Jehn becomes first dental therapist to deliver White Coat Ceremony keynote

Janelle Jehn speaks at a podium

When Janelle Jehn, BSDT ’13, ADT ’16, provided the keynote address for this year’s White Coat Ceremony, it marked a milestone for her and for the program. She became the first dental therapist to provide the address. 

Jehn was among the first students to pursue dental therapy, after the school instituted the program in 2009. 

“The mission and intention for dental therapy was what interested me initially, and it has continued to motivate me and drive the work I do every day,” she said. “I could not miss out on the opportunity to be one of the first in a profession that was strategically designed to help meet a need and fill a dental care gap. The mission of dental therapy is powerful, and I wanted to be innovative and support closing the gap in my community.” 

That mission propelled Jehn through school and to where she is now—an Advanced Dental Therapist and the dental director at Southside Community Health Services. 

It is an excellent fit for Jehn, as the organization shares common goals with dental therapy. “Southside’s mission mirrors the mission of dental therapy: improving the health of our patients and communities by delivering excellent care, removing barriers and promoting healthy lifestyles,” Jehn explained. “My professional career and growth have been greatly fueled and supported by Southside, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.” 

The work is not easy. Being at the forefront of a field came with its challenges, and Jehn had to face many unknowns. But her patients make all the difference. 

“The patients are so appreciative of the care they receive,” she said. “I feel like my skills are valued and utilized, and that’s so important to feeling necessary.” 

Jehn also thrives on diving into the unknown. It is a skill she highlighted in her keynote address, where she encouraged learners to remain curious. After all, curiosity is what brought Jehn to where she is today. 

“There was so much unknown when I joined the dental therapy program, and I had no idea where this profession would take me. But I remained curious,” she shared in her keynote address. “And I have had opportunities that I could not even think nor dream of when I was sitting in these seats 13 years ago.” 

Sharing those opportunities, Jehn hoped to instill in attendees the need to remain open, to try new things and to focus on their motivation, “leading every decision with your ‘why.’” 

The opportunity to provide these words of wisdom was momentous for Jehn, who was “honored and most grateful” to take the stage. “Words cannot describe how honored I feel,” she shared before giving her address, “but I am going to try to put it into words at the ceremony!” 

Above all, Jehn knows that this opportunity, along with all the other great opportunities she has experienced in her career, is not one she achieved alone. 

“It takes a community, a family or a village,” she said. “This opportunity, and every opportunity, would not be possible without everyone who has supported me throughout my career. I’m so grateful for my community.” t