Katy Battani, RDH, MS, is definitely a “mover and shaker,” as she hardly ever has a chance to sit down. She has two important positions in public health—project manager of the Perinatal and Infant Oral Health Quality Improvement (PIOHQI) program with the Office of Oral Health at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and dental outreach coordinator with the Harford County Health Department in Edgewood, Maryland. Battani also remains active in organized dental hygiene and is the mother of three young children.
In her position with the PIOHQI program in Baltimore, Battani collaborates with key partners to achieve the program’s goal of reducing the prevalence of oral disease in pregnant women and infants through improved access to quality oral health care. At the Harford County Health Department, she oversees the department’s oral health programs.
That’s not all. Battani continues to work in clinical practice at an office in Nottingham, Maryland. She is also chair of the Interprofessional Collaboration Committee within the Maryland Dental Action Coalition and chair of the Maryland Oral Health Association. In 2004, Battani started a new local component—the Harford/Cecil County Dental Hygienists’ Association.
What inspired you to start a new component and how did you make it happen?
The local dental hygiene component in my resident county dissolved in the 1970s. As a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Maryland dental hygiene program, one of my instructors encouraged me to reinstate the component so dental hygienists could easily access continuing education and build relationships. Having served as class president and a member of the Student American Dental Hygienists’ Association, I felt excited about making this happen. With guidance from the Maryland Dental Hygienists’ Association, necessary data were gathered to reactivate the component and the reinstitution of the component was passed as a resolution in 2004. The Harford/Cecil County Dental Hygienists’ Association continues to provide monthly continuing education courses for dental professionals in two neighboring counties in northeast Maryland.
Why is it important for dental hygienists to become involved in organized dental hygiene?
As oral health professionals, it is important to keep abreast of health issues and to support local, state, and national organizations that advocate for the dental hygiene profession and its future. Being a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, as well as other professional organizations provides dental hygienists with access to current evidence-based findings and recommendations, legislative and policy developments, and professional and educational opportunities. For me, organized dental hygiene has opened doors to advance my career with opportunities to collaborate with colleagues on various committees and projects, present at professional meetings, and contribute to the writing of state and national reports.
One of your passions is interprofessional collaboration. How will this concept change the provision of dental care in the United States?
To me, interprofessional collaboration means working closely with health care professionals from various disciplines to deliver comprehensive, high-quality, patient-centered care. My hope is that oral health care will become more integrated into the larger medical system. Dental providers will not only work more closely with medical providers but will expand their traditional scopes of practice to include additional health assessments.
For the past 2 years, I have served as chair of the Maryland Dentals Action Coalition’s Interprofessional Collaboration Committee, which is composed of dental and nondental professionals working together to promote oral health through improved collaboration. Initiatives have included oral health courses for medical providers and social service professionals. A recent accomplishment, in collaboration with the University of Maryland Baltimore’s Library, was the development of a recommended list of oral health books for children younger than 7. The list was created after extensive review of more than 50 books by a group of professionals from dentistry, nursing, library services, and education. This list is useful for anyone who uses and/or purchases children’s oral health books. It is available at: guides.hshsl.umaryland.edu/dentistry/DentalBooksForChildren.
What do you find most rewarding and most challenging about your work to improve the oral health of children in Harford County, Maryland?
The most rewarding aspect of the work I do locally is seeing community programs make a difference in preventing oral disease in young children. In the past 3 years, I’ve developed an oral health screening program for low-income pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes and supplemental nutrition programs for women, infants, and children in the county, in addition to creating a school-based dental sealant program for second- and third-grade students.
The most challenging part of my job is identifying ways to reach parents early enough so that dental caries can be prevented. I have recently begun a new position as project manager of a Health Resources and Services Administration-funded PIOHQI program that will help Maryland focus intently on perinatal and infant oral health (children up to age 1). I’m excited to be leading this early prevention-focused program!
What do you believe are the most important issues facing the dental hygiene profession?
A critical issue is how dental hygiene will develop as a profession to meet the needs of the public now and in the future. As the American health care system evolves, dental hygiene educational programs must expand and enrich their curricula to prepare the future dental hygiene workforce for expanded scopes of practice, interprofessional team-based practice, and alternative employment settings. I also feel strongly that we need to build the dental hygiene leadership of the future by encouraging advanced education in public health, academia, and research.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I have three children under the age of 7. They keep me focused on the most important thing in life—family! I’m a multitasker and have learned to be extremely efficient in my work. I have always enjoyed writing and research. Additionally, my husband and extended family are very supportive, and they help me juggle everything.