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Michele Darby Gets National Lifetime Achievement Award

head and shoulders photo of Michele Darby Michele Darby

Michele Darby, who recently retired as Eminent Scholar, professor and chair at Old Dominion University's Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene, has received the 2013 Dimensions of Dental Hygiene's Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was announced at the American Dental Hygienists' Association annual meeting in Boston.

Co-winner of the award was Margaret Walsh, a faculty member in the Master of Science Degree Program in Dental Hygiene at the University of California, San Francisco. Darby and Walsh are co-authors of the textbook "Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice," which will be released soon in its fourth edition.

The professional journal Dimensions of Dental Hygiene joined with corporate sponsor Colgate to establish the Esther Wilkins Lifetime Achievement Award, which is named for the author of the textbook "Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist," now in its 11th edition. Wilkins was presented the inaugural award in 2010.

The award citation for Darby and Walsh notes their "enduring contributions to the advancement of dental hygiene" and the ways they have "profoundly influenced dental hygiene education and research through their commitment to scholarship, leadership and scientific investigation."

"When you think of dental hygiene and Old Dominion University, the first name that comes to mind is Michele Darby," wrote Gayle McCombs, Darby's colleague at ODU, in an endorsement that was printed in the award brochure. "She is such a big part of ODU that you can't separate them. When you think of the roles of the dental hygienist and how these have evolved over the years, Michele has always been at the forefront as an advocate, researcher, educator and administrator." McCombs is a professor, graduate program director and director of the Dental Hygiene Research Center at the Hirschfeld School.

Darby started at the University of Pittsburgh with her sights set on a certificate in dental hygiene, but faculty members recognized her potential and encouraged her to continue her education, which she did at Columbia University in New York. She received bachelor's and master's degrees in dental hygiene from Columbia and taught there briefly before joining ODU in 1974.

She is known for attention to detail in her teaching, mentoring and writing. She also stresses the responsibilities dental hygiene professionals have to a global society. In 1981, Darby went to the People's Republic of China as part of the first delegation of visiting professionals to share dental hygiene concepts and techniques with Chinese dentists. She also has lectured throughout the Middle East and both Eastern and Western Europe. In 2010, as a Fulbright Scholar, she spent six months in Irbid, Jordan, at the Jordan University of Science and Technology to help raise standards of education and practice. As a result of her work in Jordan she received the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award in Dental Hygiene from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine.

Closer to home, Darby received the Outstanding Faculty Award in 1993 from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Darby has published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals and written another textbook, "Mosby's Comprehensive Review of Dental Hygiene," now in its 7th edition (the 8th edition is due out in 2015). She has been editor of Educational Directions and associate editor of the International Journal of Dental Hygiene.

Included in the Lifetime Achievement award brochure is a photo of Darby, with husband Dennis, who also retired this summer as professor of oceanography at ODU, and their son Blake, who has a Ph.D. in engineering, and daughter Devan, a physician.

Darby says she has several writing projects ahead of her, but for the near future she wants to focus on spending time with her family.