Theresa Bonn, RDH, MSA has traveled a nontraditional career path to her current role, which is sometimes at the center of controversy. Theresa serves as the Adolescent and Adult Immunization Analyst at the Ohio Department of Health.
“My educational background is in a different order than most,” says Theresa. “I attended Miami University right after graduating high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in consumer sciences in 1988. I worked in that field for 12 years until I decided to pursue a career with more autonomy.”
Theresa decided to study dental hygiene.
“My mom worked in a dental office when I was growing up and I always enjoyed going to the dentist as a kid,” says Theresa. “We would usually go in December and start the day at the dentist, then go Christmas shopping and to see Santa. I’ve always had a very positive association with it.”
Since attending Sinclair and completing her dental hygiene degree in 2003, Theresa has been able to take her positive perspective of healthcare and share it with others.
“When I completed my degree at Sinclair I accepted a job as a clinical hygienist at a private practice,” says Theresa. “I had such a great experience at Sinclair that I also became an adjunct instructor in the dental hygiene program and taught one day a week.”
While working and teaching, Theresa decided to return to school to continue to advance her education. “I wanted to contribute on a larger scale than I could in a private practice as a clinical hygienist,” says Theresa.
Theresa earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration in 2012 and accepted a position as an Oral Health Specialist with the Ohio Department of Health in 2013.
“When I first began at the Ohio Department of Health, I split my time in Oral Health between serving as the Preventive Services Coordinator and the Maternal-Child Coordinator,” says Theresa.
Theresa coordinated the Oral Health Section’s statewide community water fluoridation efforts. This included working in conjunction with the Centers of Disease Control, local government officials, water plant personnel, professional organizations, health care providers and the public on the technical, public policy, and scientific aspects of community water fluoridation. Additionally, she developed guidelines to integrate oral health into educational and clinical components of state funded early childhood programs, promoted oral health to women of child-bearing age, educated children on oral health, and contributed to efforts to fight oral cancer through promoting the HPV vaccine.
While Theresa worked as the Oral Health Specialist, she also continued to teach in the Dental Health Sciences department at Sinclair.
“I still kept one day of teaching because I liked working with students,” says Theresa. “Being a faculty member probably made me a better practitioner because I had to stay on top of the latest trends and current best practices. In turn, being a provider made me a better educator. It was a good mix for me.”
In 2016, Theresa had to step back from teaching when she accepted a new position and her current role within the Ohio Department of Health’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases as the Adolescent and Adult Immunization Analyst.
Theresa is responsible for helping keep Ohioans healthy and preventing the spread of preventable diseases.
“In my current role, I promote vaccinations to adolescents and adults in Ohio,” says Theresa. “If 90% of the population is vaccinated it creates herd immunity to those who are unable to be vaccinated: like infants, people who are immunocompromised, or people who can’t get vaccinated because of underlying conditions. When people receive vaccinations, it prevents outbreaks of avoidable—sometimes life-threatening diseases—and helps keep everyone healthy.”
Immunizations are a hot-button issue, often surrounded by controversy and appearing in national media outlets. But when Theresa encounters opposition, she is not deterred.
“I’ve experienced resistance throughout my career, whether it has been from patients in the dentist’s office or in my current role helping educate people on vaccinations,” says Theresa. “But I’ve always been in it to improve health. Right now, my focus is on increasing state-wide vaccination rates and having more Ohioans stay healthy by safe-guarding them from diseases that can be prevented.”
When reflecting on her career path, Theresa can attest to the relevance and importance of inter-professional experiences in the healthcare world, which Sinclair’s new Health Sciences Center will help cultivate for students.
“In my career, I have loved being able to collaborate with different health sciences specialists,” says Theresa. “Whether it has been looking at how oral health relates to cardiovascular health, or how tobacco cessation programs can collaborate with oral health, or the work I’ve done with oral health and immunizations—when different specialties work together, it creates more opportunities for our community to stay healthy.”
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