A Manitowoc dental hygienist has earned national recognition for her work to make life a little better—and safer--for cancer patients. Jill Meyer-Lippert is one of eight dental hygienists who received the 2014 Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction. A profile of the award recipients appears in the September 2014 issue of RDH magazine.
Jill founded Side Effect Support LLC, a company that provides information and helpful products for oncology patients, who can suffer uncomfortable and even fatal consequences from not having dental care before certain treatments. Her company offers a steady supply of oral care products for oncology patients, and training and resources for dental health professionals.
The award was “quite a surprise,” she said. “I couldn’t wait to share the good news with my family and friends. It feels awesome, yet humbling to be recognized for all of my hard work and efforts to make a change in the level of care provided to those in need.”
Jill began her dental career in 1992, studying Dental Hygiene at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and working as a dental office receptionist. Shortly thereafter, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her mother experienced severe oral discomfort, but there did not seem to be any professional approach to preventing or reducing the symptoms. Jill received her Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene in 1994.
“I didn’t specifically go into hygiene with the idea or goal to focus on the oral needs of cancer patients, but it evolved that way through my personal and professional experiences,” she said. “I found out that there were very few resources and a lack of information available for patients or professionals on this subject, so I wanted to find a way to fill that need.”
In 2006, she lost her father to cancer, and she accelerated her efforts. She created a volunteer program to offer “goody bags” of information and product samples to patients undergoing chemotherapy or head and neck radiation. By 2012, strong demand and a troubled economy had outstripped her suppliers’ ability to donate materials.
“I simply could not continue the volunteer program as it was,” she said. “I had to make a decision to either discontinue the program or take a leap of faith and expand our reach.”
Then she met a young local woman who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. She had already undergone six months of radiation and surgery in preparation for chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants “which can all have profound oral effects,” Jill said.
“She informed me that not once in those six months since diagnosis was she told by anyone on her medical team to seek a dental exam and any necessary care prior to starting her new treatments. Entering extensive chemotherapy and stem cell transplants with dental decay and infections can have deadly consequences.”
Luckily, the woman was able to get needed dental care before her new treatments and “had wonderful results. She is currently in remission and living a very happy and full life. It means the world to me to think that I played even a small part with making her journey more comfortable and successful.”
She took the leap and started her own company, Side Effect Support, which offers low-cost dental products, online information and articles to benefit oncology patients and their professional caregivers.
Jill currently works at Legacy Dental, Manitowoc. She also makes on-site presentations for medical and dental offices and cancer support groups. Resources are available through her company web site, www.sideeffectsupport.com, which includes blogs and articles for Survivors, Caregivers and Medical/Dental Professionals. The web site also has links to her company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
When she’s not at the office, Jill is also finding new ways to serve and to mobilize her industry. She reports that she is co-organizer for Wisconsin’s Inaugural Oral Cancer Foundation Walk/Run, to be held in Pewaukee in October of 2015. She enthusiastically invites the public—especially professionals, students and instructors in dental hygiene, dental assisting and nursing—to become involved.
RDH Magazine and Sunstar honored the eight dental hygienists for their contributions to oral health care with a ceremony in Chicago. This is the 13th year Sunstar Americas and RDH magazine have collaborated in a search to recognize dental hygienists who make a difference in their communities. Meyer-Lippert said she believes she is only the third award recipient from Wisconsin.