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Recognizing the Best in Dental Hygiene

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene and premier sponsor Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, Inc are pleased to announce Winnie Furnari, MS, RDH, FAADH, FAAFS, FADE, as the recipient of the 2022 The Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award.

Esther WilkinsTribute to a Legend

Esther M. Wilkins, BS, RDH, DMD—the matriarch of dental hygiene—dedicated her professional life to the prevention of oral disease and the advancement of the dental hygiene profession. She passed away December 12, 2016, three days after her 100th birthday, but her legacy lives on through her textbook, her passion for dental hygiene, and the mentoring she provided to both friends and colleagues.

After earning both her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree and a post-doctoral certificate in periodontology, Dr. Wilkins set out to ensure that dental hygiene was regarded as a professional career with high standards. She touched several generations of dental ­hygiene students with her seminal textbook, ­Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist, now in its 13th edition. 

Esther Wilkins BookDr. Wilkins began teaching at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston in 1964, where she taught instrumentation work­shops to dental students. She was also a prolific provider of continuing education for dental hygienists, presenting more than 1,000 programs worldwide through­out her expansive career. 

In 2004, Dr. Wilkins’ alma mater, the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene, now part of the MCPHS University in Boston, opened a state-of-the-art dental hygiene clinic in her name—the Esther M. Wilkins Forsyth Dental Hygiene Clinic. In 2012, she was honored with the American Dental Education Association’s William J. Gies Award for Achievement, ­Dental Educator.

Dr. Wilkins’ dedication to dental hygiene education and commitment to improving oral health provide a lasting legacy, and her inspiration to the profession is clearly illustrated by the dental hygienists who continue to follow in her footsteps.

2022 Winner

Winnie Furnari, MS, RDH, FAADH, FAAFS, FADE

I have been so fortunate to work with Winnie at New York University since 2002. I have seen her both as an active leader in the New Jersey Dental Hygienists’ Association and New York Dental Hygienists’ Association as well as her never-ending commitment to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and other professional organizations. Regardless of the setting, Winnie is an instrumental crusader for ethics, preparedness, research, and ever expanding the roles of the dental hygienist. She is so proud of her connection with Dr. Esther Wilkins that we could not consider a more deserving and appreciative individual for this award.” 

Cheryl M. Westphal Theile, RDH, EdD
Clinical Professor Emerita and Adjunct Professor
New York University College of Dentistry

Winnie Furnari, MS, RDH, FAADH, FAAFS, FADE

Winnie Furnari, MS, RDH, FAADH, FAAFS, FADE, is nationally known for her expertise in forensic dentistry and disaster preparedness. Additionally, as an adjunct clinical professor of dental hygiene at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry for more than 20 years, Mrs. Furnari instilled the importance of ethics to her students, developed the college’s ethics committee and its protocols, and fostered a commitment to ethics in the NYU White Coat Ceremony.

Her passion for forensic dentistry, which continues to this day, led her on a journey that would expand what is possible for dental hygienists. Through educational opportunities in the field, Mrs. Furnari grew her knowledge base. On September 11, 2001, she put it to good use, helping the New York City Medical Examiner identify victims of the mass casualty events at the World Trade Center. Throughout this work, she utilized skills in dental anatomy, radiographic interpretations, various languages, and charting protocols, all part of the dental hygienist’s armamentarium, ultimately making a significant contribution to expanding the educational application of the roles available in dental hygiene.

Mrs. Furnari’s intense interest in forensic science and emergency preparedness motivated her to earn a Master of Science degree in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness from the St. Louis University School of Public Health in 2007. This led to her becoming an active part of the NYU College of Dentistry’s disaster preparedness committee. Mrs. Furnari still teaches a forensic dentistry and catastrophe preparedness course for NYU undergraduate students, and is an active member of several forensic societies. She has continued to advocate for improved record-keeping and emergency preparedness through invited presentations for professional societies and organizations across the United States and Canada.

Beloved by her students at NYU, Mrs. Furnari’s committment to education has also been recognized. Mrs. Furnari is a four-time recipient of the NYU College of Dentistry’s Dean’s Award, she has been inducted into the NYU College of Dentistry’s Academy of Distinguished Educators, and she was named the American Dental Hygienists’ Association  Educator of the Year in 2016. Her efforts have undoubtedly advanced the profession and their effects will be felt throughout future generations of dental hygienists.

The Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award 

Recognizing the Best in Dental Hygiene

Named after the late inspirational dental hygiene leader and inaugural recipient Esther M. Wilkins, BS, RDH, DMD, The Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award—sponsored by Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, Inc.—is presented annually to recognize the distinguished career of a worthy individual who has consistently and effectively contributed to the enrichment of the dental hygiene profession. Previous recipients are: Esther M. Wilkins, BS, RDH, DMD, in 2010; Maxine Alper Tishk, RDH, MS, in 2011; Gail N. Cross-Poline, RDH, MS, in 2012; Michele Leonardi Darby, BSDH, MS, and Margaret Walsh, RDH, MS, MA, EdD, in 2013; Juanita S. Wallace, RDH, PhD, in 2014; JoAnn R. Gurenlian, RDH, MS, PhD, AFAAOM, in 2015; Pamela R. Overman, RDH, MS, EdD, in 2016; Olga A.C. Ibsen, RDH, MS, FAADH, in 2017; Deborah Bailey Astroth, RDH, BSDH, in 2018; Jacquelyn L. Fried, RDH, BA, MS, in 2019; and Jane L. Forrest, BSDH, MS, EdD, in 2020/2021. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, together with premier sponsor Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is pleased to honor Winnie Furnari, MS, RDH, FAADH, FAAFS, FADE, as the 2022 recipient of The Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is presented in recognition of Mrs. Furnari’s efforts to expand the career possibilities of dental hygienists to include forensic science as well as her dedication to the ethical principles of the profession.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. June 2022; 20(6)26-27.

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