Career Corner: Dental hygiene lessons learned from Star Trek

Susanne Kuehl, RDH, BS, is a graduate of Westbrook College and Daniel Webster for marketing management. She has over 25 years of experience as a dental hygienist working as a periodontal co-therapist in private practice.

Startrek

Susanne Kuehl, RDH, BS, is a graduate of Westbrook College and Daniel Webster for marketing management. She has over 25 years of experience as a dental hygienist working as a periodontal co-therapist in private practice.

In the corporate arena, she has been a member of the Oral-B Advisory Board, sales representative for Professional Dental Technologies, Professional Advocacy Team Leader and Category Associate Brand Manager for Tom’s of Maine, a Colgate-Palmolive subsidiary.

She is an active change agent who advocates for increasing awareness with consumers, legislators, and stakeholders about the cost benefits of prevention. She sits on two industry advisory boards, is a leadership alumnus of the AHDA Unleashing Your Potential workshop and was recognized as the Philips Sonicare/RDH Mentor of the Year award for 2014.

An article about the mentoring award that appeared in RDH magazine can be viewed here.

We asked Susanne about the secrets of her success, and she responded with the eight tips from below. If you follow a science fiction genre, you may recognize some of the key points:

By Susanne Kuehl, RDH, BS

Everything I needed to know I learned from Star Trek. I almost named one of my children Kirk, but it was too hard to say with my last name. I have an Enterprise uniform in my closet and can do the split V greeting from Spock with both hands. On the Enterprise, notice all nations/genders are represented on the bridge joined by a common mission and guiding principles.

1. Boldly go where no man has gone before, seek out new life and new civilizations.

  • Takeaway: Attending association meetings and new courses “all by myself” instead of only going where my dental office went helped me find new worlds in my profession.
  • Takeaway: We are better together. Join your association! Read books/articles beyond Esther Wilkins to understand business, negotiations, public health, personal growth, and local/state politics.

2. Hire people who are smarter than you. Kirk had Spock. Picard had Data. Starfleet captains are highly intelligent, highly trained specialists, but every single one has a close and trusted officer on board they know is even smarter and more capable.

  • Takeaway: We all bring something different to the table, so make sure your staff or board of trustees is a diverse group with different talents.

3. Learn to love the big chair. The "big chair" took different forms on different ships, but it always had pride of place. The big chair was a symbol of authority and accomplishment, and sitting in it was a way of celebrating both.

  • Takeaway: Women seem to have a strong reluctance to “leaning in” to leadership. Learn what it means to lead by taking on more responsibility and stretch your comfort zone!

4. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — or the one. Sometimes you must make great sacrifices for the greater good.

  • Takeaway: When working with stakeholders, find middle ground, compromise and be patient with baby steps to move the profession forward.

5. Resistance is not futile! The Borg tried hard to assimilate everyone to a more “efficient” blend of machine and humanness but with no individuality.

  • Takeaway: Celebrate your uniqueness. Explore your inner world. Take the Myers Briggs/DISC and other personality tests with your office/staff/board to appreciate different ways of looking at problems/solutions.

6. Make it so!

  • Takeaway: Learn to delegate and ask for help. Speak up before you get overwhelmed and overworked. There is no “I” in TEAM so learn how to share the workload and use SMART objectives of who/what/where/when.

7. The most powerful force in the universe is friendship. It's more powerful than phasers, photon torpedos, and Vulcan mind-melds. With friends, you can accomplish any task, escape any perilous situation, defeat any enemy--and you get to laugh together when it's all over.

  • Takeaway: if I’m not having fun, I’m not doing it! My professional friends have made this journey a fun and fabulous ride.

8. Oh, and one more thing: live long and proper.

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