The 2016 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction: Recipients reflect a diverse range of careers and service

Jackie Sanders, RDH, of Sunstar profiles the four recipients of the 2016 Award of Distinction.

Sep 19th, 2016
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By Jackie L. Sanders, RDH, MBA

When an individual discovers the means to change another's life and make the quality of that life better, it has been defined as compassion. In many instances, the element of compassion is in combination with other personal traits. The qualities found in an entrepreneur, as one who organizes and manages an enterprise, an ambassador who is the authorized messenger, and representative and/or a leader known to be the person who guides and directs a group. Each of these qualities exist in the 2016 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction recipients.

Since 2002, 113 dental hygienists from across the United States and Canada have been recognized for their leadership in the dental industry and presented with the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction. The 2016 honorees were nominated for their accomplishments in creating successful programs that produced significant results for their colleagues as well as their patients. These professionals are a proud representation of the dental hygiene profession, and the qualities are present within each of you-the desire to make a difference.

On Friday, July 29, 2016, four inspirational leaders were honored. JoAnn Galliano, Corinne Jameson-Kuehl, Susan Wingrove, and Debbie Zafiropoulos stood at the podium and were acknowledged for their legislative initiatives, entrepreneurial skills, international presence, and positivity in the time of challenge.

Only an individual who understands the commitment and strength required of a leader could create the changes the recipients of 2016 have made in so many lives.

As Thomas D. Willhite, the author of "Living Synergistically," said, "To back down from fears, doubts and failure is the way of the follower. To face them and go on stronger is the way of the leader."

JoAnn Galliano, MEd, RDH

Alameda, California

Thirty years ago, Galliano taught English at a San Diego middle school and community college. She also taught remedial English at the community college where she attended dental hygiene school. Since then, she has discovered that politics is often about being in the right place at the right time, and she has become a key participant in the movement toward self-regulation in California's dental hygiene setting.

Michelle Hurlbutt, RDH, who nominated Galliano for the award, said, "I believe the formation of the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC) is the accomplishment JoAnn is most proud of. California is the first state to achieve self-regulation. Thus, it is dental hygienists who shape the profession-not a dentist-controlled dental board. The DHCC has authority over all aspects of the state's dental hygiene licensure-including education, practice, enforcement, and investigation. Without a doubt, the achievements in the areas of self-regulation, scope of practice, and access to care in California can be credited to JoAnn Galliano's involvement."

Galliano, who graduated from dental hygiene school in 1986 at the age of 30, said she learned from her instructors "that the mark of a true profession was the ability to be self-regulated." Three years after her graduation, she became president of her component society and went on to serve in a variety of roles for the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA).

"I learned very early in my dental hygiene career that politics could either move our profession forward or it could destroy what the profession has worked so hard to accomplish," she said. "I also learned that in order to truly shape the profession, so that consumers could fully have access to dental hygiene services, we had to be self-regulated."

Then came an appointment as the liaison between the CDHA and the Dental Board of California (DBC). She served for 10 years, playing a key role in two legislative sunset reviews that determined the creation of the DHCC.

"The DBC was and is a tremendous advocate for dentist and consumers of dental services," Galliano said. "The DBC, however, had little time for oversight of the dental hygiene profession as well as often restricting dental hygiene scope in ways that limited access to dental hygiene care. Power and control over the dental hygiene profession often became more important than consumer protection. It became very apparent that there needed to be a board for the dental hygiene profession."

The DHCC assumed governmental oversight of the California dental hygiene profession in July 2009, and she remains involved with the state agency as an educational consultant.

During her career in California's dental hygiene politics, she was also involved with the legislation that created the RDHAP (RDH in alternative practice) category.

"Access to care has always been extremely important to me," Galliano said. "The RDHAP category was created to provide access to care to those populations outside of the traditional dental setting. With the creation of the RDHAP category, patients in schools, nursing homes, homebound, and rural areas have access to dental hygiene services they were denied access to because of a lack of dentists willing to go out to these populations."

Galliano, who has a master's in education from her first career as a teacher, also began teaching at the dental hygiene program at Chabot College in 1999. In 2005, she was named the program's director.

Hurlbutt's nomination also praised Galliano for her work with medically compromised patients and domestic violence victims. She attributed her work with the former to her years as a faculty member at Chabot College.

"In the clinical facility, students had numerous experiences working with special needs patients," Galliano said. "As an instructor, and in my private practice, my goal was to provide the highest quality of care possible by not ignoring this population, but by modifying care to meet their individual needs."

While serving as the CDHA's president, she served on a task force with the California Dental Association to develop the state's PANDA organization, which emphasizes dental professionals' legal responsibility to report signs of domestic violence and abuse.

"The dental profession, at that time, was responsible for less than 6% of all reported cases," Galliano said. "We developed a train-the-trainer program, which I have been actively involved with. My goal was to increase awareness and to educate dental professionals on the signs of abuse and neglect as well as their responsibilities as mandated reporters to report."

Although she has had to reduce her hours at various points during her career in order to meet the demands on her time, she has remained employed at the same dental practice since 1992. She works with Dr. Bruce Bothwell in Alameda. In June of 2015, She retired from teaching at Chabot College in 2015.

"He (Dr. Bothwell) and I are the same age, and I often tell him he can't retire until I do. And, I don't plan to retire from private practice any time soon. I truly love my patients who are like family to me."

Hurlbutt's nomination noted, "A woman of extraordinary substance, JoAnn has done more to shape the future and destiny of the dental hygiene community in California than any other individual."

Corinne Jameson-Kuehl, RDH, BS, OMT

Hartland, Wisconsin

Corinne Jameson-Kuehl has always drawn upon her personal experiences to create specialized business within the dental field.

This entrepreneurial desire grew from personal family experiences early in her career. After not been offered a maternity leave herself, and told she would return to 12-hour work days after a four-week maternity leave without pay, Jameson-Kuehl decided to start a dental staffing company where long-term medical leaves were the specialty, and where offices were assured a consistent short-term employee. Many dental hygienists were able to count on The Dental Connection, Inc., eliminating the uncertainty of whether their jobs would be there when they returned to the workplace.

"Even though I consult and implement practice development for dental offices, I still get contacted to search for excellent dental team members. The challenge during ownership of The Dental Connection is the same challenge for those of us hiring short- or long-term team members today: Finding the best personality fit, dedication, and interest to moving specific business philosophies forward."

In 2012, Jameson-Kuehl began noticing sleep disordered breathing and orofacial growth concerns in her children, and decided to sell The Dental Connection and focus on bringing orofacial myofunctional therapy to Wisconsin.

"I have always been interested in how head and neck concerns relate to dental," she said. "I attended a sleep-disordered breathing class at a conference several years ago, and was fascinated how we could see signs of snoring, grinding, and poor mouth posture in relation to sleep disordered breathing and overall health. Since then, I have taken Orofacial courses, and have been trained on diagnostic equipment, which helps when discussing a patient's care needs with dentists and physicians."

Jameson-Kuehl was nominated for the award by Kim Ciriacks, her associate at OMT of Wisconsin.

Ciriacks said, "Since she has post-graduate training in orofacial dysfunctions and sleep disorders, Corinne's experience helps her identify concerns within patients that go beyond a simple dental assessment. She works with various therapists, head and neck specialists, sleep physicians, and ENTs to best serve patient's needs as part of a whole health team approach. She is positive that medical and dental communities will continue to merge therapies and link connections within health care to best serve our patients."

Jameson-Kuehl's private orofacial myofunctional practice implements a sleep awareness protocol and sleep disordered breathing survey for all patients. She has created systems in the private dental sector as well.

"She believes these protocols have impacted patients tremendously and has saved lives by going a few steps further in a chairside medical history review," Ciriacks said. "She is passionate about updating medical history systems in dental offices to include sleep, and oral cancer risk factor questions such as HVP. Jameson-Kuehl encourages and educates clinicians to ask the best questions to reach the real answers."

OMT of Wisconsin is a resource for dental and medical professionals, which is another feature that Ciriacks admired as they preform screenings of pre-orthodontic patients for "noxious oral habits and [Jameson-Kuehl] begins elimination programs to ensure successful orthodontic cases."

Jameson-Kuehl said, "As an OMT, I provide services for those with mouth breathing, tongue thrusting, and a host of noxious habits. We will bring in a speech therapist, or a myofasical release specialist if needed.

"One patient may be needing assistance with habit elimination, and the next patient may work on nasal breathing habits to better fit the comfort of their CPAP machine. Every day is different. I assess and treat all patients individually and meet their needs to ensure success through my care or referral care."

Ciriacks supported her nomination of Jameson-Kuehl by pointing out other unrelated endeavors. The first was a charitable effort, while a second example highlighted the award recipient's business acumen.

Since orofacial myofunctional therapists focus on teaching personalized exercises to develop weakened orofacial muscles, improve tongue mobility and breathing posture, it wasn't long until an oral cancer survivor named George found Jameson-Kuehl. Upon working with George, and learning more about oral cancer, she was led to an introduction to the Oral Cancer Foundation. She has teamed up with partners to provide free oral cancer screenings around her state, including several in low-income areas where information about general dental care is also offered. This fall, a second oral cancer run/walk for awareness event will be hosted.

"She also enjoys participating in Head Start screening and Team Smile dental donation days," Ciriacks said. "Corinne makes herself available to participate in health fairs and is a regular guest speaker within the hospital system for support groups such as the gastric bypass and Sjogren's syndrome meetings." She also travels nationally to present to medical and dental conferences on the topics of implementing protocols for Updated medical histories, orofacial therapy and oral cancer screenings.

Susan Wingrove, RDH, BS

Missoula, Montana

In 2013, the American Dental Association (ADA) released a report about the current generation of elderly adults, the baby boomers, through its Health Policy Institute. Baby boomers are the first generation in modern history not to have the address widespread edentulism later if life's later stages. The ADA noted, "It is no longer appropriate to equate geriatric dental care with denture care as the mix of dental services among this age group has shifted to complex restorative procedures, as well as esthetic dentistry and implants."

Wingrove has played a key role in the shift toward providing dental implant services to patients, primarily in post-surgical care. In fact, a set of instruments bears her name: the Wingrove Implant Titanium instruments.

"The key to protecting the investment in dental implants by patients is to use dental hygiene instruments compatible with the type of material of the implants," Wingrove said. She participated in writing the American College of Prosthodontists' 2015 guidelines, "Clinical Practice Guidelines for Recall and Maintenance of Patients with Tooth-Borne and Implant-Borne Dental Restorations."

In 2013, Wingrove published a textbook, "Peri-Implant Therapy for the Dental Hygienist: Clinical Guide to Maintenance and Disease Complications." A review by the British Dental Journal noted, "With the increasing prevalence of dental implants, not only would I recommend this book to its intended audience of dental hygienists, but feel it is a good read for all dental professionals and undergraduates who will inevitably come across dental implants at some stage of their career."

Linda Meeuwenberg, RDH, who nominated Wingrove for the Award of Distinction, said, "Having spent most of her career in periodontal and implant practices, Susan possesses a unique talent in meeting the most challenging patient's needs. Her frustration with the lack of instruments to treat dental implant and periodontal patients led her to pursue the development, with her late husband, of the Wingrove Implant Titanium set. Not only has she improved the health of her patients over many years, she has assisted all hygienists in improving the health of their patients."

Wingrove said Dr. Frank Wingrove, a periodontist, was "very precise" and "required certain specifications," such as using medical grade titanium for the instruments. His research was based on observations in the late 1990s that instrument residue was a critical factor in implantitis.

"The designs for the implant scalers were mine to figure out and both of us field-tested the prototypes until the right design worked for all of the indications," she said. "The Wingrove set was completed as it is now in orange handles the month after he passed away in February 2008, so we named them after him."

After co-designing other instruments, such as the ACE probe and the Queen of Hearts (instruments produced by PDT, Inc., which is based in her hometown of Missoula) Wingrove has become an international ambassador for patient care.

Meeuwenberg said, "Many hygienists are self-taught on the maintenance of their patient's investment in dental implants. Susan's quest for changing this phenomenon has been recognized in the dental community by numerous national and international dental associations. She has led hundreds of seminars for the dental community in the United States and abroad, specializing in dental implant care, regeneration, and instrumentation.

"I can think of very few leaders in dental hygiene that have contributed so much to our dental community with such a humble heart."

Wingrove also creates videos for dental hygienists about instrumentation that can be viewed at wingrovedynamics.com and other websites.

"She recently returned from her annual trip to Italy providing a series of lectures and hands-on workshops," Meeuwenberg said. "She was honored with an international master's degree in dental hygiene from the Istituto Stomatologico in Toscano, as a distinguished professor for her annual education of dental professionals and educators in their country.

"She has been instrumental in promoting dental hygiene in at least eight countries and encouraging hygienist involvement in their professional associations.

"I have have volunteered since 2009 and have been sponsored to help promote hygiene Internationally," Wingrove said. "I love the interaction, seeing how the hygiene associations grow in other countries, and I learn a lot to bring back to the United States from other countries."

When asked to point out the award recipient's "greatest achievement," Meeuwenberg replied, "Her greatest achievement is understanding the difficulty in accessing periodontally infected teeth and designing instruments to access those areas. In addition, her quest to develop the best instruments to access dental implants has improved the health of implant patients worldwide. Susan has worked tirelessly to design the instruments, create educational videos, and educate thousands of hygienists on improving the oral health of their patients."

Debbie Zafiropoulos, RDH

Hobe Sound, Florida

As Debra Galluppi, a New York dental hygienist, completed her final nomination application, she asked her nominee about the last question: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

"When I asked Debbie this question, she without hesitation said, 'I haven't accomplished it yet.' I asked her what it was that she hasn't accomplished with all she already does," Galluppi said. "Debbie said, 'To rid the world of cancer and chronic diseases.' I replied, 'That's huge.' Debbie's go-big or go-home attitude is passionate, authentic, and contagious."

Galluppi and Zafiropoulos, met at CareerFusion. "She was the first person to introduce herself to me," Galluppi said. "She is a rare find in that she is so down-to-earth and truly wants to help people. Debbie commands attention with just her presence and unselfishly gives her all to the profession and the community she loves."

In August 2015, Zafiropoulos formed the National Cancer Network after being motivated by the death of a close friend to an under diagnosed abnormality found on her tongue-a secondary cancer after battling triple negative breast cancer. Debbie Z., as she is known to her friends, wanted the network to "raise awareness of not looking for cancer, instead looking for abnormalities that will cause our patients pain, inflammation, infection, loss of tooth, and or loss of life." She developed a program called SOSA (Screening for Oral & Skin Abnormalities) to serve as a framework for training qualified volunteers who provide community-based screening events for "risk factors associated to abnormalities and to offer a fearless opportunity to educate the public on the importance of self-exams."

"The mission of the National Cancer Network is to build a one-of-its-kind platform for all those who are affected by a cancer diagnosis," Zafiropoulos said. "We want to be the open arms and safe sanctuary with a true human connection so needed today by everyone dealing with the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of a cancer diagnosis. Not just patient focused. We want to support the caregiver also."

The growing army of supporters for the National Cancer Network consists of "the most caring dental hygienists, dentists, corporations who support awareness and the addition of multidisciplinary clinicians, cancer survivors, and caregivers across the nation."

Debbie said, "The NationalCancerNetwork.org has the only program known to date that integrates science, statistics, training, and technology to empower all those who choose to be a part of making cancer history."

The SOSA protocol trains participants on updating their visual and palpation exams, as well as the incorporation of screening technologies. Communication skills are also a key aspect of the program. "We have prepared specific phrases to eliminate the apprehension of the clinician being rejected or dismissed by the patient's fear of finding cancer," Zafiropoulos said. "In addition, we support professionals who become certified through us to use the SOSA protocol in completing the circle by qualifying patient referrals to specialists, designing optimal patient triage systems and suggestions for long-term comfort care should there be a cancer diagnosis."

The National Cancer Network will present a full-day program on Sept. 16, hosted by the Tennessee Dental Hygienists' Association in Kingsport, Tenn. For more information about getting involved with this nonprofit or to register for or to host a SOSA program in a community, contact Zafiropoulos at DebbieZ@NationalCancerNetwork.org.

Zafiropoulos will continue to develop alliances with other health organizations. One goal is for the National Cancer Network to certify Proactive Prevention Protocol Specialists. She said the certified specialists-with the support of the team at the NationalCancerNetwork.org-will be able to offer SOSA training programs and conduct screenings to penetrate communities across the country that may be underserved," "Our target goal is to put more P3 specialists on the streets engaged to eliminate late stage diagnosis and restoring the human touch in support of those effected by a cancer diagnosis.

"We believe with our passion and focus, support from corporate sponsorship, grants and generous donations from the public we will move the rate of mortality and morbidity downwards instead of the escalating statistics reported today."

Prior to establishing the nonprofit, Zafiropoulos practiced clinical hygiene for 23 years until an injury to her thumb forced her to retire. After three operations failed to restore full mobility and feeling, she quickly switched gears and formed the OralED Institute, developing and providing continuing education programs. She has provided more than 2,300 hours of CE courses since 1994.

Galluppi stated, "Debbie is so full of energy, creativity, focus, and passion-no wonder everyone knows her! I have seen Debbie Z talk with and mentor so many in our profession, ranging from new graduates to more seasoned hygienists. I know firsthand that she helps us define what truly resonates in our heart and shows unconditional love and support as we work on achieving our goals." RDH


Jackie L. Sanders, RDH, MBA, is the manager of professional relations at Sunstar Americas, Inc.

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