"Don't tell me I can't do something!"
For Long Island hygienist Denise Wind, the word "no" is like waiving the proverbial red flag in front of the bull. And if you happen to be in her way ?. watch out!
The first individual to discover this was her family dentist. A high school dropout as well as a single parent, Wind needed a job and appealed to her family dentist for employment. This kindly but skeptical gentleman assessed the situation and told Wind that he couldn't hire her "because you have a small child at home and may not be reliable." Wind wouldn't take no for an answer, and, after applying a total of twelve times, was finally hired as an assistant. The doubting dentist gained a devoted employee, and Wind began what became a fulfilling and successful career. "I worked in that practice for a total of 18 years," beams Wind, adding, "I never missed a day!"
After 10 years, Wind found that working as an assistant was losing its challenge. "I wanted to push the dentist away and get into the patient's mouth myself," she states. Hygiene was an obvious choice. Wind decided to go back to school, and earned her RDH from the State University of New York in 1986.
License in hand, Wind continued practicing with Dr. Michael Diamond in Hewlett, New York. As a hygienist, Wind became especially aware of and concerned with safety and infection control. It was this concern that prompted her to adopt yet another role, that of inventor. "I noticed the tendency for dental professionals to wipe instruments on a 2x2 piece of gauze in their hands ? a hazard for puncture wounds that could spread infectious diseases." The desire for better safety in the workplace inspired Wind to conceptualize, develop, and patent a product: Safety-Wipes, a disposable device used to debride dental instruments.
Wind admits that the patent process, while ultimately rewarding, was challenging. "It took five years from the inception of my idea to receiving the actual patent," she says. But persistence paid off yet again for Wind. A major medical company now markets and distributes Safety-Wipes, a source of considerable satisfaction for Wind.
In 1989, Wind's career took yet another evolutionary turn, this time as entrepreneur. She saw the shortage of hygienists and dental personnel in general as yet another opportunity to branch out and diversify. Wind started a dental placement agency, Dental Careers, and ran it successfully for five years. "I never wanted to do merely one thing," says Wind. "I love the diversity of hygiene and the ability to use my training to the fullest."
It was during this period that Wind began an association with Laclede Professional Products as a sales representative, also creating and presenting continuing education lectures for the company. This high-profile position naturally propelled Wind into the community outreach arena, specifically with cancer patients. Time and again, she encountered cancer patients with severe xerostomia. These patients faced a medical community seemingly unaware of how to treat the deceptively benign condition. "So many people suffer terribly with mouth problems due to cancer therapy," says Wind. She developed an innovative seminar series on mouth care during and after cancer treatment.
"Denise has been instrumental in pioneering a focus on this topic, which was previously neglected in the oncology community," states Carolyn Messner, director of CancerCare, Inc. in New York City. She adds, "Denise has been a dynamic advocate on behalf of people living with cancer, and those who care for them." Wind also has published extensively on this topic in the Journal of Practical Hygiene, Dental Hygiene News, and the California Dental Hygienists Association's journal. Her impressive accomplishments also resulted in the ADHA to appoint her as one of its "Dental Hygienists in Corporate America" in 1994.
Wind took her community outreach a step further and developed a seminar specifically for the healthcare community and their patients. She combined her vast expertise in oral care of cancer patients and her unique ability to apply a hygiene degree to a host of opportunities into one seminar called, "The Four Wall Syndrome." Before introducing participants to the specific challenges of cancer patients, Wind helps introduce them to the many opportunities a hygiene degree can present, such as sales, education, or community service, outside the usual "four walls" of the operatory. Wind presents this lecture throughout they year, both nationally and internationally.
Her downtime is infrequent, yet Wind still finds time to enjoy the beach and star gazing near her home. She's the proud mother of two sons, Robert, 26, a college student in California, and James, 21, an aspiring law student. Reading, spending time with friends, and laughter are also a passion.
Wind has added yet another label to her resume recently, that of "student." Her outreach with cancer patients was and is immensely satisfying, so much so that she embarked on yet another career path, that of social worker. Wind earned her BSW in 2001 and expects to earn her MSW in 2002. Her ultimate goal? "Incorporating dental outreach and social services, " she enthuses. "A dental hygiene degree can lead to so many rewarding opportunities!"