2021-2022 MDHA President’s Letter
Another year and another changing of the guard here at the Missouri Dental Hygienists’ Association. I am proud to be your next MDHA President. I want the Missouri Dental Hygienist to feel empowered, and not only excited to join the MDHA movement, but to get involved. If I am being honest, I didn’t always have this passion and purpose. I was starting to feel unfilled in my career and was looking to make a change. That spark for me happened at RDH UOR in 2017. I met people whose articles I was reading, podcasts I was listening to, and following their clinical journeys on social media. The energy at that event was palpable for me. I left that conference recharged, refocused, and inspired to become a member of the ADHA.
My theme for my presidency is empowering the dental hygienist. I believe as dental hygienists we are so much more than tooth scrapers. I challenge you to come up with a different definition when people ask you what you do for a living, and you can use mine if you like. I am an oral health prevention specialist also known as a dental hygienist. My hope is that I will invoke some emotion inside you to take action! It can be simple things like changing your job description. Or introduce yourself to patients by your name and that you are the registered dental hygienist that is going to be seeing them today. Or owning the fact that you are an oral healthcare specialist and taking pride in that. We are a necessary component of the dental team.
When I left the dental practice where I started my career and told a dentist there that I want to make a bigger impact, he told me, “Well, it sounds like you need to go to dental school.” But my passion has been fueled tremendously by all that I do as a dental hygienist. I’ve come to realize that prevention is powerful and as a dental hygienist, I get to live out my passion every single day, just like you all! When patients walk into your op, when students show up to learn, when people attend continuing education courses, and when dental professionals show up at your vendor booths to learn about the next great thing, we are all impacting our patients' lives! We do not need doctor before our name to make a difference. I imagine a utopia in the healthcare system, where disease is not commonplace, and people will seek out prevention specialists, like ourselves, as the norm or standard.
Do things outside your comfort zone and be a member of your professional organization. That was the overarching theme I walked away from RDH UOR in 2017. You see, I was not an ADHA member as a student nor the first 7 years of my career.
I realized that the people that I followed and looked up to all had one thing in common; they were professional members. I joined that fall and reached out to the local component Facebook page about getting involved at the local level. The rest has been a journey of showing up where needed. Being a member of ADHA has given me so much with the irreplaceable friendships I have made these last 4 years.
I would love to see Missouri RDHs be able to give local anesthetic under general supervision. I would love for us to be able to provide our services to those patients who cannot make it into the confines of the typical dental offices. I do not want to see scaling assistants here in Missouri. I would love to know what YOU want out of your profession. How do we accomplish all of this? I invite you to join us. I believe an organization is only as strong as its membership body. ADHA relies heavily on membership dues and volunteer leaders. Folks, there are too few of us as members and even fewer as volunteer leaders. Our professional voice would be heard, and the things Missouri dental hygienists want to have passed or protected at the legislative level would happen if we had more representation.
“Leaders cannot be all things to all people; they don’t need to know everything; they can’t; that’s fundamentally why leaders build great teams with the expertise to
help the organization fulfill its purpose and achieve its vision.” You all have elected us to these positions, but there are still plenty of committee roles and volunteer opportunities at the local and state level. We need your help. The few have been doing the work of many for far too long. We have a strong group of long-time leaders who are committed to this work. They work hard but they play harder. We know how to have fun and get the job done. Reach out if you want to observe one of our board meetings, no strings attached. Your skills and experience may be just what we need to round out our leadership team. As a leadership team, we cooperate with one another to make things better for all of us, ADHA member or not. We need each other’s unique talents to continue to take our organization higher, to empower us to be our very best!
Representation matters. It is important for future leaders to see themselves in current leaders. Diversity is not simply checking a box. Inclusion is not just the newest trending word. If you don’t see yourself represented on this board, I challenge you to reach out to me or anyone of us. If you want to be brave and make an impact, if you are willing to be a part of making positive changes for Missouri dental hygienists, connect with us. If you want to be more involved but holding a position is not right for you at this time, lend a hand at your local meetings. The best first step you can do is to become a member, pay your dues. Your voice matters. I’m living proof. I am an openly gay woman in an organization that is predominately occupied by heterosexual women, and yet I have been welcomed with open arms. All are welcomed!
I hope you know that MDHA has your back as a Missouri dental hygienist. I am excited for my presidency and truly cannot wait to connect with you all!
Jen Kopp, BHS, RDH
Missouri Dental Hygienists’ Association President 2021-2022