Karen Neiner, RDH, MBA, is vice president of corporate development and professional relations at Hu-Friedy Mfg Co Inc in Chicago. She began her career with Hu-Friedy in 1989 as an associate product manager after completing a marketing internship with the company while she was completing her bachelor of science degree at Northwestern University. She has held numerous positions with the company over the past 22 years in marketing, sales, and new business development. Neiner was instrumental in the creation of the Friends of Hu-Friedy online community for dental hygienists. She led the company’s breast cancer support campaign with the introduction of Pink Ribbon instruments, from which a portion of proceeds support the Breast Cancer Network of Strength. Neiner also created the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award, which honors dental hygienists who demonstrate outstanding clinical expertise in relating the interdependence of clinical practice and patient education for the improvement of patient compliance. She is also a member of Dimensions’ Corporate Council.
What does your position as vice president of corporate development and professional relations entail?
Currently, I am responsible for advancing the company’s business opportunities in new markets. I also facilitate Hu-Friedy’s connections with dental professionals and their associations. The Hu-Friedy team works together to identify dental professionals’ unmet needs so we can develop instruments and programs that will add value to their practices.
I am also directly involved in our programs that serve the wider world. From the outset, one of Hu-Friedy’s core values that appealed to me was its commitment to the community. It is exciting to create innovative products and find new markets. I am also proud of our implementation of Environdent, an extensive recycling program that was the first “green” initiative adopted by a dental company.
What do you love about working in the dental industry?
Being part of a community that is so passionate about oral health care is rewarding. People in the dental industry are open to new ideas, fresh ways to improve their companies and their practices, better treatment options for our patients, strategies for increasing access to care, and all of the emerging practical and scientific advances. Having the opportunity to spearhead one of Hu-Friedy’s most recent successes, Friends of Hu-Friedy, an online social network designed for dental hygienists that provides information, insights, and educational opportunities for all its participants, was extremely satisfying and allowed me to team with a new generation of talent to bring this great asset to our community. We established this platform where members can find details about scientific advances, job security, ergonomics, infection control, and continuing education that fits with their schedules. We are proud of the chord it has struck with the community as we have more than 19,000 dental hygienist members and more join every day.
What do you think are the most important issues facing dental hygiene today?
We need to continue to focus on access to dental care for underserved and undereducated populations both domestically and abroad. There is so much work to be done in this area, and as dental professionals and dental industry members, we are key to finding the solutions. In addition, we need to continue to make the profession as attractive as possible to retain the talented and empathetic dental health professionals who make a difference both through clinical care and other avenues. It always concerns me when I hear the statistics about retiring professionals versus graduating professionals. As our birth rates decline and our population ages, dental care will continue to be an extremely important factor influencing everyone’s overall health and quality of life.