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Irene Woodall: Truly a leader and innovator in dental hygiene

July 1, 2011
Irene Woodall, RDH, MA, PhD, is an author, educator, and researcher who challenged the traditional role of the dental hygiene profession and advocated for self-regulation. She currently is in a long-term care facility after suffering an aneurysm and severe stroke before developing Parkinson's disease. Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, talks about how you can give back to Irene by helping provide her oral and other needs, such as wheelchair improvements and art therapy.
By Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS
This article is based on the presentation given at the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) Plenary Session in Nashville, TN, by JoAnn Gurenlian and Deb Astroth, kindly shared by Ann Battrell, MSDH, ADHA Executive Director and Jeff Mitchell, ADHA Director of Communications. Past American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) Presidents, JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, PhD, and Deborah Astroth, RDH, BS, presented a touching tribute to Irene Woodall. Irene is a dental hygienist, and was an author, educator, and researcher, and challenged the traditional role of the dental hygiene profession and advocated for self-regulation. She was truly a leader and innovator, and was an author and the Senior Editor of RDH® Magazine 1981-1993. Figure 1: RDH® cover, December 1989
Irene suffered an aneurysm and severe stroke in 1993 in Colorado while skiing. She then developed Parkinson’s disease, and is presently in a long-term care facility. Irene was lost to us for many years. JoAnn and Deb searched for Irene and found her on Facebook in March 2010. Through Irene’s daughters, Amanda Woodall and Charlotte (Lotte) Resek, JoAnn and Deb arranged to meet in Chicago.Figure 2: Back row (L to R): JoAnn Gurenlian, Deb Astroth, and Carla Williams (friend and former student). Front row (L to R): Amanda Woodall, Irene Woodall
Prior to her aneurysm, Irene was always a mover and shaker. “Dental hygiene is a changing profession. The influence of compelling new research is changing the fundamental basis of our role in health care.” (Source: Woodall IR: Comprehensive Dental Hygiene Care, 4th ed. 1993. St. Louis: Mosby) Irene also said: “This is not the time for arbitrarily clinging to old procedures and values. It is a time for identifying which procedures have a solid basis in research, which deserve more consideration and experimentation, and which should be discarded as no longer defensible. If we are to mature into a research-based profession, we need to develop a value for open inquiry, where challenge is expected and original thinking is rewarded.” (Source: Woodall IR: Comprehensive Dental Hygiene Care, 4th ed. 1993. St. Louis: Mosby) As a part of the public healthcare system, Irene has suffered oral neglect, resulting in extensive caries and periodontal disease. She uses art as therapy to help her cope with her many daily challenges. Through a partnership with ADHA, after much research by Executive Director Ann Battrell, a trust to provide oral health care for life for Irene has been established. Help us help Irene by donating to the Irene R. Woodall Special Needs Trust. The funds will provide oral care to Irene, and other needs such as wheelchair improvements, and art therapy. Many thanks to JoAnn, Deb, Ann, Amanda and Lotte for making it possible for all of us to give back to someone who has given so much to the dental hygiene profession.“For it is in giving that we receive.” St. Francis of Assisi
Figure 3: Irene Woodall
Figure 4: Sample of Irene’s art
Online Via Pay Pal at Or via mail at: Irene R. Woodall Special Needs Trust c/o Amanda Woodall 2044 W. Rice Street Garden Apt. Chicago, IL 60622

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous articles in RDH eVillage FOCUS from 2011 written by Maria Perno Goldie, go to articles.