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Editor’s Note: A Call to Action

Esther M. Wilkins, RDH, DMD, broke her leg on October 6. She had finished lecturing earlier that day for the South Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association in Columbia, SC.

Esther M. Wilkins, RDH, DMD, broke her leg on October 6. She had finished lecturing earlier that day for the South Carolina Dental Hygienists’Association in Columbia, SC. She fell in the hotel lobby as she was returning to her room after dinner. Her femur was fractured very high near the hip and required surgery to insert three pins. She also cut her forehead, requiring nine stitches. She is mending very quickly and the orthopedic surgeon, nurses, and physical therapists have all marveled at her physical strength, spunk, and terrific attitude. During 5 days in the hospital and 2 weeks in a rehabilitation facility in South Carolina, many dental hygiene friends were with her around the clock. Dr. Wilkins is now back in Boston, busily back to work on the tenth edition of her book, Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist. Now, another support system of Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association members, Tufts and Forsyth faculty members, and other friends have taken over. Like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a steady stream of loyal attendants have been rotating to make sure that our beloved “queen”is safe and comfortable.

I have known Dr. Wilkins since 1973 when I was a young assistant professor at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine. Even before I met her, she always had three glasses of milk every day. While I was guzzling Diet Coke and coffee for years, she warned me how bad this was for my bones. Now years later, I am taking Evista because I have osteopenia (decreasing bone density). I now take calcium and vitamin D supplements three times daily and I am trying to walk as much as possible. Unfortunately this is all too little, too late. Dr. Wilkins has always walked all over Boston, as well as the walking she does in airports, convention centers, and at meetings several weekends of every month. Her bone scans have always been great and I am sure that her remarkable recovery from this fracture is because she has always had great nutrition and is in much better shape than most of us.

So even in the face of this unfortunate injury, Dr.Wilkins remains an inspiration to us all. Her positive spirit and her teaching by example continue even under the most trying conditions. I speak to her often by phone and she remains amazingly happy and ever enthusiastic about getting back to work. She did not want me to write about her in this editorial. She said, “Write about something important like the latest state legislation regarding dental hygiene practice acts or something like that.” I promised her that this editorial would not be just about her broken leg but rather a call to action for all dental hygienists throughout the country—drink your milk or take your calcium supplements NOW. Exercise regularly NOW. Be grateful for the many friends you have in dental hygiene. When you fall, they will be there to pick you up, support you, and get you back on your feet.

-Anna M. Pattison, RDH, MS

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. November 2006;4(11): 10.

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