its impact on your future and your career

ADHA membership: its impact on your future and your career

Mary Calka

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) has launched a new brand focused on empowering, developing and supporting dental hygienists, with the tagline “Unleashing Your Potential.” With this bold initiative, ADHA has begun to define a community where dental hygienists from all across the country can share their experience to ensure a bright future for themselves as professionals, as well as for their patients. Membership in ADHA ensures access to timely information on cutting-edge topics related to professional and consumer issues, which provides an avenue for hygienists to educate and advocate for optimal oral heath care to the public as well as to advance the dental hygiene profession.

Professional Development and Mentoring

The need for professional development and mentoring can change dramatically as one moves through the various stages of a dental hygiene career. For example, student members of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, through their participation in association activities gain access to mentors from among the various roles a dental hygienist can perform. Contact with these mentors, be they clinicians, educators, researchers, administrators/managers, advocates or engaged in the field of public health can shape and guide the course of future careers.

The roles of the dental hygienist developed by ADHA that were mentioned above help to define the profession as it exists today and help determine the shape of its future. They also clearly identify a set of expectations for all licensed dental hygienists that will help to facilitate individual growth as an oral health care provider. Many of the mentors that one will encounter through involvement with ADHA have worked in some or all of the professional roles of dental hygiene. In the role of mentor, the dental hygienist offers experience and often gains a return on the investment by knowing they were a part of shaping the success of future colleagues as well as potentially building a long-term friendship.

As we implement the new brand the topic of change takes on new meaning. We need to embrace change within ADHA to make sure that we’re building an inclusive community that works well together as well as with other allied health care providers to ensure the continued health of our patients. As dental hygienists we should be comfortable with change in the regard that we have always been perceived as keen advocates and change agents. A beneficial by-product of working through change often comes in the form of easy access to peer mentoring. Working within the ADHA community, it is not difficult for a member who needs assistance to find a fellow member who has faced a similar situation and is willing to offer professional experience to help achieve progress. I speak from personal experience when I say that all of my career advancements have resulted from reaching out to an ADHA member who is not only a colleague but also a friend. Each time I have considered changing career directions, all I needed to do was share my thoughts about the role I wanted to pursue with colleagues, and several contacts became available, presenting opportunities to expand and enhance my career as a dental hygienist. I have served as a member of the Oral B Dental Hygiene Advisory Board; I was one of the first 30 dental hygiene educators working with Ora Pharma, Inc., on the launch of Arestin; and my latest career shift into public health has me working for Community Health Centers as part of a mobile dental hygiene team. All of these professional experiences became available to me because I knew someone through my network of ADHA members who are always so willing to share information, contacts and opportunities by word of mouth.

Professional Experience with ADHA

Professional career development is just a start of the intangible benefits of ADHA membership. Through the years, I have represented the Connecticut Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA) as president and as a delegate to the ADHA annual session. In these roles, I learned to develop strategies to support action plans that create positive change for oral health care while protecting providers and the public.

From 2001 to 2005, I served as a member of the ADHA Council on Annual Session Association Policy & Bylaws, serving my last year as chair. The years I spent in this role developed me professionally by giving me insights and experience in areas such as leadership, strategic planning, operations management and budget development which have made me a more well rounded professional and provided skills that have become invaluable parts of my career.

I encourage each of you to share your ideas for programs that ADHA can develop to embrace potential new members with your state and district leadership, a I ask you to stop and consider that every dental hygienist knows at least one potential new member. Why not reach out and tell your personal story and share the many ways that ADHA has helped you professionally? By asking another colleague to join us in the ADHA network we all benefit.

I belong to many groups, and I do my best to divide my time so I can play an active part in each one of them. The American Academy of Dental Hygiene, Inc. (AADH) is an organization of dental hygienists whose mission is “Professional Growth through Leadership, Mentorship & Fellowship.” Spending time as an active participant in both the ADHA and the AADH, I can see opportunities where both organizations can collaborate to advance the art and science of dental hygiene. Look at the other organizations to which you belong, and think about opportunities for collaboration. Are there common goals to be addressed, or resources that could be shared? Put yourself forward as a link between the groups you belong to by writing letters to their publications (a copy to both groups), cross-posting to their Internet forums and maintaining personal contact with their leaders.


ADHA membership can be the gateway to great things for you. As a member, you will develop lifelong friends, grow personally and professionally and take part in shaping the future of dental hygiene–the profession that will contribute to solving the access to care issue for Americans. Potential members have the opportunity to get to know fellow colleagues who extend their hand to share a wealth of experience that benefits all.

* ADHA offers a number of tangible benefits to its members

* Access magazine

* The Journal of Dental Hygiene

* ADHA Update

* CE podcasts

* Credit card service with no annual fee

* Discounted hotel program

* Print and online continuing education (CE) courses and discounts on CE programs offered at our Annual Session as well as the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL)

Our Leaders Share Their Stories

By Mary Calka, RDH

I had the opportunity to conduct interviews with both Jean Connor, RDH, ADHA president, and Diann Bomkampl RDH, BSDH, CDHC, ADHA president-elect to gain their perspective on being an ADHA member and how it has impacted their career.


How has ADHA membership impacted your professional growth?

Jean Connor, RDH: Dental hygiene is a support system for me. I am a clinical hygienist, and when I need to find information, I look within the association. I have been mentored by members, and then I have had the opportunity to be a mentor, which I find very important in professional growth. When I became a member of the board of trustees (BOT), it was interesting to discuss issues in viewpoints and perspectives that come from other parts of the country. It has helped me to grow tremendously.

What does ADHA membership mean to you as a leader?

Diann Bomkamp, RDH, BSDH, CDHC: My membership in ADHA has provided me with a “voice” to direct the future of our profession. It has been a provider of pertinent information when I needed it. It has been an issue-shaper for the nation. It has helped my state and other states obtain more flexible practice acts to improve patient care. It became obvious to me very early in my career that ADHA was “I.” If I wanted to have a viable, enjoyable professional career, it was up to me to help shape it, not someone else. My involvement in ADHA has given me skills that I might never have developed without my own active involvement. ADHA has improved my life as a hygienist and person.

How has ADHA membership enhanced your personal life?

Jean Connor, RDH: I find that if you love what you do, it enhances your personal life. I have made many friends across the country that I know I will have forever. ADHA has taught me to challenge myself, even when it has been extremely hard. I find ADHA a support system that allows me to step out there and feel safe with this support behind me. My personal growth as a board member with leadership training has been incredible to help in dealing with varied situations. With knowledge comes growth–this is what ADHA has done for me personally.

What advice would you offer an ADHA member on how to encourage dental hygienists to become a member of ADHA?

Diann Bomkamp, RDH, BSDH, CDHC: Although we often think of the tangible benefits that ADHA offers to us like insurance benefits, continuing education, networking sessions and Web site information, we need to look at the personal skills that we learn by actively participating on the local, state and national levels. These skills allow us to grow as people and, once learned, they can never be taken away from us. The relationships we make with other involved hygienists can be lifelong and may be some of the most rewarding relationships we will ever have. I would encourage other hygienists to evaluate how ADHA has helped them in their professional and personal lives and share their stories with potential members. These testimonials may influence others on how ADHA could positively affect their own lives when “each one reaches one” in a personal way.

By Mary Calka, RDH

Mary Calka, RDH, has 23 years of clinical dental hygiene experience. Currently, she spends three days a week in a clinical private practice setting and two days a week as part of a mobile dental hygiene team. She is a former dental hygiene advisory board member for Oral-B Laboratories and hygiene educator for Ora Pharma, Inc. She is president of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene, chair of the ADHA Council on Member Services, member of the Access Editorial Advisory Board, treasurer of the Gateway Dental Hygienists’ Association, past chair of the ADHA Council on Annual Session Association Policy & Bylaws, past president of the Connecticut Dental Hygienists’ Association (CDHA), Sigma Phi Alpha member, and member of Cambridge Who’s Who. She is the recipient of the Kathy Ingresoll award, CDHA president’s award, Mabel C. McCarthy award, and CDHA mentor of the year award.

COPYRIGHT 2007 American Dental Hygienists’ Association

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning