The world lost a beautiful hygienist, teacher and mentor

July 26, 2016

When you think back to hygiene school, you probably remember how hard your instructors pushed you. However, I hope you remember that one instructor, or maybe you had two, who were far more than just your teacher. That instructor you connected and felt comfort with on a much deeper level. They were your mentor; your go-to person for things even beyond dental hygiene and school.

When you think back to hygiene school, you probably remember how hard your instructors pushed you. However, I hope you remember that one instructor, or maybe you had two, who were far more than just your teacher. That instructor you connected and felt comfort with on a much deeper level. They were your mentor; your go-to person for things even beyond dental hygiene and school.

While all my hygiene school instructors were awesome, I was fortunate to have three instructors that not only taught me “how to do the job” but pushed my fragile, unsure self to become who I am today. Looking back, I feel I entered my hygiene program a kid and left an adult. There are no amount of words or acts that could possibly thank them. Further, they are truly proud of me, as my accomplishments are their accomplishments. The love of education and their students not only runs through their blood, but is deeply rooted in each cell of their body.

Julie White, RDH, BSDH, was one of the three instructors I speak of. The world unexpectedly lost this beautiful hygienist, teacher, and mentor on July 16, 2016. Julie was also a loving mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend who loved with her entire heart. Julie was 49 years old; her funeral held on her 50th birthday, though she didn’t look a day over 35.

Julie never thought she’d be a good teacher, but with encouragement from her husband and the hygiene school’s program director in La Grande, Oregon (another one of my three), she gave it a shot. And what a shot she gave! Julie was kind and always positive in her teaching; never did she criticize or make me feel foolish for making a mistake. I remember Julie sitting with me, her hand over mine, for what probably felt like an interminable amount of time for the patient, trying to get me to feel the interproximal, subgingival calculus that I missed in a clinic check.

As an assignment, we were to shadow a hygienist to get a feel for the “real world,” once we were a little more experienced with seeing patients in clinic (unlike when we had to shadow before entering the hygiene program). I shadowed Julie. I remember her giving such attention with each stroke of her instrument, to each tooth, of every patient. I still watch her scale in my head when I need to do a mental check of my technique. I was amazed that she could detect calculus with floss. However, she assured me that, in time, I would be able to do it too. Of course I didn’t believe her, but she was right!

 

Continue to page two for more...

 

 

I remember dragging my boyfriend to the Oregon Dental Conference and spotting Julie, manning the Oregon Institute of Technology booth, wanting to introduce them. She looked up with her beautiful smile, oh that smile – that contagious smile – exclaiming, “Miss Kara RDH!” I giggled, then gave her the biggest hug.

Her smile not only was beautiful because she was a dental hygienist, but because she was Julie. Kind, compassionate, Julie. It’s an understatement to say her smile could light up a room. I miss this smile. I miss Julie White. I was a lucky human being to cross her path. She not only distilled kindness and professionalism, but she instilled love. Honest to goodness love; she loved her patients, her students, her family, her friends. A role model for anybody.

I write this, not only to have peace and closure with her passing, but to encourage you to let those who have made a difference in your life know they have done so. I still have the last Facebook messages we sent back and forth from a month ago in my inbox; I never would have thought they would be the last. This is a simple reminder that life is short and things can happen for no apparent reason. Tell the ones around you that you love them and are thankful for them. If you have been meaning to reach out to a fellow classmate or teacher, DO IT. If you have always wanted to do something, DO IT. If you need to make a change to be happy, DO IT. The time is NOW.

I’d like to give my deepest condolences to Julie Keffer White’s family. She may be physically gone but will never be forgotten. I hope you can find peace in how many people she touched, including me.