Phyllis A. Martina, RDH, MBA, is the senior academic relations manager for Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals Inc. In this position, she develops and executes plans to increase Colgate’s presence in dental and hygiene schools; creates programs to build Colgate’s relationship with dental and dental hygiene students, faculty, and school administrators; manages all aspects of the academic team, including hiring and coaching; organizes activities with scientific congresses, dental conferences, and symposia; and identifies and develops joint projects with dental and dental hygiene experts and educators.
Martina’s career in dentistry began in high school, when she got a job helping the dental assistant in a local pediatric dental practice. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene degree with honors. She earned her Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing and finance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Martina has also worked as a clinician and educator, in addition to corporate positions in marketing, sales, and management. She developed and presented courses for dental hygiene students, faculty, professional associations, and study clubs. Martina is an active member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, American Dental Education Association, and a lifetime member of Sigma Phi Alpha, the National Dental Hygiene Honor Society. She is a member of Dimensions of Dental Hygiene’s Corporate Council.
What do you love about working in industry, and what do you find most challenging?
I love the creative aspects of my work, as well as my colleagues. I conduct market research to determine what is most important and needed for students and faculty and then create programs to fulfill these needs. I establish relationships with dental professionals who are kind, smart, and fun people, making this part of my job easy. I have been so fortunate to work for companies, like Colgate, that care about me and my professional development.
My work enables me to meaningfully impact the future of the dental hygiene profession. I often hear from students I meet through work that I inspired them to continue their education, become active in their dental hygiene association, or change the care they provide to their patients. The fact that they even remember me is remarkable and makes me smile. I am also privileged to work with an amazing group of dental hygienists. The academic managers at Colgate are highly intelligent, hard-working, imaginative, at the top of the profession, and very fun.
I am often challenged by the same aspects of my job that I love. No day is the same and you cannot predict what will happen. So I can plan my day and then something comes up and all my plans are gone. I work a lot of weekends and evenings, but I like what I do, so this isn’t a problem for me.
What advice would you give dental hygienists who are interested in corporate dentistry?
I have two key pieces of advice. First, network! Talk to people in the positions you want. Find out what an average week is like. Look for the good and the not so good in the position. We often don’t realize what happens behind the scenes—there is much more to every position than what you see on the surface. Find out if this is a career move you really want. If it is, pursue it. Second, get both your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Most companies require a degree or advanced degree for employment. Find out from your network which degrees are most valued by companies.
Your professional life has taken you across the country. What advice can you offer to dental hygienists who move in pursuit of career growth?
In the corporate environment, moving can be a requirement. Decide if you will move and where you will go before you are asked. This will help in your career development. For some people, moving for a better position is wonderful, a perk. For other people, moving is not an option. Deciding early in your career if you are willing to move will help in your career development.
At what point did you meet your first mentor, and how did they impact you?
My first mentor is my Junior Dental Hygiene faculty at University of Missouri-Kansas City, Sherry Burns, RDH, MS. In my eyes, she was the ideal dental hygienist. I never thought I would be half as good as Sherry but I would surely try. When I applied for my first corporate job at Hu-Friedy, I applied because that is where Sherry worked. They asked Sherry for her thoughts on hiring me and fortunately she gave me a good review. I still think of Sherry and her high standards in my work. When finishing a project I ask myself, “Would you hand this in to Sherry to be graded?” If the answer is no, I go back to work.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Going out with friend to enjoy a nice meal and a glass of wine. I also like to travel to unusual places—such as camping in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania with elephants, hyenas, and lions roaming outside my tent.