Christine Nathe, RDH, MS, is professor and graduate program director at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Division of Dental Hygiene. She also manages the full service dental clinic at UNM. She has practiced in various settings around the world including private practice, nursing homes, prisons, schools, and the military, and consults for various governmental agencies and private dental industry. Her books Dental Public Health and Research: Contemporary Practice for the Dental Hygienist, 3rd ed, and Primary Preventive Dentistry, 7th ed, are used to educate dental hygienists on the science and practice of dental public health and primary dental care.
Nathe has served as chair of the ADHA Council on Public Health and has received numerous awards including the Johnson & Johnson/ ADHA Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene, the Excellence in Teaching Award from the UNM School of Medicine, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from ODU, Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene.
What is public health and what does a public health dental hygienist do?
Public health in general is people’s health so it’s a very large field that encompasses many disciplines, including dental hygiene. When people think of public health they often think of a community clinic that focuses on providing treatment for those who have a difficult time accessing private practice dental care. But public health is quite broad and it can include working in a school-based clinic, working in a nursing home clinically or managing the oral care of the long-term care residents, or working in Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospitals or in state or federal prisons. Dental hygienists can become public health officers with the United States Public Health Service, who work in diverse settings, such as Indian Health Service clinics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or other national agencies. A wide variety of opportunities are available for dental hygienists. There are many clinical avenues as well as opportunities in clinical research and managing health programs.
What is a typical work day like for you?
One day is often different from the next because I hold a variety of responsibilities. I am a faculty member at UNM so I am often teaching. I teach public health courses at both the baccalaureate level and graduate level as well as a research methods course, which is part of the public health curriculum. We started a faculty practice clinic through the Dental Hygiene Department at UNM to increase access to care in the surrounding areas. I practice in this public health clinic 1 day to 2 days a week. As the author of two textbooks, I do a lot of writing as well.