The hard work and dedication of Shoreline Community College Dental Hygiene Instructor and Interim Director Rosie Bellert, RDH, BS, has earned her national recognition. Bellert is one of eight dental hygienists from across the country and Canada to receive a 2011 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction which recognizes dental hygienists who make a positive difference in the lives of their patients and students.
Bellert and the seven other recipients who hail from New Jersey, Connecticut, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana were selected for their commitment to education, clinical practice and community service. Bellert’s journey is a testament to her commitment to oral hygiene and the education of hygienists.
A proud member of the fifth graduating SCC Dental Hygiene class, Bellert’s commitment to oral healthcare education began shortly after she graduated from Shoreline’s program in 1974. Although her passion lies with anything and everything about dental hygiene, she feels most passionate about the opportunity for hygienists to perform restorative dentistry, the practice of preparing the mouth for drilling and filling the tooth after drilling by the dentist. Prior to 1971 only dentists could perform the restorative work but a state law passed that year gave hygienists the green light to do it yet few dentists allowed their hygienists to do the work.
“I have always believed allowing dental hygienists to perform restorative work would make the dental team more efficient in the treatment of patients,” Bellert said, “and I really wanted to do what I could to support moving toward that practice.”
Working with Dr. Gerald Murdock, former instructor in the SCC Dental Hygiene program; Marcia Cotlove, another SCC graduate and another dental assistant via a University of Washington Kellogg grant and an HEW grant, Bellert traveled throughout the state training hygienists and dental assistants the ins-and-outs of restorative practices.
Shortly afterward, Bellert began her 16 year career working in private practice where she was able to continue her work in restorative dentistry. Her experience in both traditional dental hygiene and restorative practices prepared her well for her teaching role at Shoreline which began one day a week in 1975. Bellert then moved to part-time and then to full-time in 1999.
Bellert says she is proud of the college’s program, which includes restorative training.
“Our students are really good at this,” Bellert said, mentioning that the dentists who work on campus in the restorative clinic often say how talented our students are. Students and Bellert hear from patients all the time at how painless the injections that students give are.
Bellert was also acknowledged by Sunstar/RDH for her work with Smiles Forever, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that started the first dental hygiene school in Bolivia, South America. Students enrolled in the study abroad program, "Oral Health Training in Bolivia: Increasing the Opportunity for Young Women Living in Poverty," train young indigenous women in Cochabamba, Bolivia to become dental hygienists. The Smiles Forever Dental Hygiene School is the first and only dental hygiene training facility and clinic in Bolivia.
“Working with Smiles Forever has opened up a new horizon for me and provided a venue for me to teach what I know to a population where the need is great,” Bellert said, going on to say that it is unique in that it gives homeless young women a chance to build a career.
Bellert will leave for Bolivia on August 20, taking eight students, three from Shoreline, two from Yakima, one from Pierce, one from Columbia Basin community colleges. A public health practicing hygienist is also a part of the group. The students will volunteer at the clinic, local shelters and rural villages in addition to training students at the school.
The group will take dental equipment for the Bolivian school donated by the Hartzell Company, Sunstar Gum, Colgate, Proctor and Gamble, 3M Company, the Institute for Oral Health, Young Dental, North Bay BioScience, Patterson Dental, Dentsply International and Ultradent. Individuals also donated $1,270 for the cause.
“The Hartzell Company donated cassettes with instruments so that 10 Bolivian students can have their very own set of tools,” she said, “It was an incredibly generous donation. It is going to be really wonderful to see their faces when we give them to the students.”
Bellert teaches a full range of courses including Dental Anatomy, Restorative Materials and Procedures and Advanced Pain Control as well as restorative classes. She also teaches restorative skill with the EFDA program at Seattle Central Community College.
Bellert traveled to Chicago last month to receive her award at the RDH convention where the editor of RDH magazine spoke.
“Sunstar and RDH place a very high value on acknowledging the various ways dental hygienists are very distinctive with their contributions to private practice, community outreach, and education,” Mark Hartley said.
Bellert and the other awardees will be the cover story in the September 2011 issue.