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Serving the oral health needs of the Navajo Nation

March 21, 2023
Valerie Long found her calling working at the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, where she loves educating an underserved population and feels she's making a difference.

The PIRA (Patient Impact & Rise Above) recognition program features dental hygiene clinicians who go the extra mile in their jobs to change their patients’ lives, influence their patients’ health, and make a daily difference. This month we honor Valerie Long, MSDH, BSDH, RDH, CDA.

Serving the needs of the Navajo Nation

Valerie has practiced clinical dental hygiene for 30 years. She spent 11 years in private practice and currently works at a hospital-based dental clinic, serving the needs of the Navajo (Diné) Nation Reservation in Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene and earned a master’s degree in dental hygiene at the University of New Mexico. She's also a certified dental assistant and teaches dental assisting radiology.

Valerie works at one of the few dental clinics on the Navajo Reservation, performing clinical and administrative duties. As a member of the Southwest Dental Support Center Regional Advisory committee, she advocates for the clinic and its needs. “I always take on a challenge, expand my skills, and look for new opportunities. I see the dental field as a profession that brings health, vitality, and preventive services to all,” she says.

Valerie works in one of the few dental clinics on the Navajo Reservation. “I see the dental field as a profession that brings health, vitality, and preventive services to all.”

As one of three dental hygienists at Tséhootsooí Medical Center (TMC) in Fort Defiance, Arizona, Valerie has coordinated the Give Kids A Smile program, which provides preventive dental care to surrounding Navajo Nation elementary school districts. Through a Facebook Live event sponsored by TMC, Valerie made a presentation on the link between oral and systemic health. She is also a member of the Employee Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team at TMC.

Meet more PIRA honorees

Courtney Ruda, BS, RDH
Heather Bolton, BSDH

Valerie was chosen to be a speaker for TMC Health Minute and a live diabetes forum on the Navajo Nation radio station. The Get Back on Track initiative provides information on diabetes and dietary choices, managing diabetes, and dental care for patients with diabetes. All these community services have been made possible by the Special Diabetes Program for Indians grant funding.

Valerie is grateful that the dental clinic provides these opportunities for comprehensive dental services while collaborating with others to meet the needs of the Navajo community. She says, “I believe we have a vast audience outside the dental clinic walls, and I see all these possibilities as a platform for expanding the message of dental health under cultural awareness and sensitivity.”

Visit the PIRA website to nominate someone today! Good luck, and we look forward to hearing from many outstanding and qualified colleagues!