Prepared for the journey
Dianna Prachyl might never have become a dental hygienist had it not been for an invitation, one extended almost in passing. Prachyl was on her front porch when Pat Campbell, now executive director of the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M College of Dentistry, invited her to tour the school. Prachyl was on a pre-nursing path at the time, she and Campbell had sons in the same Cub Scouts den, and their relationship wasn’t one that revolved around work. That was more than 25 years ago.
“I had not even thought of dental hygiene as a career until that moment,” Prachyl ’94, ’00 told a crowd of alumni and friends during the Sept. 15 homecoming reception at the Omni Dallas Hotel, as she accepted the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
She earned her bachelor’s in dental hygiene in 1994, but it was just a few years later when her career took a decidedly uncommon turn. The dental hygiene graduate program at the College of Dentistry had recently been approved, and those willing to pursue the degree could choose between an education or administrative track. Although Prachyl had taught at Caruth in those initial years after graduating, the concept of health care administration appealed to her.
It’s a move that has taken her on a path not often traveled by others in her field, beginning at Children’s Health in Dallas, where an initial role overseeing the dental clinic led to director-level positions in ambulatory services, to a different leadership opportunity in Fort Worth with John Peter Smith Health Network more than five years ago, where as senior vice president of community health, she oversees dozens of clinics — dental, medical, outpatient, school-based and specialty — across Tarrant County.
When it comes to sharing advice on how up-and-coming dental hygienists can diversify their own careers, Prachyl offers this wisdom: “Be very aware of your career and where it’s going. You own your career development as an individual. That’s the advice I give every student.
“We should be mentally and emotionally prepared for opportunities that come our way. If we miss that door, we may not be able to get back in again. The better prepared you are, the easier it will be to go on that journey.”