Th Doloresmalvitz

Retired, but not really

Oct. 1, 2006
I thought I would follow up from the last column in September and introduce RDH readers to the first ADHA public health consultant.

I thought I would follow up from the last column in September and introduce RDH readers to the first ADHA public health consultant. ADHA recently established this position as a way to consult with members when they have questions regarding public health endeavors and to serve as an advisor to the Council on Public Health and ADHA staff in all public health issues. The ADHA chose a true dental hygiene pioneer, Dolores Malvitz, to lead this new charge!

Dolores Malvitz, left, received the American Association of Public Health Dentistry�s Special Merit Award from Candace Jones, RDH, in 2005.
Click here to enlarge image

After receiving her certificate in dental hygiene and bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Michigan and Western Michigan, respectively, Dolores went on to obtain a master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from the University of Michigan. She has taught dental hygiene, published numerous articles on studies she led, spoken all over the nation, been active in several professional associations, consulted with various organizations, and recently retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. In fact, her exact title at CDC was Surveillance and Research Team Leader, Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She continues to be a role model and mentor to many dental hygienists and has truly motivated the profession by her many accomplishments.

Dolores has received many awards. Some of the most noteworthy include:

  • Special Merit Award of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry
  • Distinguished Service Award from the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
  • Outstanding Alumnus Award, University of Michigan
  • Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Detroit, Mercy (an honorary degree)
  • Pfizer/ADHA Excellence in Dental Hygiene Award
  • She continues to be active in dental hygiene and is a true public health practitioner. Even after retirement, she is still promoting the public’s health!Can you provide some examples of your “consulting” this past year?Well, I attended and provided expertise at meetings of ADHA work groups - for example, Council on Public Health, ADHP Task Force. Also, I reviewed the public health portion of the ADHA Web site and suggested specific revisions. I communicated via phone and e-mail with a dental hygiene faculty member assigned to teach community health for the first time; we discussed potential content, learning strategies, and sources of information. I created and oversaw review of content for the ADHA Web site related to the National Research Council report on fluoride. I also provided expert advice to the staff at ADHA and council members on request.Why did you decide to go into dental hygiene?Here is the unvarnished truth: Because I was a good student, my high school teachers were pressing me to go to college. I was not enthralled with nursing or teaching, the two careers considered appropriate for young women in that era. As was common 40-plus years ago, I was expected to marry my handsome boyfriend, become the pillar of the community, and live happily ever after - on his income. His sister-in-law taught in a suburban Detroit school system that employed a dental hygienist, and she suggested exploring this career that required only two years of college, yet operated on the school calendar.How did you get into public health? Did you need additional education?As I began teaching in a dental hygiene program, it became clear that graduate education would be essential for success in academia. After exploring alternatives, I chose public health for my master’s degree. That discipline seemed to offer a wider range of opportunities than the other logical choice, a master’s in dental hygiene education. Then, my graduate school advisor encouraged me to stay for a doctorate, a decision that proved wise. Knowing more is always better than getting by with incomplete knowledge or skills - and it’s critical to have the education that’s expected for certain positions.What type of advice would you give to a practicing hygienist who is thinking of doing something different?First, the dental hygienist must decide what sorts of things she or he likes - and doesn’t like - to do. What are favorite courses from the past? What aspects of the current position provide personal rewards that would be difficult to relinquish? What tasks would be a joy to never perform again?Then, do some exploring on the Web; start moving outward via links and searches. Find some people who hold the kinds of positions that seem appealing, and ask to spend some time with them. By observing carefully and asking strategic questions, the dental hygienist should be able to decide whether the new role would be satisfying and, given current obligations, whether it’s possible to acquire the credentials necessary for credibility in the new role.Do you have anything else to share, advice to provide?I emphasize my belief that dental hygiene must ensure an ongoing cadre of well-educated and capable leaders. Education is important to be able to work as peers with other health professionals, who often hold master’s and doctoral degrees.Dolores Malvitz is a class act and, as a profession, we would be wise to heed her advice! Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is an associate professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of “Dental Public Health,” (, which is in its second edition with Prentice Hall. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.