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My hope is to elevate the profession of dental hygiene all around the world

When you read this column, I will be in Seoul, South Korea, attending the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene — put on by the International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) — from July 11 to 13. The symposium takes place every 2 years in a different member country, and our hosts are always welcoming and proud to have us visit their homeland.

As a long-time member of the IFDH, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Dublin, Ireland; Brisbane, Australia; Cape Town, South Africa; Edinburgh, Scotland; Toronto Canada; and Madrid, Spain. It’s been a wonderful experience spending time in all these countries, and even more memorable meeting and interacting with dental hygiene colleagues from around the world.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, with members of the Korean delegation at the 2022 International Symposium on Dental Hygiene in Dublin, Ireland.

This year’s symposium is especially meaningful for me as I will take over as president of the IFDH. My 2-year term starts in Seoul and ends in Milan in 2026. I am excited to lead this amazing organization of over 30 countries, representing more than 90,000 dental hygienists. The IFDH’s mission is to advance leadership and collaboration in dental hygiene with the core principle of promoting prevention in oral health along with excellence in dental hygiene research, education, and practice.

It’s humbling to think that I’ll be leading a group of very diverse, highly educated, extremely dedicated professionals whose overall vision is the same. No matter where or how we practice, we all agree on the IFDH’s vision: Enhancing the recognition of the dental hygienist as being the key provider of preventive oral healthcare worldwide and ensuring that oral health is integrated as a key aspect of our patients’ overall health.

And as every leader aspires to lofty objectives when taking the helm of an organization, I am no different. My hope is to elevate the profession of dental hygiene all around the world. A simple statement, but with nuanced and numerous facets. In every country, dental hygienists should be recognized for their essential work and knowledge. There are a multitude of avenues open to us and so many ways to shed light on what we do.

We must broaden our outreach and scope to include collaborations with the medical community. We need to find common ground with stakeholders who share our vision and are committed to improving the health of the public. It all begins with prevention, and practicing preventive strategies in varied settings is the best way to reach as many people as possible.

Some of you will be in Seoul as I start this journey – I can’t wait to see you there! But even if you aren’t traveling to Korea, you will be at my side. I will remember all my amazing colleagues and focus on how much I’ve learned from you. Your hard work, experiences, and expertise will be the guiding principles I use to navigate the ever-changing landscape of our profession. It’s an exciting time for all of us as we embark on a journey toward new horizons!

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. June/July 2024; 22(4):8

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