Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Dental Hygiene Excellence With an International Flair

Cassandra Holder Christiansen, RDH, MPA, EdD, is speaking at the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene this July in Seoul, South Korea, about service learning and what it may mean for the future of dental hygiene.

Cassandra Holder Christiansen, RDH, MPA, EdD

Dedicated to the prevention of oral diseases focusing on under-resourced populations, Cassandra Holder Christiansen, RDH, MPA, EdD, is a tenured associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry. In 2019, she was appointed the director of school-based programs and outreach for the college. In this role she develops and coordinates service-learning opportunities for students in the College of Dentistry across the state. Additionally, Holder Christiansen has developed an interprofessional mentoring program which incorporates students form all the health science center programs serving as mentors for middle and high school students.

Holder Christiansen will be sharing her knowledge at the upcoming International Symposium on Dental Hygiene (IFDH) to be held in July in Seoul, South Korea. She shared insights from her career with Sunstar Ebrief.


  • How did you become interested in dental hygiene?

My journey toward a career in dental hygiene began at the age of 15 during a health occupations course in high school, where we were visited by an impassioned dental hygienist. Her enthusiasm for the field ignited my curiosity. Subsequently, I discussed my newfound interest with my dentist who then offered me a part-time position at his office. As high school graduation approached, he facilitated a meeting for me with the director of the Dental Hygiene Program at Tennessee State University. Upon being accepted into the program, to my delight, I discovered that the guest speaker from high school was now one of my professors in dental hygiene. Throughout my academic studies, I maintained my role as a dental assistant with my dentist, further enriching my educational experience.


  • You recently received a “Health Care Hero Award.” Please share with us about how this came about.

Annually, the Memphis Business Journal recognizes outstanding achievements in healthcare within the Memphis and the Mid-South region. The awards span numerous categories. It was my privilege to be acknowledged with the community outreach category for my role in directing school-based programs and community outreach at our college of dentistry. While a significant part of my work revolves around organizing community engagement events involving dental students and faculty, we also strive to educate about 10,000 community members each year on oral hygiene and distribute necessary dental products. Additionally, I’ve rallied our campus community for initiatives like Love Thy Neighbor — a project initiated during the pandemic that has provided nearly 40,000 food relief boxes to those facing food insecurity.

Another endeavor I’m proud to mention is Our Future Is Now Mentoring Program. This program introduces under-resourced middle and high school students to the breadth of careers in healthcare. Through this initiative, they receive mentorship from a diverse group of health science students forging their paths in fields such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, dental hygiene, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physician assistant roles, medical lab sciences, and health informatics.


  • You are speaking at the upcoming IFDH meeting in Seoul, Korea. What will you be lecturing about?

My lecture will focus on the pivotal role that service learning and community engagement play within educational curriculums.


  • Why do you believe it is important to be involved in dental hygiene on an international level?

I hold the conviction that global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have underscored our collective interconnectedness. Engaging on an international platform in dental hygiene is crucial to foster collaboration and facilitate mutual learning worldwide. International experiences broaden my perspective, and I truly cherish the chance to work alongside dental hygiene professionals from various corners of the earth.

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