Destiny and Dental Hygiene*

June 24, 2005
Do dental hygienists have the same resolve to control their destiny as Americans do?

by Michelle Hurlbutt, RDH, BS

Controlling our own destiny has been a hallmark of our nation since its birth. Lives have been lost over it. Lands have been seized because of it. And liberty has prevailed due to America's belief in the fundamental ideals that all people are created equal and that people can govern themselves better than anyone else can govern them.

Our country's power is drawn from this resolve.

Our homeland's steadfast sense of purpose has stood the test of time and has sustained us, nourished us and fostered our growth. The chance for true opportunity, the freedom to say and do what you wish, and the promise of personal growth has attracted the hopeful to our shores for centuries. We have prevailed as a nation because of our resolve and our overwhelming commitment to these principles.

It begs the question. Does dental hygiene, as a profession, have a similar resolve?

Certainly, we have long had a vision, a mission, and a list of goals that drives our professional organizations. These ideals have served to explain who we are and why we do what we do. We have a strategic operating plan that is refined each year, helping to keep us on course and guide how we spend our monies. Ideally, we elect our leaders based on our personal belief that they will model the way for our future. But is this enough? Does this represent the resolve we need for our profession to succeed?

Let me ask this in a different way. Do you know exactly what you want in your life as a dental hygienist? Do you know the kind of dental hygienist that you want to become?

If you answer, "yes" to these questions, you need to ask yourself if you are taking action to realize your destiny. Do you have the necessary resolve?

If you want to control your own destiny you must own it. You need to eat, breathe and sleep it, as if you are on your way to rendezvous with fate. People in control of their own destiny are not hesitant, but consistent. They are deliberate, passionate and committed. They are precisely where they are in life due to their decisions and actions all centered towards controlling their own destiny.

It's important to remember that this quest is not always as easy as it sounds. Just as our country has faced many obstacles, people in control of their destiny have also had their share of disappointments. But one thing is for certain; those who believe they are in control of their destiny accept responsibility for everything that happens to them. They have believed their way to success.

Just as our founding fathers believed in equality, freedom of choice and the right to govern themselves, our professional association has set a course to increase our sovereignty and secure our future as a profession. We will control our profession's destiny through focusing on our goal of achieving autonomy in dental hygiene education, licensure and practice. And most importantly, with autonomy comes the ability for our profession to increase access to care for the patients we serve and decrease the burden of oral disease that is at epidemic proportions in our country. Collectively our association's actions this year has been purposeful, focused and dedicated to controlling our professional destiny. We have never been more ready to step forward, to stay the course, to fight if we have to as we ultimately control our professional destiny. And I believe our success is inevitable.

If we don't control our own destiny, someone else will. While our professional organizations will continue to work to increase the vitality of our profession, the destiny of dental hygiene really rests with dental hygienists ourselves. I believe the face of dental hygiene has been shaped with the dedication and commitment of our colleagues of the past. But the future is in the here and now. I urge you to take time to reflect upon and determine your personal destiny as a dental hygienist; this includes your continuing support of your professional association through your membership, active participation and support of our leaders.

Over forty years ago, U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, "Let us resolve to be masters, not the victims of our history, controlling our own destiny without giving way to blind suspicions and emotions." These are powerful words that still have relevance today. When a group has a sense of certainty, when its leaders and members agree to work together towards a common goal, success cannot be stopped.

All that awaits our honorable profession inspires me. The opportunities ahead of us are enormous and our success will be savored because of our perseverance and pride in all that we have accomplished. Together we will continue to bolster our resolve in controlling the destiny of our association and profession.

Michelle Hurlbutt, RDH, BS, shared her thoughts above in her outgoing message for the California Dental Hygienists' Association. She served as the association's president in 2004-2005. She can be contacted at [email protected].

* Modified with permission from Ms. Hurlbutt's outgoing President's Message that will appear in the CDHA Journal. The original article is now posted on CDHA website.