Mentor Advice ForumQuestions for a Mentor
Lily LaFleur, RDH asked 2 years ago

I am a dental hygienist who is going to school to finish my bachelors degree. For one of our assignments, we are to reach out to a mentor and ask them some questions about their experiences. So I have some questions!

  1. What was an unexpected barrier you faced in furthering your career?
  2. What motivated you to continue your education?
  3. What was some advice that a mentor 

I am hoping to continue to career in either education or business management, however I am still very interested in several areas of dental hygiene. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
-Lily LaFleur, RDH

6 Answers
Nancy Kiehl, RDH, MS Staff answered 1 year ago

#1: The only unexpected barrier that I faced furthering my career was when I decided to get my bachelors degree in Dental Hygiene. I graduated from Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists In Boston, Massachusetts with an associates degree in science and a certificate in dental hygiene. I was accepted into the post-certificate program at the University of Southern California School of Dentistry. Little did I know that there was and still exists today, a tremendous difference between how clinical dental hygiene is taught throughout the US. I was coming from a conservative east coast school where they didn’t use rigid instruments nor did they teach extra oral fulcrums or local anesthesia. USC was on the liberal west coast where local anesthesia for hygienists had been legal for years and they used rigids and extra oral fulcrums. Nobody told me this so I expected to do only academic study. Low and behold, when I arrived at USC, I was tested on my instrumentation skills using a typodont and the instruments I had brought from Forsyth. The director of the program, Anna Pattison, wasn’t impressed. She even commented that I wasn’t using rigid instruments (I had never heard of them!). Back to clinic I went and spent the next two years learning advanced instrumentation techniques on very difficult periodontally involved patients. Four years of clinical dental hygiene has worked in my favor, although I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I gained valuable clinical skills from the program at USC that I had not received from my original training. Needless to say, I am in favor of four years of clinical dental hygiene education.

#2 I had worked for two years in private practice after graduating from Forsyth. I really missed learning and felt on my own as the only hygienist in my office. I wanted to learn the latest advancements in dental hygiene. I missed education and being with classmates.

#3 The director of the program at Forsyth taught Periodontology and Clinical DH. She was a smart lady that I looked up to and respected. I was
a good student with excellent grades. When I asked for a letter of recommendation to apply to the program at USC, her advice to me was to stay on the east coast. She said Anna Pattison was the director and it was a tough program. That was all I needed, I was off to the west coast to see about this tough program! I love a challenge. As it ended up, I was a teaching assistant for the first year hygiene students at USC and this lead to my love of teaching. When I graduated, I was asked to stay on as an instructor with the expectation that I would complete a masters in education, (which the University paid for), and become an assistant professor.

May I suggest that you gain some additional advanced instrumentation training, (Anna has a hands-on course at her Pattison Institute), and consider teaching. We need good teaches!

Phyllis A. Martina, RDH, MBA Staff answered 1 year ago

1. A surprising barrier I faced is that I did not know much about business because I was just a hygienist but they hired me because of my business acumen.


2. I knew if I wanted a career in marketing I needed an MBA. Fortunately I liked going to school and always planned on furthering my education so it was an easy decision for me.

3. Always plan for your next career move. I hope this helps.

Alice M. Horowitz, RDH, MA, PhD Staff answered 1 year ago

Hello Lily,
The unexpected barrier in my career was when I was in a position to enrol in a doctoral program, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a couple of years of chemotherapy, etc, I was enrolled in a doctoral program when I reached the 5-year post surgery mark.

I always knew I wanted to have a doctorate. I considered dentistry but was not interested in drilling and filling; rather I was interested in preventing diseases. I thought seriously about law because policy is very important in preventing diseases and conditions. I even went to a few law classes with a colleague. Instead I opted for a PhD in health education. I was 59 when i was awarded by PhD and, if i didn’t have one now, I would start all over.
What ever you are interested in, go for it. The sooner, the better. best wishes.

Tammy Filipiak, RDH, MS Staff answered 1 year ago

1. What was an unexpected barrier you faced in furthering your career?  My own hesitation and comfort zone—now I tell others—if you are not just a little afraid you may not be challenging yourself enough!
2. What motivated you to continue your education?  Personal and professional growth and elevated opportunities for career advancement.
3. What was some advice that a mentor gave you? One of my friend/mentors reminded me when I was ready for something new and an opportunity came that it was just what I was looking for always. Don’t let fear keep you from journeying ahead into things that you have not done before.

Marion C. Manski, RDH, MS Staff answered 1 year ago

1. What was an unexpected barrier you faced in furthering your career? Deciding on what major to obtain my grad degree; at first I was enrolled in law school part time; however I had two young children and was taking 9 credits a semester!! That got a bit crazy and I decided that the time of my children growing was something I did not want to sacrifice. Although I enjoyed law, my dental hygiene colleagues motivated me to pursue an MSDH as I enjoyed teaching. So a time factor was a barrier in changing my path.
2. What motivated you to continue your education? I always enjoyed teaching and I had wonderful mentors that were amazing role models. They inspired and encouraged me in my pursuit of my MS in dental hygiene at the Univ of Maryland.
3. What was some advice that a mentor; “If someone taps you on the shoulder, they see something in you-listen to them” I would be asked to take leadership roles, and I felt “me, really.” My mentor was right, they saw something in me that I did not yet realize. I’ve learned to take a risk/chances and step outside my comfort zone and it paid off!