2013 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction

Sept. 10, 2013
"Unselfish," "extraordinary," "devoted," and "changing lives" are all terms that have been used to describe the 2013 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction recipients.

Sunstar Americas RDH Magazine proudly present this year's eight award recipients

by Jackie Sanders, RDH, BS
Manager, Professional Relations, Sunstar

"Unselfish," "extraordinary," "devoted," and "changing lives" are all terms that have been used to describe the 2013 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction recipients. When an individual finds a way to change another's life and make the quality of that life better, it has been defined as compassion. Each 2013 recipient demonstrates compassion, whether it be with children, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, homebound clients, or recovering addicts; a dental hygienist provides care with her heart.

The Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction originated 12 years ago to recognize the individual achievements of dental hygienists who found their inner drive and rose above expectations -- an award to honor individuals who have defined their passion and developed the success of their dreams through hard work and desire.

On July 18, 2013, Sunstar Americas and RDH magazine honored eight dental hygienist at the RDH Under One Roof conference in Las Vegas. Each recipient was recognized for her achievements and introduced to her peers. These proud women have joined an impressive group of 89 past award recipients who are a reflection of what can be achieved in dental hygiene when one chooses to elevate his or her career to match their initiatives.


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The 2013 Award of Distinction recipients are a unique reflection of the essentials qualities necessary to make a difference, and the biographies below provide the readers an insight into the hearts of the chosen award recipients.

John Maxwell said, "When you place a high value on people ... and treat them well ... it is like listening to a sweet melody as you go through your day." This year, the Award of Distinction recipients carried a song all their own.

Susan Clark, RDH, OM Temecula, California

Clark has a long history of volunteering her time on behalf of oral care. Recent events opened doors for Susan which she never expected, allowing more time to devote to conducting dental screenings, home care instruction, and sealant programs to numerous elementary schools throughout the San Diego area.

"I am blessed beyond measure -- with the joy and self-fulfillment I gained from helping others and making a difference in their lives. Although I get thanks from those I reach out to, it is me who is most thankful to them for allowing me into their lives."

One such effort, which is ongoing, is an initiative to conduct dental screenings and education programs for young schoolchildren in northern San Diego.

"These are mostly migrant workers' children with limited financial resources," she said. "I work with an interpreter as the parents speak only Spanish. I educate the parents and do screenings and home care instructions for the children. Then we set up free clinics twice a year to offer fluoride varnish and sealant applications."

Clark also recently wrote articles for RDH magazine regarding sugar content in beverages. After publishing the articles, she began touring youth organizations to create awareness of the nutritional labels on beverages.

"I began traveling to the Boys & Girls Clubs, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and more to discuss how to calculate the amount of sugar in soft drinks and energy drinks. I helped them learn how to read labels and what to look for and avoid."

A 1981 graduate of the University of New Mexico, Clark was nominated for the award by Noel Kelsch, RDHAP.

Kelsch said, "Susan has grasped that hygiene is ever-changing. She is always taking courses and going out of her way to bring information to her patients."

Laura Cuthbertson, RDH Charlotte, North Carolina

To underscore the significance of why Cuthbertson was nominated, it's noteworthy to remember that there are 52,000-plus square miles in North Carolina. Jessica Huffman, RDH, who submitted the nomination, said Cuthbertson's four years of service to the North Carolina Mission of Mercy dental clinics involved participation in 24 weekend-long clinics. So that's six clinics a year taking up 12 days (not including additional preparation time) and spread out over, well, 52,000 square miles.

Huffman noted in her nomination, "While Laura works full-time in private practice throughout the week, she dedicates her time in the afternoons and weekends to caring for those who do not have access to dental care. Most of these individuals would never receive dental care or oral health education if it were not for professionals such as Laura volunteering their time and efforts. Laura is consistently caring and compassionate to each individual she serves."

Cuthbertson was introduced to the Mission of Mercy Clinics through her brother, Arey Grady, a dental lab owner who coordinates the lab work initiated through the charitable care. In addition, she worked with other dental professionals for the establishment of an AGAPE dental ministry in Charlotte last spring.

Cutherbertson said, "I have made so many new friends, and visited many places I never thought I would see. More than that, however, I love being able to use the skills I have gained over 40 years. Sharing the knowledge I have gained is wonderful. I especially enjoy sharing with patients who feel their dental situation is hopeless, and explaining to them that they have a lot of good going on. The amazement on their faces is such a thrill to see!"

Cuthbertson is a 1973 graduate of Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, N.C. She has worked full time in the dental office of Dr. Walton S. Peery in Charlotte for the last 25 years.

She credits the support of her husband, Don, for the flexibility to volunteer as much as she does.

"He has joined me on all but one of the dental mission trips, as well as all of the MOM clinics," Cuthbertson said. "Don is the one who sits home all the nights I have meetings. In my heart I am sharing this award with him."

Pam Delahanty, RDH Francestown, New Hampshire

A public health hygienist, Delahanty has presented education and dental services to 19 schools, community centers, and Head Start programs in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, due west of Manchester. The services provided to primarily young schoolchildren, though, reaches for "the toes." She teams up with a registered dietitian to focus on overall wellness in a program called Monadnock Healthy Teeth to Toes.

"Pam has worked with approximately 1,800 to 2,000 children every academic year for the past 10 years," said Louise Danforth, who nominated Delahanty. "She is rather famous in our community and is affectionately known as the Tooth Fairy's Helper."

The Monadnock Healthy Teeth to Toes program, which was started in 2003, provides dental screenings, fluoride treatments, instruction on dental hygiene, and referrals to local dentists. In 2008, the program was expanded to include health issues such as childhood obesity.

Delahanty said of her career choice in public health, "Although I found it rewarding to use my skills in a traditional practice, being in the public health field intensified my focus on dental hygiene and oral health for all. It was clear to me that I was making a profound difference in the lives of those who may otherwise not have the opportunity to be seen by a dental professional. Essentially, I knew it was where I belonged."

A 1982 graduate of Westbrook College in Portland, Maine, she mentors two dental hygiene students each year from the New Hampshire Technical Institute during their community health rotation.

"This is very important to me because these students are the future leaders of our profession," Delahanty said. "Exposing students to alternative practice settings is an essential part of their education. I am optimistic that the experience these students have with our program will spark an interest to volunteer their professional skills in a community outreach program."

Delahanty is also a recipient of the Red Cross Lifesaving Award of Merit after performing CPR and saving an elderly man's life. She is married to Brian, and they have two adult children, Liam and Quinn.

Stacy Deemer, RDH Erie, Pennsylvania

The next town over from "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" must surely be "Wellsville." The 30-minute weekly children's TV program on the Fox affiliate in Erie features an ensemble of professionals who bring relevant health messages to families, and Deemer is the dental representative on the show.

She was nominated for the award by Tony Snow, MD, and Kathy Iorio, the executive director of "Wellsville" ( ). A chance encounter with Iorio led to Deemer's addition to the cast as the dental expert.

"We had an opportunity to have our boys be a part of filming for Wellsville," Deemer said. "While on the set, I started talking with Kathy about my beliefs on sugar, processed foods, and poor food choices not only leading to obesity, but a rise in dental cavities. We further discussed how dental decay leads to other health issues, including a child's overall confidence. Kids need their smiles! Kathy and I clicked right away and she has become my biggest mentor throughout the last two years."

Because of Deemer's enthusiasm for dental health education, she was asked to participate in the "Wellsville Goes to School" program, which reaches over 3,000 elementary students each year.

"Stacy's dental health community outreach efforts are unparalleled and exceptional," according to the nomination. "She visits dental offices in the area where the school program is being presented, and helps secure toothbrushes and/or toothpaste for the elementary students who participate."

The nomination added, "We are very blessed to have her on our team as the Wellsville dental hygienist health educator. Stacy goes above and beyond to serve others, as she is an excellent example of how a few people can make a big difference in a community."

Deemer also contributed dental health information for a DVD, "Wellsville's Activity Bursts and Tension Tamers," which was released last March.

"I want to get more toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste in the hands of children in need," Deemer said. "I also want to continue helping more people become involved. It's like a ripple effect."

A 1989 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Deemer has been married to Charlie for 21 years, and they have two sons, William, and Isaac.

Edie Shuman-Gibson, RDH, BSDH, MSc, FADIA Crested Butte, Colorado

Gibson operated an independent practice, About Face Dental Hygiene Spa, for seven years until she suffered a neck injury. One goal of her practice was to alleviate residents' reluctance to seek dental care.

"When I opened my practice, I was flooded with new clients who had not seen a dentist in years, either due to fear, money, or simply lack of knowledge," Gibson said. "I designed my practice from the clients' viewpoint. I wanted to make it peaceful, calm, and nonthreatening. I had a waterfall wall, spa music, heated neck wraps, cooling eye pads, and paraffin hand wax treatments. I also employed a massage therapist to work on clients during long procedures. The clients loved it!"

More recently, she and her husband of 11 years, Chris, manage the New Adams House, which is a transitional living facility for men who are recovering from addictions. Gibson is currently earning a master's in psychology to become a licensed addiction counselor. She already speaks as a volunteer for groups seeking information regarding oral health issues among people with addictions.

"I will always be a proud hygienist and will never loose my passion for implants, but my future focus is in the world of recovery," she said.

The New Adams House, for example, does feature a strong oral health component for its temporary residents.

"I created an oral health package by partnering with several hygienists and dentists in the area to offer free screenings and cleanings for all of our clients," Gibson said. "This small little perk has had a ripple effect! The clients are happier, healthier, and more confident. Some have even gone on to repair their smiles cosmetically.

"Seeing these men show up emotionally battered with little confidence is heartbreaking. Helping restore their smiles is my way of giving back to the community."

Gibson earned her dental hygiene degrees from Ferris State University (1985) and the University of Bridgeport (2010). She and Chris are the parents of seven-year-old Makaila.

Jennifer K. L. Hew, RDH, MSHCM, FADPD New Orleans, Louisiana

An assistant professor at the dental school for Louisiana State University, Hew has developed outreach programs through the university for patients with developmental disabilities, training dental and dental hygiene students on delivering care to patients with special needs. Last April, she became a Fellow in the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities and Special Care Dentistry Association.

"This program provides radiographs, screening, and prophylaxis for free at the dental school," she said. "If the individual needs any dental work, it can be performed by the dental students at a minimal fee. This improves access to care for an underserved population, as well as educational competency for the dental and dental hygiene students."

Hew is also the state clinical director for Special Olympics Special Smiles. New Orleans was still recuperating from Hurricane Katrina when she offered her services to the organization in 2008.

"Once Special Olympics Louisiana regrouped, I called them to offer my services and was trained at the Special Olympics World Winter Invitational in Boise, Idaho, two weeks later under Special Olympics Special Smiles founder, Dr. Steven Perlman."

She has now been state clinical director for five years. She has used this opportunity to start a Special Olympics Day Program at LSU's School of Dentistry to improve access to care and further the education for future dentists and dental hygienists with hands-on patient care.

Two of her degrees were earned at LSU (1993, 1994). In 2006, she earned her master's from the University of New Orleans. She began working for the university as a dental hygienist based in the city's Charity Hospital in June 1994.

"I was still based out of Charity Hospital in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, which was an experience within itself, working out of Army tents in the hospital parking lot. Then we moved to the New Orleans convention center, and then moved to an old shopping center. Part of the hospital still works out of the shopping center, but the dental clinic is now housed in a portable building outside the new hospital facility."

Brenda Kibbler, RDH, RDHAP, BHSc Porter Ranch, California

While studying to be a registered dental hygienist in alternative practice (RDHAP) in California, Kibbler envisioned plans for a practice that combined a permanent facility with a mobile aspect. But the hospitalization of her father introduced her to a patient experiencing respiratory failure due to muscular dystrophy.

"Scott was excited to hear that he could have his teeth cleaned at home," Kibbler remembers. "He explained how difficult it is for him to go to the dental office. It takes Scott approximately four hours to get ready to go to the office.

"He wanted to be my first patient. After the visit with Scott, I decided to change the main focus of my business."

The business, Dental Hygiene for the Homebound, was established in 2003. Dental Hygiene for the Homebound provides approximately 850 dental hygiene care visits throughout the urban region northwest of Los Angeles. About 65% of its patients are developmentally disabled, and all of her patients reside in skilled nursing facilities, residential board and care homes, private residences, and group homes.

Kibbler now presents a seminar titled "Breathless: Treating the Tracheostomy and Ventilator Dependent Patient" to colleagues nationally. She also educates dental professionals about the equipment used to provide bedside periodontal care. In addition, Kibbler's business has collaborated with several skilled nursing facilities to care for their Alzheimer patients or intellectually disabled patients.

"As the importance of good oral health continues to become more prominent in the community and in news reports, I feel Dental Hygiene for the Homebound will continue to grow its patient base," she said. "Family members of homebound relatives are researching resources that are available to provide in-home care to prevent such infections as pneumonia, periodontal disease, and dental abscesses."

Dr. Marc Cohen of Encino, Calif., said, "A health-care provider has a moral duty to help people. After 17 years in private practice, Brenda has maintained her passion for helping people. Combined with her intellectual honesty, skill experience, and a work ethic beyond reproach, her passion is what distinguishes her."

A 1995 graduate of West Los Angeles dental hygiene program, she earned her RDHAP credentials from the school in 2003. She received a bachelor's in health science from Nova Southeastern University in May 2011.

She is married to Scott, and the couple are parents to a son, Ryan.

Carol Martin, RDH, PHDHP, BSDH Lititz, Pennsylvania

During five years of providing charity dental treatment in Honduras, Martin has visited a school a second time only twice. Her work with Central American Relief Efforts (CARE) has led her to 23 different schools in the Choluteca region, and her groups have treated 4,500 children.

"In 2008, a friend talked to me about a trip to Honduras to provide dental care," she remembers. "I was looking for something fun and challenging to do for my 50th birthday. So, in February 2009, I took my first trip to Honduras.

"At the conclusion of that trip, the (CARE) director asked me if I would be interested in organizing future dental hygiene teams. So, since 2011, I have been organizing these trips, working with CARE's trip coordinator."

Martin was nominated by two hygienists for the award -- Leeann Easley and Heather Steich. The former has served as a volunteer for the last three trips to Honduras, but her first visit occurred during the middle of a teachers' strike.

"In true Carol style, we went to the schools and carried on as usual. She had to reorganize everything at each school we attended," Easley said. "Carol was also instrumental in acquiring more and better supplies from various dental companies. During our stay, the mayor of the area gave Carol an award recognizing her wonderful efforts for the children of the area."

In 2003, she assisted with setting up a dental clinic for the homeless residents of the Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Although still in private practice, Martin also volunteers as time permits.

"I continue to volunteer once or twice a month, providing free dental care to those less fortunate," she said. "Another event I assist with is Sealant Saturday, an initiative through the state dental hygiene association. I have been helping organize this event for eight years. Our goal at the mission is to run an additional sealant program in the fall of each year."

Although a Pennsylvania native, Martin entered dentistry while living in North Dakota in the early 1980s. She graduated from the North Dakota State College of Science in 1988. She has worked for dental practices in Lancaster County for the past 23 years, and recently earned a bachelor's in dental hygiene from Minnesota State University, Mankato. RDH

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