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The Wild Bunch

July 1, 2008
The Wild Bunch came together in the middle of winter in Missoula, Montana. American Eagle Instruments, Inc., whose headquarters are located there...

The Wild Bunch came together in the middle of winter in Missoula, Montana. American Eagle Instruments, Inc., whose headquarters are located there, invited a half dozen dental hygienists to spend a long weekend together last February. This included a couple of days at a dude ranch that was located near Glacier National Park, tucked away in the northwest corner of Montana.

I was the last one to arrive on a wintry Thursday evening. Very weary from a long day of traveling and working in private practice, I made my way to my hotel room. Standing at the door of my room, I could hear giggling across the hall where the door was slightly ajar. I quickly tossed my cumbersome luggage into the room and walked across the hall. I instantly recognized some of the faces in the room. Let me introduce the cast of characters:

• Renee Marchant-Turner, RDH: Most "listers" at already know Renee. She practices full time in Santa Rosa, CA, and is passionate about hands-on training in advanced ultrasonics technique. She also teaches in-office ergonomic workshops.

• Diane Brucato-Thomas, RDH, EF, BS: Diane is also a lister who practices as a periodontal therapist in Hawaii. She's also the founder of the Hawaii Institute for Wellness in Dentistry and was twice awarded "HDHA Outstanding Member."

• Catherine Fairfield, RDH: A Canadian, Catherine has 19 years of experience in private periodontal practices in Calgary, Alberta, and is currently practicing in both periodontal and prosthodontic disciplines. Both she and Diane have been part-time clinical educators and both provide educational seminars on non-surgical periodontal therapy.

• Joan Kenney Fitzgerald, RDH, CLPT: Of all the Wild Bunch members, I knew Joan the best because years ago we used to job share when our children were toddlers. Joan is past president of the New Hampshire DHA, and she practices in a general dental practice as a periodontal therapist. In addition, Joan is a certified laser periodontal therapist and an independent distributor and marketing director for Oxyfresh Worldwide, Inc.

• Judy Carroll, RDH: Like the rest of the Wild Bunch, Judy is an author, lecturer, clinical instructor, and in addition, owner of PerioPeak Innovations. She has spent the past seven years focused entirely on the innovative use of the dental endoscope in periodontal specialty and general practice. Both Judy and Diane have expertise in performing periodontal endoscopy.

Once settled into the hotel room across the hall, we hugged, sipped wine, ate chocolate, and shared secrets about our personal lives, something that close friends do. The bond between us was immediate.

From left to right: Catherine Fairfield, Lynne Slim, Joan Fitzgerald, Judy Carroll, Renee Turner, Diane Thomas, and Nichol Schreiber.
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The following morning, we were greeted in the hotel lobby by American Eagle's national sales manager, Mark Wells, and his colleague, Nichol Schreiber, the marketing manager. Both were energetic and ready to roll. Since we were up late the night before, we were gulping down endless cups of coffee trying to pry our eyes open to get ready for a tour of the company's headquarters.

American Eagle Instruments gathered us together that cold February weekend so they could learn more from us about dental hygiene instrumentation. Little did they know that they would soon learn that these women, who CEO Brad Hackerman labeled "The Wild Bunch," were visionaries. Mark and Nichol drove us by van to a dude ranch where we spent two very cozy days and nights in each other's company. We were fortunate to have the perfect hosts: Mark, Nichol, Brad, and Kapri (Brad's wife). They arranged for us to take a sleigh ride around the property, and we even experienced clay pigeon shooting.

The Wild Bunch members were treated to a wintertime sleigh ride in Montana.
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Catherine and I are perhaps the nerdiest of the bunch. We are happiest reading periodontal literature and discussing odd topics like biofilm and evidence-based decision making. Catherine's uniqueness is her natural ability as an eloquent speaker and her dedication to professionalism.

Diane is a gentle but powerful force who surprised us by giving us a traditional Hawaiian chant. She also gave us a piece of bamboo — a part of her home that has great meaning to her. Giving a gift that represents the spirit of "aloha" provided Diane an opportunity to educate and share some of the richness of the culture that feeds her soul.

Renee's a dreamer who enjoys taking her talent to the next level. I also quickly discovered that Renee was the comedian in the group, and her sense of humor is unexpected and knee-slapping at times.

Joan surprised me when we arrived with a special gift: a CD of women's spiritual songs. I could hear Joan's beautiful and powerful voice during one of the tracks. Joan has succeeded in life and in her career, despite some insurmountable odds. It's her ability "to see light in the darkest of nights" (words from the CD) and her faith that keeps her uplifted and singing. Joan is an example of someone who believes that "if you can walk, you can dance and if you can talk, you can sing" (another track from the aforementioned CD). In recent months, Joan has been blazing trails with fellow members of New Hampshire DHA to establish the creation of an advanced dental hygiene practitioner.

Judy arrived in Missoula with a respiratory infection, and she was very quiet and withdrawn at first. Over the weekend, I learned about her advocacy of dental endoscope technology. Judy's pioneering approach to non-surgical regeneration — RPE™ (Regenerative Periodontal Endoscopy) — is a revolutionary step for dental hygiene and may hold the key to redefining certain aspects of the profession. She is calm and determined in the face of those who challenge her protocol. In chatting with Judy on the periotherapist Yahoo group, I have a newfound appreciation and understanding of the role of biofilm and inflammation in the periodontal pocket ecosystem. This has huge implications for periodontal therapists.

So what did I learn from the Wild Bunch that I'd like to pass on to you? I learned that we must — collectively and individually — celebrate each other's uniqueness and support each other. Empowering each other may not be our nature at times, but the rewards are great. Each of us has unique talents and abilities and we can continue to learn and grow by coming together and bearing our souls.

In charting a path to career success, don't always go it alone. Don't be afraid to share your trials and tribulations with others, and make sure you find a mentor who has your best interests at heart. Together we can accomplish more than we can individually. The CD (visit that Joan gave me says it all (and by the way, she is the soloist for this song):

Just like a tree that's planted by the water
We shall not be moved.
Though the winds are blowing all around us
We shall not be moved.
These winds will never last
This storm is sure to pass.
This trial is just a test, so . . .
We shall not, no, We shall not be moved.

About the Author

Lynne Slim, RDH, BSDH, MSDH, is an award-winning writer who has published extensively in dental/dental hygiene journals. Lynne is the CEO of Perio C Dent, a dental practice management company that specializes in the incorporation of conservative periodontal therapy into the hygiene department of dental practices. Lynne is also the owner and moderator of the periotherapist yahoo group: In addition, Lynne is the editor of the Sunstar Americas e-newsletter "The GUMline." Lynne speaks on the topic of conservative periodontal therapy and other dental hygiene-related topics. She can be reached at [email protected] or