and you thought your commute was bad...
…a conversation with Elaine Powell, Compliance Auditor with dentalcorp
I spent a rewarding 30 minutes with Elaine Powell, Compliance Auditor, who entertained and enlightened me with some amazing stories from her career as a dental professional, including what it was like commuting to work on a dog sled.
Tell us about your background – how long have you been with dentalcorp and what were you doing before you joined?
I’ve been with dentalcorp for 2 years, and I have 40 years experience working in dentistry. I was a Dental Therapist.
I’m not familiar with that profession – what is a Dental Therapist?
Dental therapists are qualified to perform restorations and extractions and may be employed by federal or provincial governments to provide oral health care services in rural and remote communities.
Where did your work take you?
I worked in several First Nations communities in Northern Canada, providing oral health care to the residents – both children and adults. These are extremely isolated communities. The most remote was Gjoa Haven in the northwest passage, and there was Gods Lake Narrows in Manitoba, among others.
You must have some interesting stories to tell!
Oh yes - the commute alone could be quite a tale. I’ve used various modes of transportation to get to work in my career but my commutes in Northern Canada were something else. I went to work by skidoo, floatplane, helicopter, and my personal favourite: dog sled. One of the first things I had to do on the job was be outfitted with a skidoo suit for the -59c temperatures.
What was the path that led you to these remote places?
I’m originally from Scotland, and then lived and worked in London, England from the age of 14. I knew I wanted to help people in need. I ended up coming to Canada in 1974 but where I really wanted to go was Africa. At that time, Ebola was a huge risk, especially since gloves and masks weren’t even used in oral health in that part of the world. I chose to work with First Nations communities in Canada and saw things that were almost as shocking. 95% of children under the age of 5 needed full mouth clearances – all teeth removed – and they were living with the realities that come with that including abscesses and extreme pain.
Can you tell us a bit about your role on the Compliance team? What does a typical day look like?
As a Practice auditor, I do a lot of travelling to meet with Practice Managers and their teams. I provide support to them in all compliance matters. In a nutshell, my role is to ensure that all patients have a safe and effective oral health care experience, and that all team members have a safe and supportive place to work.
Tell me something about yourself that your co-workers would never guess?
Let’s see. Well, I have run 7 marathons. I danced onstage in Scotland and received the British award for tap dancing. I was involved in a movie production called Orca the Killer Whale where I worked in the editing department with John Bloom who’d won an Oscar for Ghandi. Another dalliance in film & television is that I own a bull that appeared on Game of Thrones. I sailed from Vancouver to Tahiti in a 42 foot sloop (sailboat). I’ve also climbed Mount Rainer and Mount St Helens.
What are your aspirations for personal and professional growth? Do you have a 5 year plan?
I love my job here. I love that all the people are from different, interesting backgrounds with such a range of experiences – so many differences and yet everyone is so respectful. My 5 year plan? It’s closely tied to my definition of success. This is the best, most satisfying job I’ve ever had – I’ve never had a crappy day at dentalcorp – and I want to do it as long as I can. My definition of success is finding something to do that makes you feel good and brings you personal satisfaction. It means finding success in what happens every day. I get to bring in new initiatives, constantly learn from my co-workers, and add my expertise to make a real difference. I feel that when you work at dentalcorp, the sky’s the limit.
What advice do you have for new team members joining dentalcorp’s Support Centre?
Spend some time looking around the Community website. Make sure you say hello to people in the kitchen and tell them who you are. Tell them what you do. Ask them if you can help them in their job. Attend social events and don’t just stay within your own group. That’s how you weave yourself into the dentalcorp fabric and form these important entanglements.