ADHA Access April 2014 : Page 24

The Transforming Dental Hygiene Education Symposium An Interview with Linda Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP mbitious goals and provocative ideas — these words are often used to describe the Transforming Dental Hygiene Education Symposium, held September 2013 in Chicago. When covering an event such as this one, it is often the speakers and presenters who get the most attention — after all, they are the ones proposing these new, possibly profession-altering ideas. But a peek behind the curtain at the institutions that developed this symposium reveals a think tank that is also in the business of generating ambitious goals and provoca-tive ideas. The Santa Fe Group played a pivotal role in the symposium, and without their support there is a chance that the entire event would never have happened. 7KHUHLVDOVRDFKDQFHWKDWWKLVHYHQWZDVWKH¿UVW time many had heard of the Santa Fe Group. Who are they, and what exactly is their role? To understand the role this think tank plays, it is best to start at the begin-ning, and of course, it’s best to start with the president. Linda Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP, Santa Fe Group president, lays out a simple, clear mission for the Santa Fe Group. “The Santa Fe Group is about stimulating innovations for health care, so we’re about helping,” Niessen said. “We were started by eight original founding members who basically were seniors in their profession and felt like the dental profession hadn’t been addressing issues.” Already, the ambition is apparent, and rightly so. The eight original members, as Niessen describes them, ZHUHVRPHRIWKHPRVWLQÀXHQWLDOLQWKHLUUHVSHFWHG ¿HOGV²0LFKDHO$OIDQR&#0f;'0'&#0f;3K'&#0f; dean at New York University’s Dental School; Hal Slavkin, DDS, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Re-search and Dom Depaola, DDS, PhD, president and chief H[HFXWLYHRI¿FHURIWKH)RUV\WK,QVWLWXWH&#0f;WRQDPHMXVW a few. With such a strong background, it’s no surprise that the Santa Fe Group acts as a game-changer in the GHQWDOKHDOWKFDUH¿HOG  A Niessen said one of the things that struck her about a possible partnership with ADHA was a focus on the future. “We think of ourselves as catalyst for change,” Nies-sen said. “We don’t necessarily take on the issue; we MXVWZDQWWRUDLVHWKHLVVXHDQGWKHQKDYHHYHU\RQHHOVH take it on.” Niessen points to their work on oral cancer, one of WKH¿UVWLVVXHVWKHJURXSFRYHUHG,WVWDUWHGRXWDV a simple question — oral cancer death rates hadn’t changed in years, despite advances in technology and medicine. Why was this happening? The group put a plan into action — raise awareness of the issue and offer potential solutions. The solutions ranged from program creation to arguing for an increase in funding for research. From there, groups that deal with oral cancer, such as the National Cancer Institute, began developing these plans and funding research. The work of the Santa Fe Group was complete. With such a pedigree and lofty goals, it comes as no surprise that many associations want to partner with the group, to put on events such as the Transforming Dental Hygiene Education symposium. And though they are eager to help, the Santa Fe Group is particular with whom they partner. Niessen said one of the things that struck her about a possible partnership with ADHA was a focus on the future. “ADHA came to the Santa Fe Group and said they were interested a strategic planning session that really looked at the future of dental hygiene,” she said. From there came meetings, a lot of meetings, to un-derstand what both parties knew and what sorts of ques-tions to ask. Through this extensive process, the Santa Fe Group began to see value in a partnership with ADHA. “We sat down and we talked through what [ADHA] wanted to accomplish, what were the questions they ZDQWHGWRDVN&#0f;DQGZHGHFLGHGWKDWWKLVZDVDSURMHFW that we would like to take on.” After the Santa Fe Group agreed to partner with ADHA, both groups began to plan and strategize a meet-ing. According to Niessen, that process began a full year before the actual event. “We kind of started backwards in the sense that we said ‘Alright, what are the issues that we want to cover?’ and we worked from that. And there was a lot of gnash-ing of teeth and vetting of issues, and many iterations before we actually came up with what the symposium would be.” For Niessen, the process revealed to her an exciting opportunity to partner with a group who had done their homework, but a group who also was reaching out and asking for direction. “ADHA had done a lot of work looking at competen-cies, looking at the future, and the Santa Fe Group thought that by partnering together we could help them think those through,” she said, adding that the timing of the partnership and the opportunities for the dental hygiene profession present some unique opportunities. This led her to ask some serious questions about how GHQWDOK\JLHQHFRXOGEHQH¿WIURPVXFKDQHYHQW “The other thing was, ‘What are the other trends that are going on in the health care arena that would have the potential to affect and help dental hygiene and its future?’ So we have linkages into nursing, into medicine as well as dentistry. What we could offer ADHA was the linkage with these other disciplines as well.” 2QHRIWKHEHQH¿WVRISDUWQHULQJZLWKWKH6DQWD)H Group, beyond the expertise within the group, is the 24 APR 2014 access

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The Transforming Dental Hygiene Education Symposium
An Interview with Linda Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP

Ambitious goals and provocative ideas — these words are often used to describe the Transforming Dental Hygiene Education Symposium, held September 2013 in Chicago. When covering an event such as this one, it is often the speakers and presenters who get the most attention — after all, they are the ones proposing these new, possibly profession-altering ideas.

But a peek behind the curtain at the institutions that developed this symposium reveals a think tank that is also in the business of generating ambitious goals and provocative ideas. The Santa Fe Group played a pivotal role in the symposium, and without their support there is a chance that the entire event would never have happened.

There is also a chance that this event was the first time many had heard of the Santa Fe Group. Who are they, and what exactly is their role? To understand the role this think tank plays, it is best to start at the beginning, and of course, it's best to start with the president.

Linda Niessen, DMD, MPH, MPP, Santa Fe Group president, lays out a simple, clear mission for the Santa Fe Group.

"The Santa Fe Group is about stimulating innovations for health care, so we're about helping," Niessen said. "We were started by eight original founding members who basically were seniors in their profession and felt like the dental profession hadn't been addressing issues."

Already, the ambition is apparent, and rightly so. The eight original members, as Niessen describes them, were some of the most influential in their respected fields — Michael Alfano, DMD, PhD, dean at New York University's Dental School; Hal Slavkin, DDS, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and Dom Depaola, DDS, PhD, president and chief executive officer of the Forsyth Institute, to name just a few. With such a strong background, it's no surprise that the Santa Fe Group acts as a game-changer in the dental health care field.

"We think of ourselves as catalyst for change," Niessen said. "We don't necessarily take on the issue; we just want to raise the issue and then have everyone else take it on."

Niessen points to their work on oral cancer, one of the first issues the group covered. It started out as a simple question — oral cancer death rates hadn't changed in years, despite advances in technology and medicine. Why was this happening?

The group put a plan into action — raise awareness of the issue and offer potential solutions. The solutions ranged from program creation to arguing for an increase in funding for research. From there, groups that deal with oral cancer, such as the National Cancer Institute, began developing these plans and funding research. The work of the Santa Fe Group was complete.

With such a pedigree and lofty goals, it comes as no surprise that many associations want to partner with the group, to put on events such as the Transforming Dental Hygiene Education symposium. And though they are eager to help, the Santa Fe Group is particular with whom they partner.

Niessen said one of the things that struck her about a possible partnership with ADHA was a focus on the future.

"ADHA came to the Santa Fe Group and said they were interested a strategic planning session that really looked at the future of dental hygiene," she said.

From there came meetings, a lot of meetings, to understand what both parties knew and what sorts of questions to ask. Through this extensive process, the Santa Fe Group began to see value in a partnership with ADHA.

"We sat down and we talked through what [ADHA] wanted to accomplish, what were the questions they wanted to ask, and we decided that this was a project that we would like to take on."

After the Santa Fe Group agreed to partner with ADHA, both groups began to plan and strategize a meeting. According to Niessen, that process began a full year before the actual event.

"We kind of started backwards in the sense that we said 'Alright, what are the issues that we want to cover?' and we worked from that. And there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and vetting of issues, and many iterations before we actually came up with what the symposium would be."

For Niessen, the process revealed to her an exciting opportunity to partner with a group who had done their homework, but a group who also was reaching out and asking for direction.

"ADHA had done a lot of work looking at competencies, looking at the future, and the Santa Fe Group thought that by partnering together we could help them think those through," she said, adding that the timing of the partnership and the opportunities for the dental hygiene profession present some unique opportunities. This led her to ask some serious questions about how dental hygiene could benefit from such an event.

"The other thing was, 'What are the other trends that are going on in the health care arena that would have the potential to affect and help dental hygiene and its future?' So we have linkages into nursing, into medicine as well as dentistry. What we could offer ADHA was the linkage with these other disciplines as well."

One of the benefits of partnering with the Santa Fe Group, beyond the expertise within the group, is the opportunity to have a third party examine and address an issue, something Niessen was eager to help ADHA with.

"[ADHA] came to the Santa Fe Group because they felt that the Santa Fe Group is kind of a neutral third party that facilitates innovations in education and health care," Niessen said. "So they felt like, by partnering with us, we could perhaps look at what they were trying to do with a different eye and help them ask the questions that they may not be asking themselves.

"Sometimes you're in the middle of the forest and you don't necessarily see the trees, and you need an outside person to come in and say 'Oh, look at that beautiful oak, and look at that beautiful chestnut,' and the other person will say 'Oh, I didn't even realize that!'"

In the lead-up to the meeting Niessen continued to play a critical role, and was just as invested and excited for the symposium as anyone else. Between her unique background, with experience on both the education and industry sides of dental health, and her role in planning the event, she was able to provide a unique perspective on the speakers and the ideas being discussed.

From the perspective of an educator, talking about the future is crucial.

"As an educator, I came away learning that the dental hygiene profession is going to be very different in the future. We currently have dental hygienists who have completed two years of training, we have hygienists that have completed four years of training, and then we have hygienists with master's degrees and PhDs. So given this range of training, the question is 'How do we make dental hygiene accessible to people who want to pursue it?'"

Beyond that issue, Niessen pointed out that, at the rate technology is advancing, it's critical to establish a vision of the future, as best as one can.

"You know, education is the foundation, and before you can educate you have to think through, 'What is your dental hygienist of the future going to look like?' So what are the skills that you are looking to develop in the future dental hygienists?

"So, students that we graduate today will have a 40-year working career, so you're training them to work in the 2020s, '30s, '40s and '50s; now what in the heck is 2050s dental hygiene practice going to look like? You don't know, but as an educator you have to prepare them for the advances in technology that are going to occur that are going to change how they practice and what they do."

Of course, talking about the future, and possibly shaping it, not only affects those in education, but in industry as well. Niessen said that the two are linked — where one goes, the other will follow.

This is especially true as dental hygiene educators wrestle with the notion of changing the entry level degree of the profession. If ADHA follows other professions, such as nursing, the consequences are huge.

"As an industry person, you know the industry people kind of look at [educational reform] and say 'Okay, how can we provide what the dental hygienists need to do their jobs? Whether it is the instruments, the equipment, the supplies, etc. And how will dental hygiene be different?'

"So I think from the industry point of view it was like, 'Okay, how is the scope of services going to change and what products do I need to make sure they have what they need to do their job in the future?' Industry is always about the future. They are always looking to the future, making sure they know who their future customers are, what the future product is going to be."

Now that the symposium is over, progress begins. ADHA has helped develop a proceedings document contracted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, as well as a white paper. A pilot program that will explore new domains and competencies is underway, and as outcomes from the symposium are released, more associations in the dental health care field begin to take notice. Recently, both Niessen and ADHA Executive Director Ann Battrell, MSDH, spoke at a meeting held by the American Dental Education Association, detailing the symposium and outlining changes to the dental health care field.

And with that, the work of the Santa Fe Group is complete. To some it may seem odd that the think tank would back away from the conversation now, just as the wheels are set in motion. But that, at the end of the day, is the desired goal.

"We don't have any ownership of ideas," Niessen said. "We like to come up with ideas, and then share them with anybody who wants to take them, and work on them together. We want to recognize issues that need to be addressed, and put it out there, and try to bring people together who want to work on it."

This edition of Headquarters was prepared by Josh Snyder.

Read the full article at http://pubs.royle.com/article/headquarters/1665431/202196/article.html.

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