Through the Eyes of a Newbie
by Susan P. Burzynski, RDH, MSEd
As I sat on the plane going to Las Vegas, reading my book, my mind kept wandering to the RDH Under One Roof conference. I had a multitude of fears. Here I was, someone who hadn't been any further west than Ohio going to Las Vegas. Was my going to this conference a mistake? Would I fit in? The harder I tried to concentrate on my romance novel, the more my mind wandered.
After four days of sightseeing with my husband and son, the big evening arrived! Because I had preregistered, check-in was a breeze. I received a T-shirt and two bags full of goodies; one was a gift for registering early. A few hours later, I would get to meet my "lister sisters" from amysrdhlist.com. What a treat! I felt like I was using my romper room mirror! I saw Jane, Winnie, Lori, Sandra, Millie, Sharon, and Jodie. I did it! I finally got to put faces to the e-mail addresses on Amy's list. Hug, hug, kiss, kiss — "I am so happy to finally meet you!" Everyone was so friendly. We even exchanged our business cards, which made remembering names much easier.
My first day of the seminars started with Kristine Hodsdon in "Writing Realities: Proven Ways To Get Your Articles Published." There were four great presenters to help Kristine: Mark Hartley (editor of RDH magazine), Cathy Hester Seckman, Lory Laughter, and Anne Guignon. I wanted to be sure to introduce myself to Mark as he gave me my first opportunity to publish an article. What a wonderful person Mark is! He put me at ease immediately during our conversation. After all the authors offered their pearls of wisdom on writing, Kristine paired each attendee with a writing buddy. Mine was Toni Adams — what a gem she is!
During our break, I had ample opportunity to head to the exhibit hall to begin playing the trivia game. I had to go to each exhibitor, answer the question on a card, and get my card stamped. As easy as this sounds for a newbie, let me tell you it was tough! The pink cards not only enabled the hygienists to meet different vendors, but to learn about the products being offered. The aisles buzzed with hygienists eager to get their samples, and vendors willing to show how their product would improve the patient's oral health. There were more vendors than I ever saw at any convention. And the samples! I was warned to bring an empty suitcase just for that reason, and that was the best piece of advice I could have received. I never did accomplish getting my entire pink card stamped. However, I left the hall with tired, blistered feet, a bulging UOR bag, and a shopping bag loaded with samples. Back in my hotel room, I rambled on to my husband and son about my day and showed them all my samples. My son's only comment was, "Oh my gosh, Mom!" Despite being exhausted, I mapped out my strategy for the next day. What booths would I hit? What conferences would I like to attend? Last but not least, I decided to wear sneakers!
Anne Guignon added some fun to UOR by designing a purple ATTITUDE! ribbon that listers could distribute to other hygienists as an icebreaker. This ribbon was added to my badge along with my "First-Timer" ribbon. Anne also distributed a "woRDHerd ¿ nerds with attitude!" badge that I wore proudly — so proudly that when I went to get coffee later in the day, the server wrote "Nerd" on my cup for my name!
Time for class number two! This time my class was "Speaking Skills: Learn What It Takes To Be a Professional Speaker," again with Kristine Hodsdon. Since I just graduated from grad school and wanted to teach, I thought I'd find this class helpful, and I certainly did! Once again, Kristine had seasoned speakers to advise us: Ann-Marie DePalma, Deborah Dopson Hartley, and Tricia Osuna. I found it tough to apply Tricia's and Kristine's suggestion to keep my hand movements to a minimum. I am half-Italian — have you ever known an Italian who does not talk with her hands? Without hand movements it is totally impossible to talk! I guess I will have to use Ann-Marie's suggestion of talking to a mirror to keep track of those movements!
After hardly any sleep with all the excitement of the preceding day, I somehow managed to get up and attend Dianne Glasscoe's seminar at 8 a.m. She invited three guests: the Cleaning Lady, a patient of the Cleaning Lady, and another hygienist. Dianne's impressions, songs, and poetry kept the audience on its toes and laughing every minute! For the rest of the day you heard hygienists ask each other: "Did you see Dianne's seminar this morning? Wasn't she great?" She was more than great — she was fantastic!
Since I was already in the exhibit hall, I had time to use my "mission pink card." Once again, I left with a load of samples from the vendors with no duplication from the day before!
Ah, lunch! Here I really got to sit down and meet with other great hygienists: Jodie, Millie, Sharon, Laura, only to name a few. All were concerned that Sharon, another newbie, and I were having a great time. I "confessed" my mistake of wearing sandals with heels the day before. As a seasoned UOR alumnus, I offer future newbies this advice: Wear sneakers!
During lunch, Mark Hartley received a banner that showed appreciation for his dedication to hygienists and was spoofed in a slide showing him in dental garb, as a graduate of the "Lynne Slim School of Dental Hygiene." Priceless! Cheerleaders Jane, Maureen, Sandra, Jodie, Cher, Millie, Lory, and Pattie chanted "Mark, Mark, he's the one, showing us all a side that's fun. Mark, Mark, he's the one!" Mark, our MVP, also received a survival kit filled with a video and some of his favorite food. An additional banner was presented to PennWell, signed by all the hygienists, as well as purple "Dream Team" shirts and hats for the PennWell staff thanking them for all they have done for us over the years. Cathy Seckman presented PennWell with a cake in honor of RDH's 25th anniversary.
After lunch, I had the opportunity to attend Deb Grant's "Perioromatherapy: The Original Dental Spa: Enhancing Clinical Care Through Comfort" seminar. After receiving "dental communion," I left spiritually uplifted and ready to treat my patients. Then I got a chance to hear Lynne Slim and Dr. John Kwan in "The Extreme Cleaning Makeover." What great seminars! Moreover, the best thing was I got to visit the last of the exhibitors, completed my "mission," and turned in my card. Whew! I met more exhibitors in two days than I ever knew existed!
With a sense of accomplishment, I went off to my room to change for the networking party. There I met more talented hygienists — Anita, Harriet, Mary, Cate, Gina, and the list goes on and on. Sunstar Butler featured more talented hygienists by presenting its Awards of Distinction. One of the recipients, Jane Weiner, said everyone in the room deserved that award. How true!
After the awards ceremony, when I got a chance to talk to these wonderful women, I heard my name announced! I won the Orascoptic BodyGuard® chair! Oh, my goodness! I was speechless! Those who know me know my Italian heritage shows as I am always talking and my hands are always moving! Anne Guignon gave me a hug and personally led me to the Orascoptic booth. I was shaking and crying! Thank you, Orascoptic, for your wonderful donation!
Once back at my table I was encouraged to call my boss. He commented:
• "Why are you calling me from Vegas?"
• "How much have you been drinking?"
• "Suzy, you are a piece of work!"
I put my cell phone in the center of the table for all the hygienists to tell him I truly had won the chair. Instead, they told him I drank a bottle of wine! Thank you, ladies! My boss' return comment was "Now that I believe!" Such love and admiration! My "lister sisters" and I engaged in a hug fest. I called up to my room to tell my husband and son. They wanted to "come to my rescue" because I sounded like a wreck! Anne made sure I got a "Big Cheese" ribbon to add to my already ribbon-laden badge!
My final day of the seminar was bittersweet. I heard two more great speakers — Cheryl Thomas and Ann-Marie DePalma. Cheryl inspired us with the story of her battle with kidney disease. Ann-Marie helped me realize how I could use my experiences with my son's learning disability to help my patients. Finally, Kristine closed up the conference with her wrap-up presentation. Thank you, ladies!
Now to P-A-R-T-Y ¿ wahoo! "Lister sisters" know how to party, and it showed when we all danced to "We Are Family." We certainly are! I was happy I brought my camera to catch a ton of memories!
I left Las Vegas thoroughly exhausted! I was among 850 truly privileged hygienists, thanks to PennWell. How can I ever top that experience? Mark, thank you from all the hygienists for your support of the field of dental hygiene; you are truly priceless! To all my new lister sisters and brothers, thank you for making my first UOR fun and memorable. To all hygienists who haven't yet attended a UOR conference — go! I am already missing my "family" and am looking forward to Washington, D.C., in 2007. See you all there!
Susan P. Burzynski, RDH, BS, is the president of the Buffalo Dental Hygienists Association. She practices in the dental office of Dr. James Hoddick in Tonawanda, N.Y. In May 2006, Susan will earn a master's in general education degree. In her spare time, she studies American Sign Language. She may be reached at [email protected]