With more than 40 years of experience in the field of dental hygiene education, Ellen J. Rogo, RDH, PhD, is now a professor in the Department of Dental Hygiene at Idaho State University (ISU) in Pocatello. Mentoring is an integral part of her job, and she has served as chair of the thesis committee for 15 dental hygiene master’s students and as second member for an additional seven students. A dedicated researcher, Rogo’s areas of interest include online learning communities, legislative advocacy, and autism spectrum disorder. She has received funding for her research from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho State Board of Education, and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association Institute of Oral Health. A lifelong learner, Rogo went on to earn a Master of Education from Seattle’s University of Washington within 10 years of completing a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, culminating in her earning a doctoral degree in education from ISU in 2009. In 2015, she was nominated for ISU’s Distinguished Teacher Award.
Discuss a pivotal event in your life that helped to shape your career aspirations.
The PhD curriculum provided experiences in leadership and research that influenced my aspirations in academia. Learning about leadership theories, especially the evidence-based Transformational Leadership Model developed by Kouzes and Posner, resulted in viewing my educator role as an intellectual leader. Therefore, building relationships with colleagues and students, as well as inspiring others to develop confidence and competence, are key aspects of this role. As dental hygienists, we need to search for opportunities to change, grow, innovate, and improve. Through experimenting, taking risks, and learning from our mistakes, we will grow individually and as a profession. The dental hygienists from Washington, Oregon, and California who participated in the interviews for my dissertation study were true leaders because they searched for opportunities to challenge the status quo in order to improve access to care. They took risks and suffered personal and professional vulnerabilities; however, they were resilient and learned from their experiences.
In academia, I have a responsibility to be a leader in scholarship and a contributor to advancing the dental hygiene scientific knowledge base. Therefore, the research experience I chose for my dissertation was a qualitative approach. The data consisted of stories told by dental hygiene practitioners who had worked on initiatives to improve access to care. Using a research method called Grounded Theory, the end product was a new theory for dental hygiene: Synergy in Social Action. This theory explains how dental hygienists engage in social action to improve access by changing laws to expand practice and providing care in alternative settings to underserved populations. Dental hygienists who are struggling to overcome difficulties with laws governing dental hygiene practice and policies might benefit from reading about the key elements of the synergy theory.
My doctoral experiences provided the confidence to become co-editor of the textbook, Evidence-Based Practice for Health Professionals: An Interprofessional Approach; the second edition will be published in 2020. The process of writing and editing the chapters was an opportunity to learn about other health care professionals and develop an appreciation for their roles and responsibilities in the provision of quality care.
What role has mentorship played in your life as an academician, both as an educator and for your students?
During my journey to become a confident and competent educator, mentorship by passionate dental hygiene educators helped develop my enthusiasm for this career. Colleagues mentored me in working as a member of a collaborative research team and enhancing my scientific writing abilities. Every day I strive to learn something new from students, faculty, and colleagues.
As an intellectual leader, I encourage students to think of their clinical role as a leadership position as they interact with patients to inspire better oral health and systemic health. One of the course requirements for both the undergraduate and graduate leadership courses I teach is for students to create their own leadership philosophy based on a future role they want to fulfill. Additionally, students complete an assignment requiring them to advocate to change a law or policy. Both leadership and advocacy skills are necessary to move dental hygienists in all states to reach their potential to provide care to underserved populations and locations. I try to also inspire dental hygienists to pursue doctoral degrees.
As a leader in scholarship, I mentor graduate students and faculty in the research arena, especially in qualitative research. My vision for academia is to create dental hygiene scholars who value research and work to advance the scientific knowledge in dental hygiene practice and education. In collaboration with others I have contributed to the development of four conceptual models: Client Self-Care Commitment Model, Advocacy Engagement Model, E-Model for Online Learning Communities, and the Social Intelligence Self-Care Commitment Model (soon to be published). These models can be tested and validated by future researchers, thereby, strengthening dental hygiene’s conceptual and theoretical knowledge base. This knowledge base is necessary for dental hygiene to evolve into a true profession.