Hygienists rock in the aftermath of Katrina

Sept. 30, 2005
How "listers" reacted to hurricane afterwards left author feeling very proud of her profession.


By Jane Weiner, RDH

I have to write about what a wonderful group of people hygienists really are. I have had the wonderful opportunity in my lifetime to meet so many wonderful, caring, and intelligent women and men who are proud to be members of this profession. I certainly consider us to be the "elite" in the profession. We really do care so very much about what we do. We have a passion, and we seem to know how to put that passion in the right direction.

I know that we have been reading about so many new areas that the ADHA has proposed and that many of the states have proposed for where dental hygiene in the United States will go. But one thing remains the same, and that's the type of person who enters dental hygiene and stays with it.

As many of you know, there are hygienists who go into migrant areas and help people. There are hygienists who go on missions in Third World countries. What you might not know, though, is that there is a group of hygienists who took Hurricane Katrina to heart and did something about it immediately.

These are the "Listers" whom you have all read and heard so much about. Amy Nieves, the original Mentor of the Year, began a small e-mail list and a Web site several years ago. It has grown to around 2,200 participants (some active and some just "lurk") and the ones who are active have become like "sisters" and "brothers" to one another. We vent, we educate one another, we share, and most important, we care.

When Amy heard about Katrina's impact on Mississippi, she let us know that we had a "Lister Sister" (a student) there and just wondered what we could do to be of help to her. Should we make a mass donation to a major organization or should we donate to fellow Listers? One thought was to make our own donation site and give the funds collected to those listers who were affected by the hurricane. Another thought was to give to the SADHA groups of the schools affected by the hurricane.

The Listers joined together in approval. Anne Guignon (the 2004 Mentor of the Year) opened up a page on her Web site (http://AnneGuignon.com) for donations to be made through PayPal. One has the option of posting their name or remaining anonymous. It was done in a very user friendly way and in a way that no one had to worry if they give $1 or $500. It only becomes public knowledge if the person has given permission for this.

How did we know that our members were affected? First of all, there is a profile on every member that they can fill out when they join. Secondly, all of the students and hygienists who post get to know one another so well that we become "family" to one another. Lastly, the list is a daily list, and if visitors keep up with it they can find a multitude of information.

The caring of these Listers is amazing. Within 48 hours, we had reached well over $6,000 to help not only Andrea from Mississippi, but Allison as well (Anne realized that she had been affected). If there are others, they will too be helped or will have been helped by the time this article is printed. Isn't it wonderful that we are able to do something like this for our "own." This amount is growing daily.

I realize that there have been many charity donations that could have been made for hurricane victims. The ADHA, for example, also has arranged a donation site. But in this particular case I just think it is wonderful that we as "hygiene sisters and brothers" were able to help one of our own. Without Amy' s e-mail list this could not have been made possible.

To become a Lister, one can go to Amy's site at http://amyrdhlisters.com and sign up. You will find that you will be welcomed beautifully and enjoy the experience as well.

I also need to bring to your attention how wonderful Winnie Furnari , RDH, of New York is in this situation. She was very involved in 9/11 and the forensics part of that tragic time (forensics is her specialty). She let us all know how to volunteer our services in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama for two-week short-term periods in order to be of help to the hurricane victims.

I know that many hygienists around the country (including myself) wrote immediately to their board of dentistry or to their governor and asked that they please consider emergency temporary licensing for dental professionals affected by Hurricane Katrina. At this time, I know that Texas and Tennessee have already arranged this. I know that other states will follow suit or at least I hope that they will. I have personally been in touch with my BOD.

There is much that we can do even when we think our hands are tied. We work so hard to see our wonderful profession grow, and these things are just another way for this to happen. Observing hygienists who help others is such a wonderful experience. We help others every day in the office setting. But who would ever think that we could be of help in all the ways that we are and especially in times of disaster? Little did we know when we saw that first patient in Clinic I that we could have such an impact on the world in general.

For any of you who are involved in missionary work, treating the indigent, volunteering, helping at times of tragedy or disaster, or giving 100-plus percent in your office setting or educational setting, keep it up. We need all of you and appreciate what you are doing to better the public and to keep the excellence in dental hygiene.

Dr. Fones would be proud of all of us.

Jane Weiner, RDH, a Florida resident, is the recipient of the 2003 Dr. Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award and the recipient of the 2005 Philips Oral HealthCare/RDH Mentor of the Year Award. She can be contacted at [email protected].