Is generosity contagious?

I want to dedicate this President’s Message to the generosity of so MANY who attended and supported our recent annual Impact Conference.  This year’s conference was held at the WeKoPa Resort near Fountain Hills on August 10-11.  I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who attended. By nearly every metric gathered, it was a great success.

This conference was created for the educational enrichment of members and non-members. Approximately 200 individuals enrolled, and the conference reviews were, overall, very positive. Thank you to everyone who attended.    

Planning, organizing, and executing a meeting of this magnitude requires many volunteers.  Some of the necessary activities include the following:

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One GIANT leap for mankind

While preparing for our annual Board Retreat, I took some time to reflect on the achievements of our association. It’s been an amazing year, highlighted by the success of Dental Therapy legislation, an effort led by state Senator Nancy Barto from AZ Legislative District 15. For our members living in District 15, please visit Nancy’s website to learn more about her accomplishments.

Dental Therapy has been controversial. Some dentists feel their scope of practice has been highjacked by special interest groups promoting an inferior dental provider. A longer view of history reveals this: Irene Newman, and the early pioneers of the Dental Hygiene movement, including Dr. Alfred Fones, were maligned with similar statements. One hundred years later, professionals broadly agreed that Dental Hygienists are key members of the dental team.

The Dental Therapist is probably years from reality in Arizona. This type of groundbreaking change takes serious thought. The Dental Board will eventually construct rules to regulate and license this new provider. Educators will wrangle over the construction of curriculum to effectively educate and train them. Stakeholders will press for rapid deployment of this new “workforce model,” while disgruntled professionals seek ways to handcuff them.

My view is this: Dental Hygienists are well educated, well trained, embedded in the dental profession, and they are essential beyond imagination to the health and welfare of the public. In this era of healthcare reform, I cannot imagine a more capable, more fitting, more appropriate professional to expand into the role of Dental Therapist.

Almost 50 years ago (1969) Neil Armstrong took man’s first steps on the moon. It was amazing, dramatic, heroic, AND it was the culmination of a decade of dedicated teamwork. He uttered the words “One small step for man ~ one giant leap for mankind.” While Dental Therapy legislation did not garner the support of the moon landing, I think dental professionals in the year 2048 will reflect positively on this development. After all, if you live without access to dental care, this legislation is a “giant leap for mankind.”

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,, and consider joining forces with us. The cost is nothing, and the impact you make could mean everything.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Busch, RDH, MEd

President, AzDHA

President's Message

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 You may also call Robin at 602-651-1245.  I’m looking forward to being with you.

Heavy Lifting

It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. As I compose this article, I am toggling back and forth, watching live State Senate hearings online. It’s not exciting - but it is important.

The Arizona Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Senator Barto, is patiently conducting hearings for sixteen bills - YES, 16! The hearings began at 3:00 p.m. The bill I am interested in, Senate Bill 1362, addresses changes to laws affecting:

  • 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.

To Deb, and members of the AzDHA Advocacy Committee: Please accept my gratitude.