Jacquelyn L. Fried, RDH, MS, is an associate professor in the Department of Periodontics and director of interprofessional initiatives at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in Baltimore. She has been involved in dental hygiene education for more than 30 years. Fried’s research interests include scientific writing and communication, administration in higher education, and tobacco prevention and cessation with focuses on the role of the dental hygienist, epidemiologic issues, and genetic influences related to addiction. Recently, she has begun speaking and writing about the association between the human papillomavirus and head and neck cancers.’
An active member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), she has served on both its research and education councils, as well as the Tobacco Intervention Task Force and the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner Task Force. Fried is also a member of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), serving as a delegate in 2010.
Widely respected, Fried has received many commendations over the course of her career. She was chosen for the “Teacher of the Year” award by dental hygiene students five times. In 1997, she received the Warner-Lambert/ADHA Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene. And in 2011, Fried was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. She is also a Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Editorial Advisory Board member.
You are an expert in tobacco cessation. What about this subject ignited your passion?
Tobacco use and cessation sparked my interest for many reasons. First, there is power in knowing that a dental hygienist’s tobacco interventions can save lives. Although we are learning more about how oral factors can impact systemic health, there is no question that tobacco use kills. What a lofty service we can offer our patients! Dental hygienists also are ideally positioned to provide important tobacco prevention messages. Our role in tobacco prevention and cessation can take us into many arenas: advocacy, volunteerism, public speaking, coalition-building, and so on. I want the world to know what dental hygienists have to offer. On a personal note, I am a former smoker. I know how treacherous a tobacco habit can be. I can empathize with users and have been effective in helping many quit. I want smokers and smokeless tobacco users to know that they can rely on their dental hygienist for assistance in stopping these deleterious habits.
Upon further reflection, I realize that perseverance and tenacity also build passion. Once I latched onto the tobacco topic, I really got into it. I was validated by my peers and other health care professionals and was afforded opportunities to speak, serve on panels and advisory boards, and continually build my knowledge base. Dental hygienists need to pick a passion and stick with it to become recognized as experts in their given area. Expertise often defines leaders.
What advice do you have for dental hygienists who would like to become leaders in the field?
My immediate response is go for it! Aspiring leaders need to make themselves visible, to surround themselves with trustworthy mentors, and learn about their profession and the areas within it that “ring their chimes.” Despite my working in academics, I have always explored directions that were out of the box. I see dental hygiene as a cog in a bigger wheel. Any unique, potentially viable idea is worth addressing, studying, and pursuing. Nothing works unless a person feels committed and is drawn to a particular phenomenon—whether it’s in research, health care delivery, treating a specific population group, new technology, or another possibility.
What do you consider as one of your most significant accomplishments in your more than 40-year career in dental hygiene?
It is difficult to pick just one because the profession of dental hygiene has allowed me to achieve and experience so much. As an educator, nothing beats the thrill of seeing a former student excel in a unique and far-reaching way. I have been fortunate to experience this often. On a more personal level, I would have to say that my most significant accomplishment has been furthering the role of the dental hygienist in the cessation and prevention of tobacco use. I believe my research and contributions in this area have left a lasting mark on the profession. The grant funding I have received has also enabled me to educate other health care professionals about the oral effects of tobacco, and the pivotal role that dental hygienists play in reducing its use. My activities in this area have had staying power and segue beautifully into my most recent passions—the oral systemic link and interprofessional education. I am delighted that, at this stage of my career, I am still uncovering subjects that excite and stimulate me.
What do you love most about working in academia? And are there any downsides?
I love the variety that the academic world provides. No day is the same and new ideas are germinating constantly. Academia has been my pathway to research, public speaking, and involvement with professional associations. A particular benefit has been the opportunity to travel and share ideas with health care professionals from around the world. Through academia, I have been able to hone my skills in teaching, administration, leadership, and team building. Teaching is stimulating and fun. I have been fortunate that my academic life has been exciting, enjoyable, and gratifying. I love feeding off of other peoples’ intellects and becoming excited by new directions and ideas. Working at a university health sciences campus has allowed me to interact with different types of health care providers, as well as law and social-work faculty. I have learned that we are all in this together—trying to provide the best health care possible. Most of my working days are good, but serving as director of the Division of Dental Hygiene for 10 years presented its challenges. Working in a bureaucracy can be frustrating. Garnering support from others requires commitment and energy and cannot be assumed—but hard work and frustration are part of the package, so that should be anticipated.