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Mentor of the Year

April 1, 2005
Sonicare and RDH are pleased to present Jane Weiner, RDH, as the 2005 Mentor of the Year.
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by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH

Sonicare and RDH are pleased to present Jane Weiner, RDH, as the 2005 Mentor of the Year.

Mentoring is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on since the dawn of time, but the electronic age has created a world where your mentor can be just a click away from providing career-altering support and guidance.

Imagine how you would feel after practicing dental hygiene for more than two decades in two different states to learn you and your family were moving more than 3,400 miles away from family, friends, and all that was familiar. Just the thought of moving that far away would be unsettling for many.

Now how would you feel if you learned that this move would force you to retake the written national board exam in order to apply for a new state license? Most hygienists would immediately suffer a severe anxiety attack at the mere thought.

Clinicians who have proven themselves day after day for years are startled when they face this daunting challenge so they can continue to practice the profession they love. Ten years ago, Shirley Cross faced this very predicament. Her husband had been transferred from Houston, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska.

She had practiced for years in Texas and Oklahoma. Regardless, Shirley had to take the Western Regional Examining Boards in order to be granted an Alaska license. Dental hygiene had always been a big part of Shirley’s life. She worked full time and was active in the dental hygiene associations where she lived. She wanted to continue living the life she had created.

Suddenly her dental hygiene career was in jeopardy because of the move to Alaska. How was she going to pass the exam? Was there a process that could help her prepare? Where should she begin? The exam was hard enough the first time, and she had been out of the academic environment for a long time. Board review courses were unheard of at that time.

The birth of a special friendship

She remembered reading RDH articles written by Jane Weiner, RDH. Shirley contacted Jane via e-mail to let her know how she was encouraged by the articles. A friendship was born.

Jane is what one would call a seasoned dental hygienist. In 1964, she received her dental hygiene degree from Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists in Boston (now a part of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences). Her career of more than four decades had been varied. She practiced clinical dental hygiene for years in the Northeast before moving to Florida.

Communication between the two was easy. The Internet made it possible for Jane to encourage Shirley to keep studying for the board exam, and Jane had firsthand experience with the gauntlet of exams. After practicing dental hygiene for 15 years in New England, Jane faced taking the national board exam when her family moved to Florida in the early 1980s. The agonizing task of securing a Florida license had left a lifelong impression on Jane.

Even though Florida and Alaska are thousands of miles apart, Jane encouraged Shirley to keep studying and preparing for the board exams. Jane emailed questions with a list of possible answers. This process went on for days. Jane also encouraged Shirley to keep focused on the prize, an Alaskan dental hygiene license.

Shirley remembers, “Jane was right by my side via the Internet during the preparation and even while I was taking my boards.” Shirley feels she could not have gone through this difficult process without Jane’s support.

Predictably, Shirley aced the clinical portion of the Alaska board but failed the written test by one question. Jane was reliving this painful experience vicariously, and she reinforced Shirley’s motivation to conquer the testing challenge. According to Shirley, “Jane was with me, every step of the way, even when I flew to Portland to retake the written exam. We both celebrated when I passed the written test on the second try.”

The friendship and mentor relationship had reached ultimate success. Jane walked down a very scary path holding the hand of a fellow dental hygienist and friend, Shirley Cross. Shirley had achieved her goal! Undoubtedly the victory was fueled by Jane’s passion to mentor hygienists who are struggling with the challenge of taking or retaking the National Board Exam.

The mentoring did not stop with the board exams. Jane encouraged Shirley to write articles for RDH, proofing drafts and offering constructive criticism. Jane also answered dental hygiene related questions and provided encouragement after an especially grueling clinical day.

Jane and Shirley have continued to connect though the years via e-mail. They met for the first time four years ago when Jane and her husband, Marty, had a long layover at the Houston airport. They celebrated with each other as hygienists and special friends - a bond that can never be broken.

“Shirley Cross and I go back several years, and I respect her so highly for all she has weathered and endured in her lifetime,” said Jane. “We have a friendship that I treasure and one which has a special place in my heart.”

Click here to view Mentors and the ones who nominated them.

Mentoring built upon personal experience

Jane moved to Florida to accommodate a great opportunity for her husband’s business, as well as the benefit of having grandparents living near her children. She wanted to continue practicing dental hygiene and also be involved in her children’s school activities. When she first arrived in Florida, she was stunned to find out how difficult it would be to obtain a license. It never dawned on her that the licensure process would be so lengthy and grueling. After all, she had been practicing dental hygiene for nearly two decades!

The memory of how hard it was to get a Florida license propelled Jane to mentor Shirley, a willing participant in the relationship. Hard experiences have a way of creating a focus in one’s life. After Jane tried to pass the Florida exam on her own, she secured the help of a state congressman and enrolled in the Miami Dade Community College’s dental hygiene program as an audit student. It took Jane three tries to pass the exam.

When the school learned about Jane’s success they began sending hygienists to her. She spent countless hours helping them prepare for the National Boards. Jane had found her special hygienist-mentor niche. She began to tutor students at no charge for both the national exam as well as the Florida boards. From this she developed a formal National Board Study and Review Course.

Since 1993, many have taken Jane’s review courses. Some are students wanting to improve their chances of passing the national exam on the first try; others are looking for a course that will help them pass an exam that they failed before; still others are facing relocation issues (including some who are interested in obtaining a Florida license). The majority of those attending Jane’s board review class pass without any problems.

Jane’s impact on her community extends in many other directions. During the time she was trying to get her license she worked in a chiropractic office but hated it. Dental hygiene was part of her life and she missed it. Out of total frustration, she figured out a need in the community that would allow her to channel her energies in a positive direction.

Jane knew that school age children could benefit from a school-based fluoride rinse program. After hours of research and countless meetings with school principals and county health department administrators, a fluoride rinse program was approved. Jane was in charge of showing teachers and their aides how to run the program. Her dental hygiene brains were getting a needed workout. She also presented motivational programs for elementary school students in Tamarac, Fla.

A dedication to dental hygiene

Years of dedication to the dental hygiene profession are just part of Jane’s life. Jane describes her husband’s encouragement as the impetus for all of her accomplishments during the past 34 years. She said, “Marty inspires, praises, and tolerates me, especially when I get so engrossed helping someone.”

Their two children, Robin and Seth, are always supportive of Jane’s various activities.

Two years ago, Jane was honored by Forsyth when she received the 2003 Esther Wilkins Award for Outstanding Alumni. The award was personally presented by its namesake, one of the people who Jane credits as one of her most important personal and professional mentors.

Jane doesn’t only mentor Shirley, she also mentors students and graduates on a regular basis via posts to the e-mail group. She is an outstanding resource for information about the Florida boards and jurisprudence exam and provides kind, no-nonsense advice to anyone moving to her state.

Today, Jane is an adjunct faculty member at Nova Southeastern College of Dental Medicine where she teaches dental students periodontal instrumentation techniques and instrument sharpening as well as how to probe, disclose, and give oral hygiene instructions. Fourth-year dental students are fortunate to have Jane’s instruction when they are preparing for the periodontal portion and the jurisprudence portions of the Florida Boards and the Western Regional Exam Board.

Successful mentoring is a complex process. Mentors are special people who help make a positive difference in other people’s lives. They are born, not created, with a focus on helping others achieve. They spend years developing mentoring skills. Most mentors have achieved success via a series of life lessons - lessons that are sometimes painful but always unforgettable. Mentors are driven by a special gene that makes helping others achieve more.

“It humbles me to think that I have made such an impression on so many people,” said Jane. “And all of it has been while doing something I so truly enjoy.”

Jane has mentored hundreds of dental professionals through the years. Her impact on their lives and careers is priceless. Just like the previous recipients of the Mentor Award, Jane is thankful that Philips Oral Healthcare and RDH put a spotlight on the critical importance of mentorship in our profession. Jane is thrilled to be recognized as the 2005 RDH Sonicare Mentor of the Year, but knows that she shares this honor with every other dental hygienist who has mentored another in our profession!

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, is an international speaker, has published numerous articles, and authored several textbook chapters. Her popular programs include ergonomics, patient comfort, burnout, and advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award, Anne is an ADHA member and has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston, Texas, since 1971. You can reach her at [email protected] or (713) 974-4540 and her Web site is

Characteristics of a Successful Mentor
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 Inspire others to reach past ordinary boundaries
 Recognize individual talents
 Shed light on the path of possibilities
 Support creative and innovative activities
 Provide valuable insights
 Commit to nurturing success in others
 Act as a sounding board
 Be passionate about creating success

- From Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH,
recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award

Philips Oral Healthcare, the makers of Sonicare, and RDH co-sponsor the Mentor of the Year Award program. In the first two years, Amy Nieves, RDH, (2003) and Anne Guignon, RDH, MPH, (2004) were the recipients. A panel of three judges selected Jane Weiner, RDH, as the 2005 recipient of the award. The award ceremony is scheduled to occur during the ADHA meeting in Las Vegas in June.RDH also applauds Philips Oral Healthcare for the company’s support of mentoring in the dental hygiene profession.Readers can nominate their mentors for the 2006 award through an online option at