Putting a Passion To Help Others Into Action To Reach the Underserved
Terri Chandler’s, RDH, passion for helping others was one reason she wanted to be a dental hygienist.
My passion for helping others was one reason I wanted to be a dental hygienist. While in dental hygiene school, I worked to pass community water fluoridation legislation in Nevada. After graduation, I split my time between private practice and public health through my role with the Nevada State Health Department Oral Health Program. Those 10 years were the start of my public health education. I began to write small grants to fund our school sealant program and submitted my first 501(c)(3) application for the Community Coalition for Oral Health.
My great leap of faith happened in 2009 when I chose to leave private practice, investing all of my time and energy into Future Smiles, a Nevada nonprofit that I founded. Future Smiles’ mission is to serve children with critical oral healthcare needs who lack access to professional dental services. It’s easy to see how school sealant programs can be the right solution for the most vulnerable children, improving their dental health and well-being conveniently and cost-effectively. Portable dental units can go anywhere, and expanding Future Smiles by hiring more dental hygienists was a dream come true. One of the impacts of COVID-19 is that tooth decay rates are on the rise. Our dental care solution is the NWP Dental Wellness Center, a comprehensive school-based dental home with a full dental team including dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants. Future Smiles faced all of the COVID-19 challenges with mindfulness to keep the dental team and the public safe. While my passion for helping others began this journey into the nonprofit world, it was my drive to ensure that our mission would succeed that has kept the vision of Future Smiles alive. For me, success required that I continue to learn and grow. It is a significant change to go from using curets and scalers to learning QuickBooks and fundraising.
One step I took was to attend the University of Nevada Las Vegas Nonprofit Certification Program, focusing on grant writing, nonprofit management, and fundraising. These skills have been invaluable in shifting from a clinical role to nonprofit leadership. I love the creativity of program development and how to translate a program that serves children into an investment for a donor in our nonprofit’s work. This synergistic relationship between the donors and our nonprofit’s mission results in the gratification of being a part of the solution to a societal problem—poor oral health.
I believe in my heart that our donors share our beliefs that all people need their teeth, they have a desire to use their teeth, and they deserve a life free from dental pain. You can read more about Future Smiles at: futuresmiles.net.
Do you have a story to share? Dimensions wants to hear about you—the clinicians who perform the daily role of caring for patients and have also found an additional way to use your knowledge and skills outside of the operatory. You may be featured in a future issue. Send your story and photo to Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, at: [email protected].
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. March 2021;19(3):10.