By Ann-Marie C. DePalma
Kristy Menage Bernie, RDH, BS, empowers her continuing education presentations with fun, creativity, and a totally honest experience. "Life is too short to sugarcoat or ignore realities," she says. "Seminar events give us a unique and fabulous opportunity to experience dental hygiene at its best." But how did she develop her distinctive style?
Kristy is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a baccalaureate in dental hygiene. Her early clinical experiences included stints in pediatric, periodontal, and geriatric practices. However, after experiencing an employment termination over the phone, Kristy decided that working for someone else wasn't her idea of a career or control of her professional destiny. She then began a placement service called, "Traveling Curette."
At the time, Kristy also was active in the Maryland Dental Hygienists' Association. Her networking activities through the association led Scherer Laboratories (Gel-Kam) to hire her as a sales representative. This opportunity led to her presenting continuing education programs for Scherer, along with "Lunch and Learns" for Gel-Kam clients. These presentations provided hygienists with the science behind fluoride use and bridged the gap between new research and practical clinical applications. She enjoyed this experience and from there landed a position with Health Career Learning Systems, which provided OSHA compliance seminars nationally within both the dental and medical fields.
With all of those experiences, and ultimately a move to California, Kristy began Educational Designs, which originated as a result of an observation that there was a significant gap between technology, knowledge, and new graduates. New grads, and even seasoned clinicians, were not getting information/research on the latest and greatest products, she says. EDI was started with a fellow hygienist in 1991 and the company's mission is "providing the opportunity to enhance health through education." It started out as strictly a meeting planning company, but soon EDI also offered corporate consultative services in the area of marketing and education.
Educational Designs has evolved into offering consultative services to major dental companies that include professional seminar curricula development, speaker training and facilitation, and other key marketing consultative services. Currently, Kristy not only organizes seminars for Educational Designs, but also presents her own programs. The varied topics include full-mouth disinfection, principles of aesthetic dental hygiene, fresh breath assurance, tooth whitening, reducing the risk of disease transmission, and innovations in periodontal therapy.
During her presentations, Kristy works to empower the professional and establish dental hygiene as the preventive resource. She believes that the promotion of the "business" of dental hygiene will result in an increase in access to care, preserve and aid in the progression of our profession, and enhance individual professional successes. She loves to take a comedic approach to discussing our chosen profession and be educational at the same time.
Kristy has traveled extensively within the United States. Her programs are geared toward the audience and change depending on the mood, concerns, and energy the group has on a particular day. Like a live stage performance, Kristy draws her energy from the audience itself.
National unity optimal
As an active member of American Dental Hygienists' Association since her graduation in 1984, Kristy feels that the definition of a professional includes membership in its national organization.
"You are not a complete professional without that commitment," she says. "As a primarily female profession, we tend to take care of everyone in our lives before ourselves. But we need to look beyond ourselves to provide a national unity, which in turn will bring about optimal client care, national reform, and professional viability."
She says it concerns her that many within the profession, through their apathy, are holding back those who want to advance the art and science of dental hygiene. "Imagine where dental hygiene would be if all the energy put into making excuses to not be a member were put into solving access to care issues," she says. "There exists more opportunity for change by being involved than by being the critical expert on why it won't work and why one should not be involved."
Kristy is most excited about the various options that exist today to impact oral health. Clinicians are looking at technology today that 20 years ago would have seemed impossible. Research that correlates the relationship between oral health and total health is going to make a tremendous impact on the lives of our clients and as hygienists we are in a truly unique and exciting position, she says. Additionally, dental hygiene is moving beyond the clinical realm. Hygienists are a voice in purchasing power and advancing new technologies.
Outside of dental hygiene, Kristy describes herself as a traveling junk food junkie. She loves McDonalds, as well as Nick's Fish Market on Maui in Hawaii. Her current reading material includes, "Dating Without Novacain" by Lisa Cach for enjoyment, and the "The Leadership Challenge" by Kouzes and Posner for enrichment. When she has time, Kristy enjoys yoga, music (anything by Smash Mouth), traveling, her two Burmese cats, and watching shows such as "Trading Spaces," "Real World," and "Iron Chef."
She is a self-proclaimed accomplished pool rafter, awaiting any opportunity to illustrate her talent in Maui, one of her favorite places in the world. Her infectious laughter gets everyone who knows her into high spirits. Kristy can see herself as being an author, actress, or yoga instructor if she were not a hygienist, although she is doing all of these now to a certain degree.
Generating consumer awareness
When asked whom she would most like to sit down with at the dinner table, Kristy responded, "The top marketing geniuses of our time — to determine a way to generate consumer awareness of the registered dental hygienist and to create excitement within the profession for unity and an inspired future."
Kristy is passionate about righting the wrong of being a registered dental hygienist in one state but not another, empowerment and change. She describes herself as impassioned, dedicated, and loyal.
Her presentations reflect that and bring about an unusual and unique perspective to the profession of dental hygiene.
Kristy Menage Bernie's upcoming presentations include:
• Tooth whitening: From chairside to chewing gum, Chicago Midwinter Meeting, Table Clinic Session, Feb. 28
• Tooth whitening: From chairside to chewing gum, Discus Dental Super Seminar, May 18
• Full-mouth disinfection, RDH Under One Roof, Chicago, July 26
Kristy can be contacted at [email protected].
Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS is a practicing hygienist in a periodontal-implant practice.She is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, is active in the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, and is a Fellow of the Association of Dental Implant Auxilliaries and Practice Management.Ann-Marie has written articles and presents programs on dental implants, TMD, and developmental delays and can be reached at [email protected].