Whatever floats your boat: Heed a call for dental hygiene activism?

Jan. 17, 2017
JoAnn Galliano, RDH described her decision to amend her dental hygiene career for a journey into political activism.

By JoAnn Galliano, MEd, RDH

When I graduated from dental hygiene school in 1986, I had a very limited view of what direction my professional life would take. I envisioned myself working three to four days per week in a private practice while continuing to be active in my former career as a middle school teacher, possibly volunteering to work with disadvantaged students or in extracurricular programs. Being a dental hygienist would provide a flexible schedule along with a good salary.

Now, after celebrating my 30th year as a dental hygienist, I realize how my narrow view of what I would and could do was. Being a dental hygienist has taken me down a completely different path than I ever envisioned. To me, this ability to be so much more than "clean teeth" is what rejuvenates me and enables me to be the best I can be.

As dental hygienists, we have the opportunity to shape lives daily. We know our patients and have the ability to be a resource for them helping them to not only have healthy teeth, but healthy lives as well. We have the power to shape our practice by being a preventive oral health specialist and embracing new technology, research and continuing education. And, we can do this without ever leaving our home. Technology has opened the doors to knowledge being provided as we sit at a computer in our pajamas.

My path was to become a political activist. This journey began with a trip to my state capital for a legislative hearing involving changing the law to allow dental students to practice dental hygiene after two years of dental school. My state association had representatives at that hearing. One of them became my mentor. She introduced me to the political process that would shape our profession through passage of laws that would impact our profession and the lives of those not only receiving our services, but those denied access to our services due to lack of access to the traditional dental office.

After 25 years of political activism, I still have a passionate conviction to be preventive oral health specialist in my office, but I have challenged myself to be more as a change agent for our profession.

Whatever floats your boat. We are all unique, and I would not expect readers to necessarily follow my path. However, I share my story in the hope that you will embrace whatever aspect of our profession that ignites your passion. I never would have foreseen that this would be my path. What opportunities are presenting themselves in your life? Find your passion, embrace it, and do whatever floats your boat.

A woman of many talents and interests, JoAnn Galliano, MEd, RDH, is a legislative consultant for the California Dental Hygienists' Association's (CDHA) Government Relations Council, and retired director of the dental hygiene program at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif. As chair of the council for 13 years, she was instrumental in furthering the legislation that created the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC) and the registered dental hygienist in alternative practice (RDHAP) category of licensure. Passionate about preventing abuse and neglect, Galliano has served as a member of the Prevent Abuse and Neglect Through Dental Awareness coalition as a mandated reporter trainer. She is the recipient of the 2016 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction.

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