CODHA Explorer April 2022
Meet the CODHA Leadership
Alyssa Aberle MBA RDH
FACT: There are 24 hours in a day. However, after I interviewed Alyssa and learned all that she does, it’s apparent that she somehow has more than the typical 24-hour day. Plus, after reading this article, I am confident that you will agree that there is nothing “typical” about Alyssa. So, please sit back and enjoy (as I did) getting to know Alyssa Aberle, CODHA Executive Administrator.
Cynthia Fong, RDH, Co-Editor CODHA Explorer
Thirteen years ago, you started your dental hygiene career after completing a BS in Dental Hygiene from the University of Colorado, followed by an MBA degree in business in 2013. What opportunities did your degrees give you as a dental hygienist?
Immediately after I graduated hygiene school in 2009, I was hired for a six-month, temporary position by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to assist with its school-based sealant grant program. In this role I was responsible for supporting the hygienists who worked in the school-based sealant programs and working with the program data. My next position, which began in 2010, was with “Kids in Need of Dentistry (KIND), which “is a non-profit organization that provides high-quality, affordable dental care to children in need throughout Colorado.” (https://kindsmiles.org) KIND’s grant allowed me to provide clinical dental treatment in their Commerce City clinic to children from underserved communities. Concomitantly, KIND had partnered with the newly created Colorado Orthodontic Foundation (COF). When I wasn’t providing clinical treatment, I helped with administrative tasks for the Foundation. When I left KIND in May of 2011, I continued to stay involved with COF and was appointed to their Board of Directors.
Then, my career path moved toward clinical dental hygiene with federally qualified health centers (FQHC). My first FQHC position was with Salud Family Health Center, “a non-profit which operates 13 clinic locations, 11 school sites, and a mobile unit.” The Center provides medical and oral health care to community and migrant populations. (www.saludclinic.org) My next FQHC position was at the Stride Community Health Center. Its vision is to empower individuals “to live the lives they want through personalized, compassionate healthcare.” Stride partners with “the community to provide excellent, culturally-sensitive health services to meet the needs of each individual.” (https://stridechc.org)
I currently work three days a week at Stride CHC. My responsibilities are equally split between clinical dental hygiene and administration. Fifty percent of my time, I work in a school-based oral health program. The other fifty percent of my time, I work in our collaborative medical/dental integration program seeing patients who are in our clinic for visits with their medical provider. These visits include screenings, caries risk assessment, education, and fluoride treatments.
I believe that combining my clinical dental hygiene and business educational backgrounds have opened many opportunities for me as a dental hygienist.
When and why did your involvement with CODHA begin?
As a dental hygiene student at the University of Colorado, I was surrounded by faculty that was also involved with the leadership of CODHA (Deb Astroth, Terri Tillis, Linda Ballard, Kim Laudenslager, and more). Students were “expected” to be active in our student chapter of ADHA. Fortunately, leadership wasn’t new to me since I had been involved with my high school student government. In dental hygiene school, I served as both President and Vice-President my school’s student chapter of ADHA. Two years after I graduated, I was contacted by Terri Tillis, who was serving as CODHA Vice President, who wanted to nominate me to serve as her successor. Subsequently, I served as CODHA Vice-President, President-Elect and was installed as CODHA President (2014-2015) when my son was six weeks old.
How did your current position as CODHA Executive Administrator evolve?
In 2016, I became the first Executive Administrator (EA) for the CODHA. It was a position I helped CODHA create because of my knowledge of the association gained when I served on its Board. As the EA, I am an independent contractor and am compensated for working approximately eight hours a week. The position appealed to me because I had flexibility in my schedule to attend various professional meetings on weekdays. In addition, as a MBA candidate, I was required to complete a capstone project (www.edglossary.org/capstone-project and www.cde.state.co.us), which was a culmination of all my coursework that is applied into practice. I chose to focus on non-profit organizations. The knowledge I gained in my degree, and my project has been tremendously helpful as I serve as CODHA EA.
(Co-Editor’s Comment: Anyone involved with CODHA knows that Alyssa is readily available, including nights and weekends, which is well beyond the eight hours she is compensated. In addition, in the last six years, the scope of the EA’s responsibilities has immensely expanded. As a result, CODHA has recently received a grant which will enable the association to increase the EA’s compensation to three days a week.)
What motivates you to “keep going” for CODHA?
CODHA has established itself, especially during the COVID pandemic, as the “go-to” resource for accurate and current information about the profession of dental hygiene in the state of Colorado. At times, when state governmental agencies disseminate incorrect information, CODHA immediately intervenes to eliminate any confusion. Ultimately, dental hygienists want to follow the rules, but there aren’t many reliable sources of information available. CODHA fills that role. I am genuinely motivated by an internal sense of duty to CODHA and my fellow dental hygiene colleagues.
What advice would you give to either recent graduates or mid-career dental hygienists?
My first advice is to get involved in their local component and state professional association. Participating in CODHA and ADHA provides individuals with a sense of belonging to a larger group. This is especially important if you are employed in a small group clinical practice. In addition, the opportunity to network, learn, collaborate, and be “energized” by other dental hygienists is invaluable. Some of my closest friendships were made when I got involved in my professional association.
Next, I would encourage dental hygienists to explore all the available opportunities within clinical practice. For example, consider expanding routine dental hygiene treatment to include providing silver diamine fluoride (SDF), interim therapeutic restorations (ITR), and even oral myofunctional therapy. Dental hygienists could also look beyond opportunities outside of traditional clinical practice. The administrative, education, corporate and non-profit opportunities I have experienced all began with the foundation I acquired with my dental hygiene degree.
Lastly, I would advise everyone to “take the time to rest.” Finding balance in your professional and personal life helps you to stay focused on your personal values and find time for what’s most important in your life. My time with my family and volunteering with my church are things that refresh me.
(Co-Editor’s Comment: Without question, Alyssa follows her own advice, but she might need to heed her advice to “take time to rest.”) 😉
How would you spend time if you had a free day with no limitations on time or money?
Good question. I would find a park, relax in a hammock, put in my earbuds, and listen to either music (90’s pop) or a podcast. Since I love to dance, I might also take a dance class. Salsa would be fun! As a child, I took many dance classes and enjoyed them.
I know that your ability to succeed professionally must be directly related to the support you receive from your family. Therefore, please introduce your family to the readers.
I married my husband, Cheyenne, in the Fall of 2013, immediately after I completed my graduate degree. He is an engineer who has been working from home since COVID began. Often, I can only fulfill my CODHA responsibilities, especially when there are multiple virtual zoom meetings in the evenings and on weekends, because Cheyenne double parents on many occasions. Our children, Dax (age 7); Jet (age 5); and Zoe (age 2 ½), keep us busy but are the primary focus of our lives. We love to go boating, take trips to our houseboat on Lake Powell, and enjoy outdoor activities together. Our kids recently got their National Park passports and have already checked quite a few off their lists.
Co-Editor’s Closing: It was a pleasure to get to know Alyssa Aberle. She truly has a servant’s heart, as evidenced by her choice to provide clinical dental treatment to the underserved, her educational interest in non-profit organizations, and her serving as the Executive Administrator for CODHA. Thank you, Alyssa, for all that you have done to advance the profession of dental hygiene. I can only imagine what contributions you will make in the future!