MDHA President’s Address: Kathy Mielke, BS, RDH

MDHA President’s Address


October 19, 2014


Bringing harmony to the profession of dental hygiene…

Welcome and thank you for being here to kickoff the 92nd year of the MDHA!!

Before I begin my President’s address, I would like to introduce you to the ladies of Fusion: Joyce ~ Grosse Isle, Becky ~ St. Clair Shores, Jill ~ Elyria, OH, and Beth ~ Cleveland, OH.

I ask that you sit back, clear your heads, take a deep breath and listen closely to how 4 different people doing 4 different things come together in harmony. (Sweet Adelines sing “Everything’s Coming up Roses”)

Can you believe that I actually pondered going back to school to get a dental hygiene degree?  And today, I stand before you as President of the Michigan Dental Hygienists’ Association!!

It all happened in less than a month > I accepted the opportunity to start the dental hygiene program at Oakland Community College, which in turn kick started the conversation with my employer to have my full-time job as Marketing Director move to Mondays and Fridays only and on top of that, I got married out of the country!!

Significant change had happened in my life, and thankfully, I had my peers, family, friends, and most importantly, my new husband, to get me through it!!


Now, my story may be quite different from most of you, as far as how you got started in dental hygiene, but we all share one thing > those 3 letters after our name – say it with me > R.D.H.!!

There are some in this room that work in different industries, and may or may not be involved in their professions beyond going to work!  But, being raised with a strong work ethic and high standards > it was never a question!!

However, I don’t want to talk all about me, I want to talk about “we!”  Dental hygiene is important to us, and we know about our profession, but what do you know about music?  Well, today may be your first lesson, but music has been a very important part of my life, and it is the perfect link to my Presidential theme.


For me, music sets the tone for every occasion.  Classical is my choice for relaxation, hard rock or pop when I’m working out, country when I’m having fun, and 80’s music ANY TIME!!  Growing up, I took lessons with several different instruments, but nothing stuck with me like it did for my parents. They are both amazing musicians – my Dad, a great drummer, started when he was 5; and my Mom, she received piano lessons for her 6th birthday and well, she can play ANYTHING – piano, organ, clarinet, flute, piccolo – she was even a fife player for a Civil War reenacting group.  She taught piano for 27 years and now, she adds Sweet Adeline singer to her list of talents, competing in Regional and International Competitions.

Sweet Adelines sing “barbershop harmony”, which is, technically, the use of simultaneous pitches or chords, their construction and the principles of connection that govern them.

The term harmony derives from the Greek meaning “joint, concord, to fit together, to join!”  It is a consistent, orderly, pleasing combination or arrangement of different things.  Given the many different backgrounds of any Registered Dental Hygienist, I felt this term and its meaning was the perfect fit for my Presidential year!


Harmony has at least 2 parts.  Every part enhances the other and each must pay attention and listen to the other, otherwise there is discord.  Sweet Adelines sing 4 part A-cappella harmony which includes Bass, Baritone, Lead and Tenor.

To put things into perspective, I have taken these parts and applied them to the world of dental hygiene.


The BASS is the foundation for barbershop harmony, supporting all of the other parts.

The bass singers are the steady, nonstop, “glue” that keeps the rhythm going in the song.  If they are not there or not doing their job, the chord is hollow and the sound is incomplete.

In dental hygiene, the bass mirrors our education!  Our education is top-notch, whether you graduate with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.  We are educationally prepared for practice upon graduation and can apply our professional knowledge and skills in a variety of settings.  Because of our education, we provide evidence-based care and are licensed dental professionals, making us valued members of the healthcare workforce.

Can all current educators in the room please stand?

Thanks to each of you for your dedication in providing the framework and direction for our education in dental hygiene.


The BARITONE is the “detail” part, giving meaning or “flavor” to the song.

They are the most technical, needing to know the “whys” of everything.  The Baritones resemble the Registered Dental Hygienist.  We are trained in critical-thinking and patient-centered comprehensive care.  We are “prevention specialists,” paying close attention to particulars and their relation to a whole, making sure that things are perfect.  We wear many hats and play many roles.

Our members give meaning to our Association as we seek to advance our profession, represent the interests of our professionals and protect the public.  Alone, each of us can do “the job,” but when we work together and there is more of us, it’s like an entire chorus singing, which has an even bigger effect on the people we serve!


The LEAD is the melody and most easily recognized.

It’s the part most people know when singing a song.  And, they must be in tune.  Dental hygienists work in partnership with dentists, and we know they get recognition when it comes to dental care. However, it was through a dentist that the idea of dental hygiene was born.  Though our scopes of practice are different, we work together to provide optimal total care for our patients.

Neither dental hygienist nor dentist could do our jobs without the dental team.  The team must be in “tune” for the overall success of the office.

Are there any dentists, dental assistants, front desk personnel in the room?  We appreciate the union we share in bringing health and wellness to our patients.


The TENOR gives the “ring” to the group and finishes things off.

You don’t need many tenors, but they have to be clear and precise, as it is most noticeable if they are not.  Without them, it’s like doing the job for nothing.  Our Board of Trustees are our tenors.  They are the Administrative body and are empowered to conduct all business of the Association and to act on behalf of the Association.  The tenor is the sparkle to the efforts of the Association.  As with all of the other voices, the tenor is essential to complete the song.


The Director is the coordinator, the one who puts it all together and guides the singers.  He or she listens and is the communicator when the Baritone’s timing is off, or the Lead is going flat in a specific place.   In a song, one part is not more important than the other and it is the Director’s job to blend the parts together in harmony. This is where your President comes in.  The President is the official spokesperson, representative, administrator of activities, and presiding officer of this Association, dedicated to its Mission and Goals.  Can all MDHA Past Presidents in the room please stand?

Thank you so much for your time and dedication to MDHA.

Sometimes, the President may bring in extra support, just like the director may bring in a “coach” to help with technique, which will ultimately make the group better.  Tempo is important in harmony, as you can’t have the dentists going “andante” (slow) and the registered dental hygienists going “allegro” (fast).  If not “ah” tempo, it can affect the entire organization.  The “director” has to pay attention to what is important at that moment, because the audience does not

want to hear music that is not perfected.  Once everyone has the basics, there is no need to look at the music as it now becomes effortless to perform in front of an audience.


Speaking of an audience, the audience reaps the reward when everyone is doing their job.  They are impacted by every one of the 4 parts of harmony and benefit from the singers’ skills and talents.  Our patients and the public are our audience. This is what is truly important!


With this music lesson, we must consider that there are different types of “music” – opera, ragtime, symphony, and jazz – but they are still part of the big picture.  This equates to our specialists in dentistry, as well as the numerous facets of the medical profession.  Of course there are dynamics, as in music there are louds and softs.  There are times when we push for legislation and there are times to be quiet.  Other professions have their own dynamics, but we should not be in competition with one another, instead focus on the benefit of the public, our audience.  We might not all like the same piece of music, but there is no reason to criticize when in fact you may not be hearing the song.


If one of these parts is not performing to the best of their capabilities, the entire song is affected.  This relays the importance of all us working together to achieve harmony in our professional lives.  Without our education, our dental team, our Board of Trustees > without the Registered Dental Hygienist and our members, the MDHA would not exist!


Nationally, dental hygiene is at the table and we need to be relevant locally and statewide to support the ADHA initiatives.  For example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) submitted 15 pages of written comments to CODA, on behalf of ADHA, regarding the proposed dental therapy education standards.

The “Transforming Dental Hygiene Education” symposium brought together over 100 representatives from dental hygiene, nursing, research, physician assistants, the federal government and more, to be the catalyst for the change needed to ensure dental hygiene’s continuing relevance.

The National Governor’s Association issued a report in January 2014 called “The Role of the Dental Hygienists in Providing Access to Oral Health Care.”

Back in 2010, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Oral Health Initiative to improve children’s access to dental care.

Healthy People 2020 provides a comprehensive set of 10-year, national goals and objectives for improving the health of all Americans.  There are 17 Leading Health Indicators for oral health.

Most recently, the National Diabetes Education Program, which is part of the NIH and CDC, launched “Working Together to Manage Diabetes:  A Toolkit for Pharmacy, Podiatry, Optometry and Dentistry” to show how these groups can work collaboratively to promote better outcomes in people with diabetes.

And finally, the ADHA’s mega issues question at Annual Session in June was “what unique roles to state associations and local components play in ensuring that dental hygienists are integrated into the healthcare delivery system?”


The purpose of medical and dental science is to enhance the health of individuals as well as populations. Our national vision statement, core ideology and values all reflect the significance of transforming dental hygiene.  And, in the words of our current ADHA President, Kelli Swanson Jaecks > “we are not sitting stagnant waiting for others to decide our fate.”


My goal is to collaborate with other professional organizations and associations, strengthen our advocacy efforts, and increase our membership, as our relevance is fortified by the relations we create.

Collaboration is essential for our organization’s survival and success.

Dental hygienists are good at relationship building – after all, who do the patients come back to see?  Join me in building relations outside of the office, not only with each other, but with those in our “circle.”

Does your community know who we are?  Utilize the month of October, OUR month, to promote the dental hygiene profession – who we are, what we do, and why we bring value to the healthcare industry.  Take every opportunity that lends itself to use your “voice” to honor Registered Dental Hygienists in Michigan and across the country.


The common thread for Sweet Adelines is their love of music.  The common thread in dental hygiene is prevention and improving the public’s total health.  Be the change you want to see in the world!!

You are stronger than you would be on your own when you are involved in a group, so let’s work together to include all “parts” of the songs that are playing and enjoy the music together.


Thank you to the voices of Fusion as they sing one more song, titled Bye, Bye Love.  What an amazing example of how living far apart has no affect on the music they make!

Thank you in advance for your support.  I look forward to representing you as President into the 92nd year of MDHA and bringing “harmony” to our profession!


Harmony will prevail…


CCOHF and Wrigley Company Foundation Oral Health Education and Program Promotion Opportunity

Since 2010, the Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF) and the Wrigley Company Foundation have collaborated to bring oral health education and health promotion in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).  The local reach of program has been tremendous.  The Wrigley Company Foundation and CCOHF would like to share in the success with other mid-sized cities with significant need for oral health education and promotion programming in a public school setting to students, teachers and parents.

CCOHF contracted with MDR, an educational development and marketing company with a track record of working with successfully with primary and secondary school teachers.  The resulting product is, a web-based series of modules based on a standardized curriculum developed by CCOHF, aligned with national standards and reformatted as an easy to use web-based resource.  This pilot phase of expansion reaches 5 cities: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Richmond and San Antonio.

The teacher-friendly materials are found on and are geared to students in the 3-5 grades.  The modules utilize the hands-on portions of the CCOHF oral health education curriculum. In addition to the digitized curriculum, the program offers teachers an opportunity to have a guest speaker in their classroom to deliver an additional interactive presentation, question and answer, or an oral health education lesson and activity.

CCOHF Oral Health Education Expansion Info Sheet

For additional information, please contact me:

Mona Van Kanegan, DDS, MS | Director, Oral Health Program Development
Chicago Community Oral Health Forum (CCOHF) | A Partner of Heartland Health Outreach
Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center | University of Illinois Family Medicine Center
1100 W Cermak Ste 518
Chicago, Illinois 60608
Phone 13129690248  |
Improving access, Promoting health, Preventing disease