Who are our da Vincis?

The film version of The DaVinci Code prompted a CNN correspondent to file a report on the many accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci on the 360˚ Blog.

The film version of The DaVinci Code prompted a CNN correspondent to file a report on the many accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci on the 360˚ Blog. CNN’s Tom Foreman concluded that da Vinci needs “to be on the list of the top ten most significant figures in the history of this world.” He then asked viewers to submit names on who else would round out such a top 10 list.

Most viewers offered an admirable array of political and spiritual leaders, as well as scientific geniuses. Some were comical, including the Idaho guy who said, “The 10 girlfriends in my life,” or the Ohio woman who mentioned a fellow who “gave me something to do during the large amounts of free time in college.”

A viewer from Massachusetts simply said, “Socrates - for knowing himself well enough to admit, ‘I don’t know’.”

I might have to agree with the Massachusetts viewer after observing where my mind went next. You see, I read the lists on the CNN blog right at the same time that:

1) I coordinated some final details with Sunstar Butler regarding this year’s recipients of the Healthy Gums Healthy Life Award of Distinction (the award ceremony is during RDH Under One Roof this month, and a related article will appear in the September issue).

2) I flipped through back issues of RDH from 1993 and 1994 for the anniversary/history page that has been appearing in every issue this year. It’s on page 10 in this issue. The article where RDH paid tribute to the profession’s 80th anniversary in October 1993 caught my eye.

Who would be on a list of top 10 hygienists for the 100th anniversary? I probably should just say, “I don’t know.”

But, you know, I’m not particularly shy when writing in this space.

I think Irene Newman, the first hygienist trained by Dr. Alfred Fones, probably belongs. Dr. Esther Wilkins has been such a motivational role model to several generations of dental hygienists. She seems to be a shoo-in. I would probably argue on behalf of Irene Woodall, this magazine’s first editor. RDH was the first independent voice in dental hygiene. The article referred to above was written by a staff writer who borrowed information from Wilma Motley’s book, History of the American Dental Hygienist’s Association: 1923-1982. Motley was a president of the ADHA and former editor of the Journal of Dental Hygiene. She belongs, obviously.

Speaking of the ADHA, the association in 2005 proudly announced its executive director, Ann Battrell, as being the “first registered dental hygienist and the first former ADHA president to serve in this position.” If the next several years are kind to the profession and good things happen, wouldn’t she belong on such a list in 2013?

The ADHA likely has a few more members/officials from its past who deserve to be remembered as the da Vincis of the first 100 years in dental hygiene. But I would balk at any sort of roll call of everyone who paid their dues for 50 years and attended every meeting. The association obviously needs to recognize its most loyal members, but I’d be skeptical of membership per se as being a qualification for a top 10 list. It really is more of a ask-what-you-can-do-for-your-profession kind of situation, isn’t it?

So that’s four names, five if you go ahead and count Battrell. Who else?

Perhaps a couple of RDH columnists could contribute names. Christine Nathe writes on public health for RDH, and Ann-Marie DePalma writes about continuing education speakers. Public health pioneers and influential speakers have had quite an impact on the profession.

Personally, I’d probably add the recipients of the Mentor of the Year award (sponsored by Philips Oral Healthcare and RDH magazine) to the list. Amy Nieves made networking between colleagues a daily joy with her “lister” bulletin board. Anne Guignon has rescued many hygienists on the verge of crashing their careers due to occupational injuries. Jane Weiner likewise helped countless talented hygienists re-enter the profession after extended absences. Kristen Simmons, this year’s winner, elevates the role of dental hygiene in the group dental practice setting.

I’m curious. In your mind, who has been the hygienist version of a da Vinci? I’ll bet your list is endless. That’s good, isn’t it?

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