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Never Gone, Never Forgotten

A force of nature, a dedicated professional, a trail blazer, a visionary. All these describe Ann Battrell, MSDH. I can’t remember when I first met Ann, but it was many years ago when both of us were beginning our careers. Neither of us knew what professional paths we would travel, but those paths crossed frequently. We served as consultants together for the dental and dental hygiene industry, became speakers for a dental products company, and eventually landed in leadership roles. All along the way, I admired Ann’s tenacity and skills. Most of all, I admired her as a person. She taught me many things and I’d like to share a couple of them with you.

Not only did she get comfortable with making difficult decisions, but she also became the ultimate example of what you can do through hard work and determination.

Be Uncomfortable. Ann was the first dental hygienist to be named CEO of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, and the first former ADHA president to do so. She assumed the role of executive director in 2009 and later became the CEO.

I know Ann would want me to share the story of how she wasn’t sure if she had the qualifications to lead our professional association. My husband and I encouraged Ann, telling her that she was better qualified than anyone else and we couldn’t think of a more capable individual to guide the profession of dental hygiene. Others encouraged her, too, and the rest is history.

Ann Battrell, MSDH, and
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA

We often doubt ourselves when challenged with a new opportunity, but that shouldn’t deter us. One of Ann’s favorite sayings was “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I have no doubt that her decision to serve as ADHA’s CEO was the genesis of those words. Not only did she get comfortable with making difficult decisions, but she also became the ultimate example of what you can do through hard work and determination. Such a role model for us all!

Dream Big. I really got to know Ann best during my tenure on the ADHA Board and when I served as ADHA president in 2015-2016. Before becoming president, I saw Ann frequently at various dental and dental hygiene meetings across the country. We would mostly chat at social events.

Ann had a sixth sense about people and their skills, and always encouraged achieving success. At a reception during one Chicago Midwinter meeting, Ann looked at me and said “You’re not getting any younger, and neither am I.” I immediately knew what she meant: she was telling me I needed to assume a leadership role in my profession. It took me a few years, but I followed that advice and eventually was elected ADHA president. How fortunate I was to work alongside her!

As dental hygienists, we’ve lost someone who worked tirelessly for us and our profession. She represented us on the national and international stage and never backed down in her support for what we do. Ann lives on in all of us as we work hard for our ideals and fight for our rightful role in healthcare. She will never be forgotten.


From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. July/August 2023; 21(7):6.

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