The words were heartfelt and came in a letter from a UNC-Chapel Hill dental hygiene alumna in Richmond, Va.
“I wish the best for all of you, and remember your voices are still in our hearts and minds as we treat patients each and every day!”
Dr. Cheryl B. Billingsley, who received her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene in 1981, is now a private practice dentist and president of the Virginia Academy of General Dentistry, as well as the holder of two dental instrument patents.
Billingsley recalls the key role dental hygiene program leadership played in her development as a dental professional. “Without my education from UNC dental hygiene, I do not feel I would have been so prepared for every step,” she said.
More than 100 UNC-Chapel Hill dental hygiene alumni, faculty, staff and current students are expected to attend an Oct. 13 UNC-Chapel Hill Dental Hygiene Alumni Association breakfast, where they will have a chance to share their own perspectives with each other. The event, to be held 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Carolina Inn’s Old Well Room, will focus on building connections among alumni, students and faculty.
The event also will honor two former program directors: Eleanor A. Forbes, who was director from 1969 to 1980; and Kathleen E. Longbrake (formerly Morr), who was director from 1980 to 1985. Both served as faculty members for many years.
During their tenure as directors, Forbes and Longbrake shaped the curriculum to address professional and community issues through specialty tracks, making the UNC-Chapel Hill dental hygiene program one of the first to use this approach, said Dr. Sally Mauriello, director of the dental hygiene programs.
“Both have also influenced the lives of many individuals by imparting their strong ethical values, providing unwavering support and inspiring each person to strive to reach their maximum potential,” Mauriello said.
Previous commitments will keep Billingsley from being able to attend the event, but she felt compelled to send a letter letting the alumni association know the difference the program and its faculty members have made in her life.
Donna P. Warren-Morris, an alumnus and former UNC-Chapel Hill dental hygiene faculty member, also recounts the preparation and support she received from the program. She will be the guest speaker at the breakfast event. Dean John N. Williams also will offer remarks.
“When you’re going through school, you can’t really understand just how strong the program is or the level of background or depth and breadth of information you’re getting,” said Warren-Morris. “It has become very obvious to me that I got a very excellent education. The program has a tremendous dedication to service and knowledge and an appreciation for the importance of research.”
The alumni association also will launch an alumni mentorship program at the Oct. 13 event. The mentorship program is designed to give current senior students additional support and information related to the many roles of the community hygienist.
“We hope that this will give senior students an opportunity to network with the dental health professionals in the area they plan to pursue in practice, help them practice their job interview skills and provide other helpful support,” said Mauriello.
Jonathan B. Owens, president of the alumni association, said the breakfast represented a day to reconnect with fellow alumni, students and faculty. “It’s a day to see old friends and make new ones – a special day to honor former program directors.”
Registration for the breakfast is $35 and includes UNC Dental Hygiene Alumni Association membership. Registration for guests who are not alumni is $20.
Those interested in attending should contact Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 260-0326 by Sept. 28.