A woman of many talents and interests, JoAnn Galliano, MEd, RDH, is a legislative consultant for the California Dental Hygienists’ Association’s (CDHA) Government Relations Council, and an instructor in the dental hygiene program at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif. As chair of the council for 13 years, she was instrumental in furthering the legislation that created the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC) and the registered dental hygienist in alternative practice (RDHAP) category of licensure. Passionate about preventing abuse and neglect, Galliano has served as a member of the Prevent Abuse and Neglect Through Dental Awareness coalition as a mandated reporter trainer.
Prior to her career in dental hygiene, Galliano was a junior high English teacher. After completing her master’s degree, she decided to change careers and chose dental hygiene. Galliano began teaching dental hygiene education after working in clinical practice for 9 years, and she continues to work in private practice a few days each month. A definite “mover and shaker,” she is a past president of CDHA and served as CDHA’s liaison to the Dental Board of California prior to the creation of the DHCC. Now with the DHCC, Galliano contributes as a subject matter expert and helps the committee update state dental hygiene regulations.
What was the impetus to become involved in organized dental hygiene?
I was serving as president of my local component when I heard about a bill being proposed in Sacramento that would allow second-year dental students to take the clinical licensure exam and become dental hygienists. The prospect of dental students with less education and less training than I had performing the same duties as dental hygienists posed a significant threat to the profession, so I went to Sacramento for the hearings. At that point, I realized how much of an impact the legislature could have on shaping my future. I then volunteered to be chair of CDHA’s legislative network.
In my opinion, becoming involved in organized dental hygiene is a necessity, not an option. As professionals, we need to be actively engaged in our association. Through my involvement, I have accomplished things I never thought possible, and have made lifelong friendships with some of the most wonderful dental hygienists in California.
What was your role in the passage of the RDHAP in California?
As chair of CDHA’s Government Relations Council, I was actively involved in writing the legislation and working with our lobbying firm. Our lobbyists, Aaron Read and Terry McHale, worked the CDHA-sponsored bills through the legislative process. My role was to provide them with the necessary data and support, and educate the members of the legislature about the profession of dental hygiene.
What do you see as your most significant accomplishment to date?
I am very proud to have been part of creating the DHCC. California is the first state to achieve self-regulation, thus it is dental hygienists who will shape the profession—not a dentist-controlled dental board. The DHCC has authority over all aspects of the state’s dental hygiene licensure—including enforcement and investigation, as well as approval of continuing education requirements for all licensure categories. According to the Business and Professions Code Section 1900, the purpose of the committee is “to permit the full utilization of registered dental hygienists, registered dental hygienists in alternative practice, and registered dental hygienists in extended functions in order to meet the dental care needs of all of the state’s citizens.” This ability to shape the future of dental hygiene is critical as the profession moves forward.
What are the largest legislative challenges facing the profession?
Improving access to care is a big issue. California has a large number of individuals who are not receiving any oral health care at all. Organized dentistry would like to control how this problem is addressed. Changes in scope of practice will be necessary, and our profession will have to determine what the role of dental hygienists will encompass. We will have to decide how our education and skills can be best utilized and enhanced to enable the provision of additional services. Organized dentistry is always looking at the possibility of allowing dental assistants to provide basic dental hygiene care, and we need to work with the legislature to prevent this from happening.
Why do you continue to work in private practice?
I work in clinical practice because I love what I do. I am a full-time educator, but I need to be connected to the direct provision of dental hygiene care. I love my patients and enjoy the opportunity to treat them during their recare appointments. In addition, my ability to discuss real-world problems and issues that occur in the clinical setting enhances my students’ educational experience.
What do you think the profession will look like in 100 years?
It is difficult to imagine what the world will look like in 100 years, let alone dental hygiene. Even so, I foresee the profession evolving so that the broader health care community recognizes dental hygienists as primary preventive oral health specialists.