr. Paul Marchand was taken during a successful fishing trip to the Florida Keys. Brother and sister, they have a combined 60 years of dental experience between them. Like the Liebermans, though, the 60 years have been spent in separate offices.

"I love him too much and wouldn`t want to jeopardize our relationship," Nancy wrote. "He is my fishing buddy, my best friend, and my hero."

You may feel a sense of déjà vu in regard to Joanne Pasienza. RDH published a photograph and a letter to the editor written by her in the May 2000 issue. She wrote to readers about keeping an open heart and mind when treating special needs patients. While researching this article, we came across a letter that Pasienza wrote to us last summer. The other "Ms. Pasienza" in the photograph is Lori, and the two are sisters-in-law as well as hygienists. Joanne, as indicated in the May issue, works in Brighton, Mich., where she treats a variety of patients, including the handicapped. She and her husband, Peter, have three children. Her son, Joel, is physically and mentally handicapped.

Lori married Peter`s brother, Jack, and they also have three children. She practices with a periodontist in Toledo, Ohio. "She (Lori) occasionally subs in our office where we have the privilege of working together," Joanne writes. "Lori and I share many similar interests. We both enjoy going to schools in our areas to teach children how to maintain good oral health, and we both enjoy golf, swimming, reading, and spending time with our families."

RDH liked the photograph of Leslie Firth and her sister, Carrie. Every Mom dreams of having one like that in the family photo album. Leslie is two years older, but that head start is apparently one of the few times they`ve been separated. For the last six years, for example, they have worked out of the same dental practice in Queensbury, N.Y., and both "enjoy a variety of outdoor activities that include biking, running, hiking, rollerblading, and tennis," according to Leslie.

Maureen McFarlane-Wahl graduated from Lansing Community College in June 1975. McFarlane-Wahl took the time to let us know that her daughter, Lisa Dewey, graduated from the same college last month - also with a dental hygiene degree.

"My enthusiasm for hygiene influenced Lisa to embark on a career path to become a dental hygienist too," she wrote from her home in Lansing, Mich. "My daughter and I have much in common, and her decision to enter hygiene has brought us much closer."

Finally, Elizabeth Petty of Brockport, N.Y., has three children, and she seems to live the lifestyle of so many parents. She wrote, "I enjoy unwinding with a good historical romance novel. But usually you`ll find me on a softball field, soccer field, or freezing to death at some hockey rink. In between games, you`ll find my husband and I remodeling our 1814 farmhouse. You know, take this wall down ... ah, put a wall over there. Hey, I do great tile work!"

We were particularly amused at Petty`s description of her oldest son, a freshman at the University of Buffalo. She asked, "Can you believe this? He wants to be an orthodontist. Thinks Mom can work and take orders from him for a change. We`ll see."

No place like hygiene

The "crowd" of hygienists at the top of the first page of this article are avowed "friends for life," according to Maria "Mepi" Beguiristain-Johnson. She sent us the photograph along with this explanation: "During my two-year program at Miami Dade College, I was in clinic along with five other students. During these two years, we became friends for life. We have grown together, traveled and worked together. From birthday dinners to bridal showers to baby showers to even sad, difficult moments, we are all there with love and support. We are all from Cuban backgrounds. We celebrate Christmas and do brunch and exchange gifts. Last year, we made an exception and included our husbands."

Beguiristain-Johnson`s kindred spirits from the last 14 years are:

- Mayra Delvalle, mother of two and vice president of corporate operations for Towncare Dental Group.

- Dr. Ileana Ramudo-Townsend, in her third year of residency at Columbia University.

- Otmara Carreno, still practicing full-time hygiene.

- Marilyn Robaina, mother of two and part-time hygienist who also holds a real estate license.

- Beatriz Gilbert, professional relations representative for American Dental Plans.

As for Mepi, she is the mother of three and practices three days a week.

Kimberly La Bruyere wrote to us after completing work for her bachelor`s degree, since she found a tip on how to do it in RDH. She then took the time to introduce herself, saying she works for a general dentist in a St. Louis suburb. She is married and has a daughter. "We love to travel," she said. "I spend my spare time searching for our next vacation. We have been to Hawaii twice, been on numerous cruises, and anywhere else that a good deal might take us. Having only one child makes it easy to take her along. She loves to go like we do."

La Bruyere earned her associate`s degree in 1988 from Chattanooga State Technical Community College. Therein lies a primary reason for some costs on the family`s phone bill. "The picture I have sent is of myself and my best friend from hygiene school, Cathy. We are still best friends even though she is 12 hours away in Georgia. We talk on the phone a lot. We talk of our jobs, since dental hygiene is such a huge part of our lives."

This reminded RDH of a letter from Mary Jo Champlin of Middlebury, Vt. In 1963, Champlin roomed with Nancy Byrnes as a student at the Fones School of Dental Hygiene.

"Our friendship has lasted all these years, and we think we look pretty good for being over the hill," Champlin wrote. RDH does not disagree. "Our lives have taken sharp turns since college, but we are looking forward to retirement to play golf and continue our skiing adventures. In 1965, we started skiing and, not knowing how to stop, skiied right into the parking lot. We have not hit anyone with golf balls yet."

The friendship persevered despite the distance - Byrnes lives in Newport Beach, Calif., while the photograph of the two friends shows a glimpse of Champlin`s home at Vermont`s Lake Dunmore.

Then we have met some pals who are merely a simple shout away from each other all day long. The four hygienists in Dr. Susan Holtrop`s office in Holt, Mich. - Diane Ballard, Sue Merriam, Georgette Taylor, and Wendy Carpenter - wrote to RDH about their "special place."

"Dr. Susan`s office is a very special place to work," they said. "Dr. Susan takes great pride in making sure her employees are happy and enjoy working with one another.

"We all feel very much like a big, happy family and function very efficiently together as a team. Outside of our normal office activities, we often have informal parties, picnics, and other social events where we can just relax and be ourselves, and get to know one another even better. All of us could think of no other place where we would love to work and practice our hygiene skills on a daily basis."

It`s not as if Dr. Holtrop clones hygienists. Merriam, Ballard, and Taylor have worked full-time at the practice for 12, nine, and five years, respectively. Carpenter works part-time while attending Michigan State University. But the chemistry of their dental family is very much in place.

Obviously, RDH takes a great deal of pride in hygienists` devotion to family and close friends. We thank the readers who shared their stories with us and hope others will let us know about the joys in their lives.

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"Mepi" and friends for life

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Not too shabby vacation pictures

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Fishing with "best buddy"

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Nature in Maine

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Pasienza: Talks shop with sister-in-law

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Firth: Sisters all the livelong day

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McFarlane-Wahl: Lansing`s 1975 class ... and 2000

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Petty: Who`s the boss?

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La Bruyere: You must dial one before the number

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Champlin: Still looking good after all these years

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Dr. Susan`s office: Four in a special place