Award-winning professor of dental hygiene to retire

Jessica Stallings

Phyllis Maddox, assistant professor of dental hygiene, retires at the end of the spring semester and was the recipient of the 2013 Sydney L. Sadelle Berger Faculty Community Service Award.

This award was established in 1996 by Charles L. and Leslie Berger in honor of their parents and recognizes a USI faculty member for distinguished community service.

“I always wanted to make sure that the dental hygiene students were adequately prepared whenever they went into the private practice,” Maddox said. “Whenever they would have patients that came in for care, if they had the previous opportunity to work with someone who did have a disability, they would feel more confident when they went into practice.”

Maddox holds a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene education from Indiana State University Evansville and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.

Prior to coming to USI in 1978, she worked as a dental hygiene practitioner for four years in the Evansville area.

She helped with the development of a partnership between the USI dental hygiene program and the Oncology Unit at Deaconess Hospital, where students administer to the dental needs of critically ill patients.

She also participated in the Vanderburgh County Jail’s biannual health fair, supporting dental hygiene students as they educated inmates on good oral care practices.

Maddox said she has learned everything from USI and that the university has given her a lot of opportunities that she would have never been able to have otherwise.

“I think the best thing about USI is that if you find something that you are passionate with, there are a lot of people who are there to make sure that you get to do those things where your passion lies,” Maddox said.

Maddox said one of her favorite memories was when the dental equipment was supposed to come in but there was some type of delay and she couldn’t figure out what was going on.

“Deborah Wolf and I ended up staying there, well into the night, and even had to call in and find other people who might be able to help get all this equipment in,” Maddox said. “We thought it was pretty comical because here we were, in the middle of the night, trying to get all this equipment in.”

Maddox made many friends while at USI and said it’s one of her favorite things.

“One of the best things for me was having made friendships at USI and continuing to maintain those friendships,” Maddox said.

Jennifer Bartek, dental hygiene clinical assistant professor, said she has known Maddox since 1981 when she came to USI as a student.

“I have been blessed with knowing her with a lot of different hats, starting at her advisee as a student, then as a clinical instructor with her, a colleague,” Bartek said. “And, of course, I consider her a friend and mentor.”

Bartek said Maddox impacted every single student that came through the dental hygiene department and guided them towards professionalism.

“She was an influential guide to being a health professional,” Bartek said. “She taught me the very core of what it means to be a dental professional.”

A student-to-teacher relationship evolved into a coworker relationship. Bartek said she was blessed by Maddox’s friendship.

“We were able to bounce ideas off of each other, try new things in the clinic together, (team-teach) radiology together, and then (have) lunches at Logan Roadhouse where we would continue to talk about work,” Bartek said.

Bartek said she has so many great memories about Maddox that she will never forget.

“One of my favorite things about her was (when) she used to love to say ‘I’m not sure you’re picking up what I’m laying down’ when she thought someone didn’t understand something,” Bartek said. “It makes me laugh every time I think about it.”

Bartek said when she was her student, Maddox would change into her slippers to stay comfortable.

“If the day was getting exceptionally long and we had a lot to accomplish in that time period, she would slip on those house shoes and get busy,” Bartek said.

Bartek said Maddox had an ability to make her realize what was important each day.

“When you deal with my personality that is very high strong, it didn’t take much for Phyllis to make me realize what was important that day,” Bartek said. “She was good for me in that way.”

Bartek said Maddox would always made sure there was a schedule and that everyone got opportunities to work for service learning endeavors.

“It was hard for her to say no,” Bartek said. “She would always try and work people into the schedule and typically she would have to rope in a faculty (member) or two, whether it be to chaperone students with the activity or she just needed help.”

Bartek said Maddox’s scrubs and lab coats were always perfectly pressed and she was always setting a good example for everyone.

“She was unrelenting when it came to paying it forward to your profession,” Bartek said. “She always attended every local meeting, setting an example of how important it is to be involved in your profession – that’s who I learned that from.”

Deborah Wolf, dental hygiene program director, said she and Maddox did a lot of collaborating in the early days of the program.

“It quickly became evident that community oral and public health was Phyllis’s passion,” Wolf said. “As the program grew, she took over that portion of the (curriculum).”

Wolf said Maddox has been involved in the education of almost every graduate of this program and has taught the students the importance of contributing to the community.

“She instilled in them the importance and the desire to go out and do the kinds of things she did,” Wolf said. “That has reached out where our graduates are, and we are talking all around the United States.”

Wolf said the department is in the process of an active faculty search for a new member.

“They are some big shoes to fill, and whoever is in there will fill it in a different way,” Wolf said.