Where it all began
Nancy Dodson’s favorite thing about practicing dental hygiene doesn’t necessarily have to do with the profession.
“I just like to talk,” she says. “I see my patients every six months, and they’ll talk to me about their kids, and I’ll talk to them about my kids. My patients are No. 1.”
They are what has kept her practicing 50 years. She still works one day a week at the Ennis, Texas, office of Dr. Lindsey Clark-Fass. It’s where Dodson has spent the majority of her career, working the previous 45 years for the dentist who originally owned the practice.
During a Sept. 15 class reunion and tour, Dodson and her husband, Bill, glance out the windows of the dental hygiene lounge at Texas A&M College of Dentistry, and they lay eyes upon the adjacent building. It’s Baylor University Medical Center, and it conjures up a memory for them both — to that morning 15 years ago that started out so routine, changing pace without warning when Dodson experienced a brain aneurysm and mild stroke, landing her in the ICU at the hospital next door, where she lay unconscious for two weeks. Several weeks at the hospital’s inpatient rehab center came next.
Doctors told her she’d never talk again. Dodson was undeterred — after all, she had patients to see. Six months later, once she had re-learned how to speak, and even how to process color, sorting out yellow hues from blue ones, she returned to practice.
Even her husband quipped about the underlying reason for her drive to return to work after the aneurysm: “She loves to talk, and she has a captive audience,” Bill Dodson says. As Dodson walked the College of Dentistry halls, she recalled a highlight during her time at Caruth all those years ago: being one of the first dental hygiene students to volunteer on the Honduras mission trip, a two-week affair that required Dodson, who to this day detests flying, to take a “puddle jumper” to a remote village deep in the heart of the Central American country.
Nearly every time the tour of reunion-goers — 12 in all — rounded a corner, someone, or something, evoked a memory.
“We didn’t sit. We stood,” Margaret Hicks remarked as the alumni breezed through the dental hygiene clinic, where students were treating each other in preparation for patient care.
Memory built upon memory.
“We had belt-driven handpieces,” Hicks recalled. “When the children came, we would put cotton on it, and they thought it was a rabbit.” That image brought to mind the unfortunate fate of one dental student’s toupee, when he leaned in just a bit too close to the contraption. The story made the rounds among dental and dental hygiene students alike during that time, and today it still prompts laughter.
There were even memories of some of the classmates’ first patients, youths living at Buckner Children’s Home.
“Those little kids knew everything,” Hicks said. “We would see these little children, and they would tell us what to do, because they had been coming here.”
At the outset of the tour, Dean Lawrence Wolinsky met with the class to share details on how the dental hygiene program at the College of Dentistry continues to grow, with plans for training in a group practice setting in the works for 2019, when the college’s new clinic and education building is scheduled for completion.
“People love their dentists, but they love their hygienists even more,” Wolinsky said. “You should be very proud of this program.”