Sunstar, PennWell announce the four dental hygiene recipients of the 2017 Award of Distinction

May 2, 2017
Sunstar Americas and PennWell, the publisher of RDH magazine, announce the four dental hygiene recipients of the 2017 Award of Distinction.

An Oregon hygienist who treats low-income patients in long-term care facilities, a Canadian who created the Smiles Foundation, a hygienist who bridged professional access to oral pathology information, and an Oklahoma Board of Dentistry member involved with school-based sealant programs in Oklahoma City are the recipients of the 2017 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction.

The accomplishments of the four dental hygienists—Nancy W. Burkhart, BSDH, EdD; Angela Craig, RDH, BSDH; Kyle Isaacs, RDHEP, BHS; and Elina Katsman, RDH—will be celebrated during an August 11 ceremony at the RDH Under One Roof conference in Chicago.

"Since 2002, Sunstar and RDH have recognized 117 award recipients. These distinctive individuals have taken their dental hygiene education and wrapped passion, persistence, and the desire to change lives with their careers,” said Jackie Sanders, the manager of professional relations for Sunstar Americas who will preside over the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction ceremony.

Craig Dickson, publisher for RDH magazine, said, “We are very proud of our partnership with Sunstar in that we are able to introduce every year a group of very distinctive dental hygienists who have made a difference in our world. We are excited to be acknowledging this year’s recipients during RDH Under One Roof and in the September 2017 issue of RDH magazine.”

Burkhart is the co-author of the textbook, “General and Oral Pathology for the Dental Hygienist,” currently going into its third edition this year. Burkhart started the International OLP Support Group in 1997, which encourages experts to interact with patients who have been diagnosed with oral lichen planus. Based in Charlotte, N.C., she is an adjunct associate professor in the department of periodontics at Baylor College of Dentistry-Texas A&M University in Dallas.

Dianne Watterson, RDH, who is a columnist with RDH magazine, said, “Nancy has been a role model for others in dental hygiene promoting the fact that if you work hard and have an interest, you do not need to limit yourself. She liked pathology and felt that she could contribute to the dental community.”

Craig is based in Edmond, Okla., where she is completing her third term on the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry. She was serving on the board in March 2013 when a Tulsa oral surgeon brought an international spotlight on the state after numerous infection control breaches were confirmed. “It was the worst time for our profession, but it will probably save more lives than if the story had been silenced and no one ever learned from it,” she said. She led an unsuccessful effort to legislate mandatory infection control courses for dental assistant, but she still lectures extensively on the subject.

In 2016, Craig connected with the Oklahoma Delta Dental Foundation. Five months earlier, the foundation started school-based sealant programs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as smaller towns in the state, and Craig joined to become one of the members of the dental hygiene team. She said, “The sealant program is the highlight of my career. Being able to get into public health and reach some of the kids who have trouble getting to a dentist’s office, or who have never been to a dentist. I love being a part of this giant step forward for dental health in Oklahoma, thanks to the foundation for recognizing the need and filling it. It is a joy to go to work with the kids.”

Isaacs moved to Oregon three years ago after working in dental practices for 26 years. “I had been taking care of patients who had money, insurance, or both, and I decided it was time to do something different.” She organized a community screening for oral abnormalities, and started her own mobile dental hygiene business. Isaacs also treats patients through Exceptional Needs Dental Services, where she treats low-income patients in long-term care facilities.

“One of my biggest goals is to inspire other RDHs everywhere to go for their dreams, to set up their own business, if possible, get into long-term care facilities or whatever. I do this by being an example.” Isaacs said.

Katsman created Smiles Foundation to help provide free dental care to children living in poverty in the Dominican Republic. She estimates that over 5 million children have received care in the foundation’s 10 permanent and five mobile clinics.

The Toronto dental hygienist said, “I am very proud and humbled to be able to make a positive change in the lives of millions of needy people and to have an outstanding group of employees and volunteers carrying on my mission and vision.” Smiles Foundation relies on the support provided by 178 employees and more than 500 volunteers.

RDH Under One Roof, a conference for dental hygienists, will be hosted at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Aug. 10-12.

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