I have been a dental hygiene educator and Program Director at Miami Dade College for over 46 years. The College motto is: I AM MDC. This motto is more than a buzz phrase. The College’s leadership has infused the notion that every person in MDC’s educational orbit – from students to faculty to staff to administration – contributes to the mission. Each person has worth. And in MDC’s case, the motto continues with “Opportunity Changes Everything.” These words remind our students of why they are at the College and inspire them to overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Simultaneously, these words motivate faculty, staff and administration to provide students with the education and resources necessary to succeed.
During my tenure, I have personally taught more than 2,000 aspiring dental hygienists. These students have been a highly motivated and diverse group, with more than three quarters coming from over 20 countries. Their remarkable journey, in some cases to not only arrive in the United States, but to learn English, attend developmental courses, successfully meet strict criteria to get accepted into the program while they continue to work part-time as well as fulfill family obligations, is absolutely extraordinary to me. I so admire their determination and grit and what they have accomplished for themselves. I remain an educator because I am committed to my students. I AM MDC. Opportunity Changes Everything. Additionally, I initiated several dental mission trips to Jamaica and Guyana with students and these were incredible professional and personal experiences for all involved.
Over the years, I have been awarded three Endowed Teaching Chairs in recognition of my service to the students and the South Florida community as well as my active involvement in legislative initiatives to enhance student engagement and success.
My own dental education was rich in tradition starting at the University of Pennsylvania, moving to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then I initiated a new externship rotation at the University of Michigan. Once I moved to Florida, I continued my education at the University of Miami and then completed my doctorate at Florida International University. These varied educational institutions provided me with an appreciation for different student populations and learning styles.
My first involvement with the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and what continues to be my most heartfelt source of pride, was serving as a mentor in the inaugural class in the Allied Leadership Development Program. I have continued serving in each class for the several decades since.
Since 2019, I have been the Dental Hygiene Commissioner of the ADEA Commission on Dental Accreditation. While serving on the Commission, which I continue to do, we worked hard to address COVID’s impact on dental educational providers to ensure that they continued to meet accreditation standards during this new reality. I am thrilled to have recently been selected as Chair-Elect of the American Dental Education Association. I am the third non-dentist in 100 years given that honor and it’s been over 20 years since the previous non-dentist leader.
I believe that as society becomes increasingly divergent, our educational institutions need to respond to challenges with honest recognition, imagination and a strong moral perspective. Educators must incorporate these qualities into how we approach all aspects of dental education and instill moral courage in our students as we prepare them for their professional careers.