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"We found Irene Woodall"

Sept. 14, 2010
The headline above appeared in the subject line of an e-mail that I received from JoAnn Gurenlian last month. That didn't slow me down necessarily. Reading JoAnn's email did.

by Mark Hartley
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The headline above appeared in the subject line of an e-mail that I received from JoAnn Gurenlian last month.
Irene Woodall, as she appeared in the magazine in 1981.That didn't slow me down necessarily. Reading JoAnn's email did. I stared at the screen rather stunned for a few moments.

"Deb Astroth and I had the great joy of visiting Irene Woodall this past weekend. She is in a long-term care facility and appears to be beloved by the staff," JoAnn started off, concluding by asking me if I would publish the boxed information on the right side of this page.

For those of you who graduated from dental hygiene school prior to 1990, you probably recall reading Irene's editorials in each issue of RDH. To this day, I still encounter dental hygienists who were powerfully inspired by her words.

I was too. In fact, in preparation for writing this Editor's Note, I put a bunch of my favorite "Irene Woodall" quotes on (if you go to look, search for her name).

For those graduating after 1990 and yet familiar with her name (which is associated with awards, scholarships, and textbooks), Irene was the senior editor of RDH from 1981 to 1993.

Obviously, her impact on the profession went way beyond her 12-year role with the magazine. But, thankfully, I'm not writing an obituary yet; her life's history is not over. The joy that is Irene Woodall is still very much with us.

For those of us in dental hygiene who remember Irene Woodall, we are delighted to inform you that we have found her. As you may recall, Irene suffered a brain aneurysm complicated by a stroke during surgery. She has been well cared for by her daughters Lottie and Amanda, but we lost touch with her and felt bad when many of our colleagues would ask "How's Irene?" or "Have you seen Irene?" Currently, Irene is residing at a long-term care facility and is beloved by the staff. If you remember interacting with Irene or admiring her work in dental hygiene, we would ask that you consider writing to her, sending photos, etc. For more information on how to reach Irene, please contact Deborah Bailey Astroth at [email protected], or JoAnn Gurenlian at [email protected].

The brain aneurysm that she suffered in January 1993 drastically affected her life. As far as I know, she stopped writing completely, for example, since RDH never published an original work by Irene after the February 1993 issue. She had to be cared for by family members, and her colleagues at RDH magazine soon lost track of her whereabouts.

If I had won the lottery and was free to go search for Irene, I probably would have started in Colorado or Ohio. So her presence in Chicago suprised me.

The fact that she's much beloved by the health-care staff at her facility doesn't.

So I'd like to conclude with one of my favorite "Irene" quotes. In October 1987, she wrote, "There is one roadblock to major change for dental hygiene. We have the resources, the people, the intelligence, the commitment, the energy, and even the possible paths to follow. But we are lacking a crucial element if we are to success with our respective dreams. This missing link is a clear image of how dental hygiene is unique as a profession."

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