By Kevin Henry
Editor’s Note: I recently had the chance to talk to Jayne Tripoli, a former student in the dental assisting program at Orlando (Fla.) Tech. Tripoli was named the winner of a $1,000 ADA dental assisting scholarship that will help her repay some of her study debts.
Tripoli is a “non-traditional” student — she’s in her 40s, and she comes to dental assisting after the economy and some life changes forced her to switch careers. Still, she believes she has found her true calling as a dental assistant.
She is currently working for a periodontal practice in the Orlando area, and I talked to her about the scholarship, the changes in her life, and her future as a dental assistant.
Kevin Henry: What caused this career change for you?
Jayne Tripoli: Two-and-a-half years ago, I had two kids and I was unemployed. I didn’t think I could go back to school and learn a new profession, but my daughters (ages 17 and 13) convinced me to do it. I wanted to set a good example for my kids, so I gave it a shot.
Henry: When you knew you had to start a new career, why did you choose dental assisting?
Tripoli: The first thing I always notice about people is their smile. My mom had all of her teeth pulled when she was in her 30s, and I promised myself then that I would never go through that. I think I can help people keep their smiles. We recently helped a lady who was in horrible pain from a root canal. When she got out of the chair, she hugged us because she wasn’t hurting anymore.
Henry: What were your thoughts when you first walked into the dental assisting classroom?
Tripoli: I felt overwhelmed. I walked in and the other students were 19 and 20 years old. But everyone was really great to me. I was able to pick up things quickly and the teachers helped me so much. You can tell they love the dental field and what they do. They truly inspired me.
Henry: Tell me about your current job.
Tripoli: I said when I was in school that I didn’t want to work in an office that did a lot of perio and endo. Now, I’m working in a practice with a husband and wife team that does perio and endo (laughing). I knew when I walked in there the first time that it was a great office. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything about working there.
Henry: So tell me about your scholarship.
Tripoli: We had to write a short essay about dental assisting. There are a lot of things that are easy for me to say but very hard to write down and keep short. I’m so honored they chose me.
Henry: I understand they surprised you with the news at your dental office.
Tripoli: My teachers walked in with roses and told me. I just started to cry. I couldn’t believe it. After they left, it really sank in what had happened. The doctors and other assistants told me how proud they were of me, and that meant a lot.
Henry: What are your goals for the future?
Tripoli: I want to be a great dental assistant. I love the career choice I made.
Henry: What lessons have you learned about working in “the real world” of dental assisting?
Tripoli: One of the dentists has said that I come in early, stay late, and never complain. I know that there are going to be days that I don’t get out of the office on time, so I make sure my daughters are in a good position and will be fine until I get home. I also know that not every patient is going to be the same and we’re going to have to deal with difficult people at times. You just have to keep your smile.
Note: I also talked to Cindy Bradley, CDA, CDPMA, EFDA, BA, a friend of Dental Assisting Digest™ and the director of Orlando Tech’s dental assisting program.
Henry: What makes Jayne successful?
Cindy Bradley: Her attitude makes her special. She never says no when she’s asked to do something. She’s the first person in and the last person out. Also, her heart is so full of compassion.
Henry: She wasn’t a typical student because of her age and background. When did you know she was going to be something special?
Bradley: When I met her for the first time, I knew she had what it took. Her personality really stood out. I’ve also seen her self-esteem grow. She’s very mature and takes things in stride. I don’t think you could tell if she was having the worst day ever. When something negative happens, she doesn’t take it personally. We often say to be the best person you can be every day, and she truly does that.
Meet Jayne Tripoli
By Kevin Henry