Trisha O'Hehir, RDH

May 1, 2003
As with any new venture, there are growing pains and changes, and this column is no exception. After several columns that focused on the speakers themselves, I have decided to redirect the focus on insights into the actual continuing education programs they present.

By Ann-Marie D. DePalma

As with any new venture, there are growing pains and changes, and this column is no exception. After several columns that focused on the speakers themselves, I have decided to redirect the focus to not only the speakers, but on insights into the actual continuing education programs they present. Continuing education may or may not be mandated in your state, but to be considered a true "professional" one must continually be updated in all aspects of clinical and non-clinical practice. Hopefully, this new direction of the column will help direct you to courses and speakers who will help you on your way to professionalism within the dental hygiene community. If you know of a program or speaker you feel you would like to have highlighted here, please contact me.

Trisha E. O'Hehir, RDH, is considered a futuristic thinker who presents thought-provoking programs that combine current research, practical applications, and alternatives for the future.

Speaker background

As a clinical hygienist, Trisha attended the University of Minnesota where she received degrees in both dental hygiene and higher education. She has been employed for more than 30 years in private practices in the United States and Zurich, Switzerland, and has held faculty positions at the University of Minnesota, University of Washington, and University of Arizona.

Trisha pioneered the position of "periodontal therapist" in Arizona, as well as teaching local anesthesia courses and providing local anesthesia in an oral surgery practice.

In addition to her extensive clinical practice experience, she is an international lecturer, consulting editor for RDH magazine, editor of Perio Reports Newsletter, and co-founder of Perio-Data Company. Her written contributions have included articles in RDH, JDH, JPH, Access, and JADA, as well as contributions to several textbooks. She is also a member of many North American professional associations and several international dental and dental hygiene associations.

Trisha is a past-president of the Arizona State Dental Hygienists' Association and has received numerous accolades, ranging from the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota to the Warner Lambert/ADHA Excellence in Dental Hygiene Award. She currently lives and works in Arizona.

The program

Trisha presents several programs comparing science and tradition. Her most popular program is titled, "Dental Hygiene Secrets." The program is based on a series of four cartoon books authored by Trisha and published by Perio Reports. These colorful little books share oral health secrets with the general public. The first to be published is the Toothpaste Secret, and will be followed by the Gum Disease Secret, the Dental Floss Secret, and the Tooth Decay Secret.

Trisha's "Dental Hygiene Secrets" is a full-day program, weaving scientific research through practical clinical concepts with the use of cartoons. The overall goal of the program is to recognize hygienists as the primary preventive specialist in the dental office, with all the knowledge and skills to prevent and control dental disease.

The "secrets" are not secrets to course participants. They are ideas and concepts founded in scientific research that sometimes get lost in the busy schedule of day-to-day practice. Looking at scientific research through the eyes of a clinical hygienist leads to small changes in the hygiene department, which results in huge rewards in health and productivity.

Trisha encourages participants to think "outside of the box" when applying research concepts to patient care. She wants participants to have fun with research! She describes herself as an oral health detective and empowers course participants to become detectives in their patients' dental health lives.

Course materials

Although geared for hygienists, dentists also enjoy the program. Recently, a pre-dental hygiene student at the program in Louisville said that she was even more excited now to become a dental hygienist. Rather than a handout, participants of the program receive a copy of PerioReports — Trisha's publication that summarizes current research — and a resource list.

The course covers 20 trends in dental hygiene. Nineteen trends are well-defined trends related to research and products, with the 20th to be identified by each participant. At the end of the program, Trisha reveals her idea for the future — her secret for #20. To find out what that secret is, you have to attend the program!

Speaking experience

Trisha began providing dental CE in 1979 as part of her faculty position at the University of Washington. However, her first experience on the "podium" was at a much earlier age, when as a high school junior she was asked to speak to Girl Scouts about her "vast experience" in Girl Scouting. She had never spoken before an audience before and just thought she could "show up" and answer questions!

She had no presentation prepared and was directed to a podium in front of the young troop that was eagerly awaiting her words. She was absolutely speechless, but did manage to come up with something (she doesn't quite remember what).

But she does remember wanting to "run out of the building" and when she finally was able to leave, felt like a complete failure for not preparing a presentation. She did learn a valuable lesson that day — the essence of the Girl Scout motto, "Be Prepared." It is amazing that she ever got up in front of a group again after that disastrous beginning, but dental hygiene is all the better for her having learned the lesson that day.

To participate in "Dental Hygiene Secrets" or any of Trisha's other programs here are the listings of upcoming programs. Trisha can be reached at [email protected]

• Eugene, Oregon — May 9, DH Study Club. Contact Rhodana Janssens (541) 461-7189

• Chicago — July 24-27, RDH Under One Roof, Contact www.

• Alaskan Cruise — August 16-22, Dental Practice Solutions. Contact [email protected]

• San Francisco — September 20, American Academy of Periodontology. Contact

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].