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My experience at RDH Under One Roof 2017: Elevating careers, Chicago style

Nov. 1, 2017
Dorothy Garlough, RDH, describes her experience at the "exceptional" 2017 RDH Under One Roof conference, where she saw careers and professionalism in dental hygiene developed, and friendships born.

Dorothy Garlough

“Chicago style”: What does that mean? Google says style is a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed. So, Chicago style must mean that in some way the city is unique, a one-of-a-kind destination with its own personality. I found this to be true upon arriving in Chicago for RDH UOR 2017. My curiosity was piqued at Chicago’s undercurrent of energy, and there was so much to see, so much to do. Visually, Chicago is stunning, with bountiful displays of architectural genius at every turn of the undulating Chicago River. The river’s gentle s-curve leads the eye into the heart of the city, and the sensual appeal of the city celebrates many kinds of creative genius. For example, Chicago’s famous blues music moves its visitors viscerally. Chicago is a magnificent metropolis—alive, vibrant, and full of a palatable Chicago-style energy.

But the energy of the city cannot compare to the energy of RDH UOR 2017. This conference was exceptional in my opinion. It was hopping and fueled with excitement from the get-go, right until the end when we said our happy and tired goodbyes. The programs were meaningful, cutting-edge, and different enough to add interest, variety, and substance to the event. Even a veteran hygienist such as myself learned from programs ranging from ergonomics, to the inflammatory response, to all the outrageous things young people are doing to get high! The palette of information was colorful, and some of it shocking.

The prestigious Sunstar Award of Distinction showcased four preeminent hygienists. These women are smart, giving, tireless, and imaginative, leaving me to think to myself, “Must try harder!” They have made meaningful contributions not just to the dental hygiene profession but also to individuals who have real hygiene needs and no means to address these needs. Their leadership and selflessness give credence to the open-hearted and generous spirit of these women, and their ability to collaborate to make differences in other people’s lives is inspiring. A moving quote read by the moderator of this program, Jackie Sanders, exemplified the power of connecting with others to make uplifting contributions happen: “We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Energy was then revved up with the keynote speaker, Scott Christopher, author of The Levity Effect, celebrating laughter for the health of it. Endorphins flowed in the packed room, and science tells us that our immune systems grow stronger with this medicine. The room was infected as Scott proficiently nurtured subtle humor and mirthful release. The ambience of the room grew more charged throughout the presentation as we felt a tsunami of laughter wash over us, and a sense of comradery was birthed. Laughter has the magical ability to bridge divides and improves communication, and as Scott pointed out, it is a requirement not only of personal fulfillment and happiness, but also for business success.

Conferences are not conferences without the product floor. Huge in size, RDH UOR’s convention floor showcased many new innovations. One such innovation will end the proverbial hunt for the disappearing cap of syringe needles. The Verena Solutions Simplecap offers a built-in retractable cap with the ability to lock it in place. It is ingenious and simple, as so many valuable innovations are.

Another innovation that may be a game changer is the ReLeaf, a 280-degree suction device made of an FDA-approved polymer that is amazingly comfortable. I have not tested its effectiveness in saliva removal and certainly would advise its engineers to work on giving it a better flavor, but it is amazingly comfortable tucked into the cheek fold.

It was hopping and fueled with excitement from the get-go, right until the end when we said our happy and tired goodbyes.

It was enlightening to learn that hygienists can receive an online bachelor of science degree in public health from Allen College in Iowa, and I also discovered the Team Placement Dental Travel Program. Modeled after travel nursing programs, it offers new possibilities for hygienists. With free housing and competitive pay for working stints of 8, 12, or 16 weeks, it is an opportunity for adventurous hygienists to experience other parts of the country.

There were over 40 courses offered, and no one could partake in all of them. As I sat in a Chicago-style restaurant tempted by a delectably presented crème brûlée, I regretted that I had not attended the program “A Bite of Sugar: Retrain Your Brain.” Fortunately, handouts for many of the programs are available online, and I can at least have access to some of the information, albeit too late to rethink my decision to eat that crème brûlée.

There were multiple sponsored parties with blues music, lights, and reverie. Poking my head into one of them, my senses were flooded with the party, which was delivered Chicago style. There is nothing like women (and a few men) partying, cutting loose, and having a good time. No doubt there were hurting heads the next morning, but from what I know of women, they would pick themselves up and give it their all again the next day.

A surprise was in store with Anastasia Turchetta’s skilled modelling of a talk show host during the Hygienist Proud program. In particular, I liked how two of the adept guest hygienists could express different viewpoints in a nonthreatening yet direct way. It wasn’t that they differed in the science (or lack thereof) behind oil pulling, but in whether they would counsel their patients to stop the practice. A valid point was made that being sensitive to cultural practices when no harm is being done to patients may be prudent. Seeing firsthand how two experts can disagree respectfully was a solid example in elements of critical thinking and I was glad I witnessed it.

There was great loot at RDH UOR as well. Everyone attending the keynote received a whitening kit from Phillips as we exited. As hygienists, we need to walk our talk, and dazzling white smiles influence our patients. Cash winnings flowed too, with five $500 cash prizes and even one prize of $1,000. Pretty exciting stuff in Chicago! But what I want to know is who won the Tiffany necklace for which I am willing to trade my next born?

My personal pièce de résistance was sharing the stage at the closing program with three dynamic colleagues offering pointers on career opportunities. Sponsored by Colgate and moderated by Phyllis Martina, it was a personal highlight, for it is here that I obtained a goal that l have long held in my heart. Life had intervened years ago, and as only life can, took me in a different direction. Life has now come full circle, enabling me to offer insights that I would not have otherwise had. To share these insights on the “big stage” in Chicago was a sweet reward of a dream realized!

No conference of this caliber and magnitude (2,400 people) happens by chance. I cannot imagine the hours, the collaboration, and the commitment that the RDH UOR team invested to put such an imaginative feat together. The conference was artfully crafted and masterfully orchestrated. I liken the composition of the programs to the architecture of Chicago—interesting, professional, and well balanced and supported. And the flow of the days was like the Chicago River: unbroken, perfectly timed, naturally fluent, and gently advancing the direction of the event. With tons of energizing forward momentum, RDH UOR 2017 truly did elevate all who attended. And it did it Chicago style!

Dorothy Garlough, RDH, MPA, is an innovation architect, facilitating strategy sessions and forums to orchestrate change within dentistry. As an international speaker and writer, Dorothy trains others to broaden their skill-set to include creativity, collaborative innovation, and forward thinking. She recognizes that engagement is the outcome when the mechanisms are put in place to drive new innovations. Connect with her at [email protected] or visit