The Waco era of RDH

Jan. 27, 2006
The editor of RDH remembers the very first parking lot outside the magazine's headquarters.

By Mark Hartley

I'm at that point where years are no longer calendars. Instead, they are eras. The launching of RDH is the Waco era. As far as I know, the Branch Davidians had not arrived into town when the first issue of RDH was published. Maybe they had. I didn't know they were there until the standoff in 1993.

In the January 2006 issue of RDH, we published a photo of a somewhat goofy depiction of wrongful job termination — an evil-looking dentist with a moustache beckoning a young woman (hygienist) out the door. You can see a parking lot in the background of the photo. I, of course, recognize the parking lot. It was not the same parking lot outside the front entrance when I arrived in 1985. But I knew about Stevens Publishing's start from listening to other employees chat about it. Waco is not that big; you tend to become familiar with most of the parking lots.

Craig Stevens inherited a magazine called Dental Student from his Chicago-based family. He married a woman with roots in Waco and moved to Texas. Sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s, he reached a decision to branch out into dentistry, as well as offer information of interest to professionals responsible for compliance with regulations imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

At time has proven, RDH magazine turned out to be his best venture into dentistry.

If you like to figure out why things happen, my exposure to Stevens Publishing serves as a good reason why I constantly preach (or encourage other writers to do so) about why hygienists need to take steps to avoid getting hurt on the job. All those OSHA regs coinciding with tales of pain from hygienists equals an editorial or two about proper ergonomics.

RDH was 4 years old when I arrived in 1985. You could tell that Stevens spent a lot of time recruiting his "think tank" for developing the editorial direction of the magazine in 1981, because many of his first "board members" are still very visible in the profession today.

But the leader was Irene Woodall. Her columns were motivational to an entire generation of hygienists who were breaking the mold of the stereotype that they would clean teeth for a while before getting married. In her mind, it was a career in health care that deserved serious respect.

As a young 30-something proofreader for RDH, I just thought she fancied run-on sentences. After several phone conversations with her, I finally got to meet her in person during a dental convention somewhere around 1986 or 1987. The editor of RDH at the time was unable to attend, so I was supposed to make a goodwill visit with her, and just say everything was fine back there in the parking lots of Waco.

Scout's honor, the only thing I remember was her graciousness. Considering the somewhat controversial nature of some of her columns, I was sort of expecting one of those feminists that Rush Limbaugh admires so much, breathing fire and raining scorn down on all men. But she was just so gracious, making me feel at ease during our chat.

She truly was a special person for the dental hygiene profession, and she served as the guiding light for the magazine until the early 1990s.

I don't have any idea if Kristine Hodsdon wants me to ramble on about the history of RDH in RDH eVillage. But, if she does, maybe I'll jot down a few notes for an upcoming issue.

Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH magazine.