Mar 6, 2007    #034
Contact: Amanda Lepper
(816) 235-1592

UMKC alumna Rebecca Wilder honored for national leadership in dental hygiene

More than three decades ago, Rebecca Wilder began a career in the dental profession on a whim when she landed a part-time job working in a local dental office during high school. These days, the Greensboro, N.C., native is considered one of the nation’s foremost leaders in the dental hygiene industry and was recently selected by the University of Missouri-Kansas City to receive its 2006-07 Alumni Achievement Award.

Wilder, M.S., will accept the award under the banner of the UMKC School of Dentistry Division of Dental Hygiene at the Alumni Association’s dinner and program. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 19, 2007, in the Swinney Recreation Center, 5030 Holmes St., on the UMKC campus.

Each year, one alumnus from each of the university’s 12 academic units is selected to receive the Alumni Achievement Award for his or her notable professional success and outstanding community service. Wilder earned a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene education at UMKC in 1979 and a master’s degree 1980. She has since gone on to become a leading educator and researcher in the field of dental hygiene.

Wilder currently serves as the director of the Graduate Dental Hygiene Program at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry. It was at the UNC School of Dentistry that she was first inspired to pursue a career in academia. After graduating from high school, Wilder’s first job was as a dental assistant in the school’s clinic, where she taught dental students how to work with a chairside assistant in patient care.

“That’s when I really got the bug for teaching, being in the academic environment, having that experience of teaching students and seeing the light turn on in their heads,” she said.

After graduating from Guilford Technical Community College with a degree in dental hygiene, Wilder left the only home she’d ever known and headed west to Kansas City, a land of kind people and surprisingly less humidity, she said.

“We were driving through Knoxville, Tenn., toward St. Louis where I was going to meet my future roommate, and the song ‘Kansas City Here I Come’ came on the radio,” she said. “It was just great; it was just like this was where I was supposed to be going.”

At UMKC, Wilder enjoyed small classes, accomplished instructors and an emphasis on student success. Even 30 years later, she said, UMKC still boasts the same high-quality program.

“The UMKC School of Dentistry, particularly the dental hygiene program, is still viewed nationally and internationally as being an extremely progressive program,” Wilder said.

It wasn’t long, however, before the song of the South was calling Wilder back home. After completing her education, Wilder took a job at Texas Woman’s University, where she taught for a year before returning to North Carolina. She was offered a teaching position at UNC in 1981 and was appointed director of the graduate program, one of only 11 of its kind, in 1986.

Aside from her teaching and administrative responsibilities, Wilder also has served as a consultant for leading dental companies, such as Colgate and Procter & Gamble. In addition, she’s frequently sought out to speak at prestigious dental conferences.

“Rebecca is nationally known for her expertise in periodontics and her knowledge about the dental hygiene process of care,” said Cynthia Amyot, B.S.D.H., Ed.D., director of the UMKC Division of Dental Hygiene.

Wilder’s research has been published numerous times in peer reviewed journals, including the Journal of Dental Hygiene, the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the Journal of Dental Education and the Journal of Dental Research. She currently is working on the second edition of “Dental Hygiene: Concepts, Cases and Competencies,” one of only three international comprehensive textbooks for dental hygienists. In January 2006, she was appointed editor in chief of the Journal of Dental Hygiene, the profession’s only empirical research journal and the publication in which Wilder’s very first research paper was published when she was a graduate student at UMKC.

The UMKC Alumni Achievement Award is among several recognitions bestowed upon Wilder in recent years. In 2002, she also received the Colgate/IADR Oral Health Research Award and the Pfizer/ADHA Excellence in Dental Hygiene Award.

UMKC is one of four University of Missouri campuses. It is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health and life sciences, and urban affairs.


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