Allies and Alliances
Groundswell of Change--The Birth of an Oral Health Movement
For almost 45 years, I have been a proud dental hygienist. Why? I love facilitating health improvement through education. For me, nothing delivers professional fulfillment more than watching a patient take responsibility for their own health. When that transformation occurs, I become a “health coach” not a “care provider”. Healing power is in their hands, not mine.
A few years ago, I was invited to join a team of passionate individuals who organized behind a single idea: How can we facilitate improving oral health for ALL Arizonans? Our team of “allies” was diverse, including leaders from rural and urban areas. Some were dental professionals, others were public health and policy experts, legislators, government and non-profit organizations, as well as representatives from Native American Tribes. We were motivated by a common experience: good oral health seems to elude many Arizonans, depriving them of comfort, function, beauty, good overall health, and in many cases employment. Each ally passionately believed that this inequity must be reversed.
Today, this diverse alliance of change agents has evolved into a statewide coalition, a broad network of grass roots organizations and individuals collaborating to improve oral health. Dentists and hygienists are no longer the only catalysts for change. Now, the power is generated by the collective desires of consumers in an oral health movement. I see a strong similarity to the patient who accepts responsibility for their own health.
In the past, AzDHA has faced the intense political power of the Arizona Dental Association. Even proposing small changes to the dental hygiene scope of practice have met extreme challenges. This year, I experienced the power that results when one organization (AzDHA) joins forces with others to promote common goals. In the book Finding Allies, Building Alliances, the authors, Mike Leavitt and Rich McKeown, illuminate the power, the process, and problem solving that results when diverse stakeholders work collaboratively to solve even the most complicated problems. The power of collective impact has made it a very interesting Legislative session.
I hope you will visit the website for the Arizona Oral Health Coalition, www.azohc.org, and consider joining forces with us. The cost is nothing, and the impact you make could mean everything.
Mary Busch, RDH, MEd
Fall is nearly here, OR, so the calendar tells us! September 22 is the official day; however, Arizona won’t feel like fall until early November. For me, Fall is a reminder that the Members’ General Assembly is right around the corner.
In planning the activities, my thoughts reflect on an important question. Maybe this question is yours too. Why “assemble” the members? As occasionally happens, clarity came in an unexpected way. Indulge me while I share a story from a recent experience.
Labor Day Holiday took me to California for my favorite activity: loving my Grandchildren! On Tuesday, I experienced the joy of walking them to school. They bubbled with excitement - “Mimi” will be there for “assembly”. I expected the ring of an 8 AM bell, followed by boisterous children lining up by grades to walk to class. But the experience was entirely different. Indeed, the 8 AM bell rang. Attentively, a throng of youngsters (grades K-8) ceased their play, and organized in a cluster with their teacher and classmates. Standing in front of them, on a microphone, was an 8th grader who delivered a warm “welcome” to classmates and visitors, then invited everyone to turn to the flag while he led them in the pledge of allegiance. Following “with liberty and justice for all” came an invitation to bow heads for prayer (it’s a parochial school). All 600 students and guests bowed heads in silent response. The student leader prayed, invoking God’s help as students “live” the school’s values: Faith, Excellence, Integrity and Service. After “amen” came a short pause, then the typical school announcements: birthdays to be celebrated that week, a canned food & clothing drive for the victims of Houston’s hurricane and special prayer requests for their safety. Ah ha! NOW, the answer to my question seemed obvious!
Members of our association need to “assemble” for camaraderie, networking, and supporting each other as we individually and collectively transition through professional development. We need to recall our “Oath to the Profession” and be reminded why we practice this chosen profession (beyond the paycheck). We need to celebrate our leaders who have donated countless “volunteer service hours” at the component and state levels, and choose our leaders for the next year. We need to reflect on the previous year and recollect our successes, our shortcomings, and revisit our action plans for future legislative efforts. We need to engage in dialog about how we improve care for our private patients or the public at large, and recognize the enormous potential of our profession. Also, we need to recognize and welcome the student hygienists, modeling for them the power of their professional association.
Assembly is more than “parliamentary process” or revising policy or bylaws that govern the association. I recognize this is one aspect of our “purpose for assembling;” however, it cannot be the primary objective. Our time together is precious, and must be valued as such.
I invite you to reserve the day to gather at our Annual General Assembly. It’s on October 21, 2017 at the Homewood Suites in Phoenix. All members, and student members of ADHA, are welcome. Registration is mandatory – more information is coming to your e-mail, on Face book, and our AzDHA website. If you have any questions, email them to email@example.com. You may also call Robin at 602-651-1245. I’m looking forward to being with you.
- 1. the Board of Dental Examiners (particularly related to licensing fees and operating budget
- 2. procedures that dental hygienists are authorized to perform
- 3. and, eligibility requirements for a dental hygienist to enter into an affiliated practice relationship with a dentist
Each bill is heard and debated by stakeholders, one after another, which consumes between 20 to 45 minutes per each bill. The one I am interested in will be heard at the end of the session. I patiently watch the deliberations, preparing for a long evening.
It’s now 8:45 p.m. Senate Bill 1362 is announced! As I watch the proceedings online, I see our AzDHA Advocacy Committee Chairperson , Deb Kappes, in the hearing room. Both Deb Kappes and our Legislative Lobbyist patiently wait, both prepared to testify if needed. They have been waiting, downtown at the Capital, since 3 p.m.
One by one I listen as stakeholders step up to the podium and present their support, or challenges, to this bill. The Chair and members of the Senate Health Committee occasionally ask for clarifying information. Ultimately, a vote is taken for SB1362 It carries affirmatively!! This means that the bill is approved to move ahead in the legislative process. The session is over. It’s 9:15 p.m.
I write this story to give members and non-members a glimpse of the dedicated service hours volunteered on behalf of our profession. Last December I spent hours at the capital for a similar effort: Sunrise Application Hearings about Dental Therapy. Let me attest that hanging around for hours in a state capital hearing room isn’t fun, and it definitely isn’t glamorous. It’s what I call “HEAVY LIFTING”.
I am often asked, “Why should I pay dues to ADHA – what’s in it for me?” Here is my answer: Tireless promotion of your professional interests at the most influential levels – the Legislature of the Arizona State Senate, and Arizona House of Representatives. Members will argue, “That’s why we pay a Lobbyist”. Let me assure you, paid lobbyists ABOUND at the State Capital. They DO NOT replace voices heard directly from members of the Arizona Dental Hygienists’ Association.
A wise person once said to me, we are what we are because of the hard work, insights, and dedication of countless others.