Voice of dental hygiene

Colleagues describe her as the matriarch of the department, a constant ally for Caruth students and team members alike. After more than 30 years on the college faculty, this director is now a retiree.
September 15th, 2016

Dr. Janice DeWald during the Sept. 9 Caruth LuncheonHer list of career highlights is succinct yet substantial. There was the presentation to the International Federation of Dental Hygienists that could safely be considered a mix of business with pleasure, and for no other reason than the venue’s location: Florence, Italy. Working on Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s 2005 centennial was another high point, including the thank you notes received from stalwart college supporter Dr. Robert Walker, who sent them to every member of the planning committee after each meeting. Carrying the baton during the centennial convocation later that year is etched in her memory, as is the dental hygiene profession’s 100-year anniversary, recognized a bit more recently in 2013.

“There are lots of good memories, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Dr. Janice DeWald, professor emerita of dental hygiene, told an audience of 100 colleagues, students, alumni and friends during the annual Caruth School of Dental Hygiene luncheon on Sept. 9.

Dr. Janice DeWald, then a first-year dental hygiene student at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, with her first pediatric dentistry patient

Dr. Janice DeWald, then a first-year dental hygiene student at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, with her first pediatric dentistry patient: “I have this expression on my face of patience and love,” DeWald says, “but I was terrified the whole time. We were participating in ‘Tell, Show, Do,’ and we were doing all this telling and showing, but when were we going to get around to doing? I was worried he wouldn’t end up getting in the chair so I could clean his teeth; he did, and all ended well!” Photo: University of Iowa dental hygiene recruiting brochure

The days leading up to DeWald’s Aug. 31 retirement as director and chair of dental hygiene — a post she maintained for 23 years, preceded by nine years in what was then the College of Dentistry’s operative dentistry department — were marked with gatherings and reflections from those who have worked with her, many for the majority of their careers.

“On occasion, Dr. DeWald reminds me that I was in the first class she accepted into the dental hygiene program,” said Leigh Ann Wyatt ’96, ’10 during DeWald’s Aug. 26 retirement reception. “To which I always reply, ‘Well, then, you are either to thank or to blame for the fact that this place can’t get rid of me,’” added Wyatt, now clinical assistant professor and program director in dental hygiene.

Her remarks were peppered with the lighthearted — DeWald’s minimalist packing abilities for cross-country conferences lasting several days ranked high among them — and the significant: “She is quick to stand up for students, to assume the best of them. She remains neutral until she hears all sides, which is a gift in itself. She has taught me that it is worth it to expect much from students and to expect much of ourselves in giving students an education that sets them apart from other hygiene schools both near and far.”

Dianna Prachyl ’94, ’00, now senior vice president of community health for JPS Health Network, was already a student when DeWald began her tenure as director.

“The Class of ’94 had the pleasure of initiating Janice into the program,” Prachyl said during the luncheon, recalling that banner year when DeWald listened so intently to her students’ concerns, some of them perhaps seeming a bit more monumental than they were in reality.

“It probably didn’t help that all of us went on a diet that year,” Prachyl joked, referring to the rollercoaster of behaviors that resulted. Nevertheless, “She shepherded us through our boards and beamed at our scores.”

DeWald’s purveyance isn’t limited to students.

Lisa Mallonee, dental hygiene professor and graduate program director, refers to DeWald as the “matriarch of our department — our guiding light and No. 1 ally. She always made sure that we were represented and had a voice in any and all decisions that might have an impact on the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene.”

Even Dean Lawrence Wolinsky remarked at her steadfast persistence on behalf of her students and team.

“Anytime there are any problems that impact her department, I will hear about it from Janice by the end of the day,” he said during the luncheon. “When I look around this room and see all these people sitting here of different ages and different places in life, it’s really a testament to Janice. I would venture to say she has touched thousands of individuals in the state, country and world.”

— Jennifer Fuentes