Speaking from the Heart

May 1, 2008
With great anticipation I grab RDH Magazine each month and flip through the pages to see who Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, BDd, FAADH, has chosen to spotlight...

by Noel Kelsch, RDHAP

Editor's note: Noel Kelsch, RDH, asked to contribute this month's "From the Podium" column for reasons that will become obvious as you read it. Ann-Marie won't tell us how young she"ll be on her birthday this month — just that it's a "big one." Happy birthday, Ann-Marie!

With great anticipation I grab RDH Magazine each month and flip through the pages to see who Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, MEd, FAADH, has chosen to spotlight in "From the Podium." As a dental professional, her insight and vision have led me to many programs … and I have never been disappointed! This month, I thought about the first time I heard Ann-Marie speak and how touched I was — not only by the science and material she presented but by her passion for sharing. She has an uncanny ability to captivate the audience with her personal experiences and provide information participants can get nowhere else.

As I left that first seminar, I not only had information to serve the patient but the compassion and understanding that makes all the difference. Sometimes when we look at the podium we only see the speaker from the head up. As Ann-Marie speaks, we get to see her heart! She brings each story to life and shares science and learning with such vivid imagery that attendees leave with something they can take back with them.

As a hygienist, Ann-Marie began presenting programs after experiencing dentistry firsthand. Ann-Marie says: "Years ago I developed temporomandibular disorders. At the time, I began researching information on the disorders and treatments available to me and found very little information that was easily understood. Since as a dental professional and patient I was having a difficult time finding suitable information, what was the lay patient doing? I developed a continuing-education program on TMD for hygienists and other team members, with the help of my TMD care providers, including a periodontist, an oral surgeon, a physical therapist, and a general dentist." That was not enough for her though. She also started a support group for TMD patients and began writing articles for RDH Magazine and other publications.

As her life experience, education, and research expanded, Ann-Marie's courses have also. She has practiced clinically in general and periodontal practices, been employed as a business manager of a practice, worked as a periodontal surgical assistant, and held faculty appointments. Her monthly column and feature writing have been seen in RDH Magazine since 2002. She is currently working as a hygiene consultant/coach/educator with McKane and Associates, PreViser, and RDH Temps, and is also a NERB dental hygiene examiner.

These experiences have helped her to develop incredible programs. On top of that, education has never stopped for Ann-Marie in her 30 years of practice! She's a graduate of Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists and she received a bachelor of science in health science from Northeastern University. She received her master's in education from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, in 2007. She is active in several professional dental hygiene associations, including the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, ADHA, American Academy of Dental Hygiene, and Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, holding a variety of positions.

Ann-Marie presents a number of programs including: Dental Implants; TMD; Nonsurgical Periodontal Treatment; Recognizing Childhood Developmental Delays; Taking Dental Hygiene to the Next Level; Habits of Effective Offices; and Using Risk Assessments. Though many dental professionals are faced with these subjects daily in their working environment, they may not even know that they need the information Ann-Marie is presenting.

One example is her program that focuses on speech/language and motor delays. Ann-Marie has two boys, who are now 11 and 16 years old. When they were younger, both experienced speech/language and motor delays. Dealing with their therapists, Ann-Marie developed a greater understanding of the communication process and how it relates to dental experiences. Communication is essential and as hygienists, we are often the first providers to recognize the possibilities of problems. Being able to recognize the signs of a delay and the places to refer our youngest patients and their families provide support and guidance to those who may not seek these valuable services.

All of her programs are presented in formats from one to four hours, using the Bloom's Taxonomy learning objective method. She has created courses to meet the needs of all office staff and focuses on the role of the dental hygienist in meeting those needs. Additionally, in her work with McKane and Associates, Ann-Marie will be assisting Cindy McKane, RDH, MBA, in providing webinar programs for dental team members at www.DentalSuccess.biz.

Ann-Marie has developed other programs from her own clinical and educational experiences. She imparts her knowledge to others through continuing education and writing. She uses audience interaction, videos, PowerPoint, handouts, and many other forms of education in her courses. She loves the "Aha!" moments when the audience connects with the subject she's presenting and develops a deeper understanding.

She has never been satisfied to just educate. Her programs reach far beyond the classroom setting. At a meeting recently while waiting for transportation, she met a woman who was reading a new textbook that she had just purchased. After she finished reading, Ann-Marie asked if she could take a look at it, explaining that she had ordered the text but had not yet received it. The woman said yes and then proceeded to tell Ann-Marie that she had just seen the author, a well-known and respected dentist, at a lecture that morning. She had hoped to talk with him about her situation; she was an assistant who had received poor treatment that had left her with many problems. Her story was heart-wrenching and Ann-Marie knew that somehow she would like to help her. Ann-Marie said, "I told the woman: ‘I don't know the author personally, but I knew someone (an exhibitor) at the meeting who does.' I asked if she was free and told her I would make the connection with my friend. My friend heard the assistant's story and felt as moved as I. She saw the speaker in the area and told him that if he had a moment, he needed to speak with her and hear her story. He had about 30 minutes before he was to present another program and graciously autographed the assistant's book and began speaking with her. I left them at that point since I had a commitment, but hope to hear what happened to her at some point." Ann-Marie truly is the consummate professional with passion to help others. Insightfully Ann-Marie said, "It just shows how passionate dental professionals are, despite how busy or hectic our lives are, in helping others. Each of us that day — myself, the exhibitor, and the speaker — could have passed the assistant by, but our professionalism and commitment to education helped her and hopefully others like her."

I hope all of you have the opportunity to see Ann-Marie DePalma speak from the podium. She presents a variety of cutting-edge subjects in a manner that frees the audience to see all of her … especially her heart!

About the Author

Noel Brandon Kelsch, RDHAP, is a freelance cartoonist, writer, and speaker. Noel's cartoons can be seen in RDH magazine and her articles have been published in both dental and nursing trade magazines, as well as books. She has received many national awards including Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Futures, RDH/Sunstar Butler Award of Distinction, USA magazine Make a Difference Day award, President's Service award, Foster Parent of the Year, and is a five-time winner of the Castroville (Calif.) artichoke cook-off! Her family lives in Moorpark, Calif. She can be contacted at [email protected].