By Kristin Fields, ICE Editor
The annual ICE Exchange, held most recently during the fall of 2018, was the most-attended conference in the association’s history. The constant hum of people rang through the convention center halls, and many sessions were standing-room only. During this event, ICE honored a few of its members for outstanding achievements in the field, including Cynthia Durley, MEd, MBA, recipient of the ICE Lifetime Achievement award.
As Durley addressed the crowd during the awards ceremony, she noted 23 of her 50 career-long mentors were present, a significant percentage and just one indication of the longevity of her participation as a member of ICE. She noted that opportunities to regularly interact with industry leaders (who are or become friends) are what keeps her active in ICE. Durley has spent her career dedicated to advancing the profession of dental assisting, upholding and promoting the value of credentialing, as well as making a point to learn from others, as evidenced by the many people she counts as mentors.
Her involvement with ICE began in 1983 when she attended her first Exchange. Unlike the 2018 ICE Exchange, this was a much smaller event. A handful of colleagues sat in a U-shape in a room, learning from each other. After all these years, Durley finds the core mission of the ICE Exchange to remain true.
“The first Exchange I attended felt very collegial, and I thought to myself, ‘I can learn a lot from these people. They’re the ones doing research in the field,’” she said in a recent interview with ICE. “I felt like I could talk to these colleagues and learn from them because everyone was so open. I still find that to be the case.”
Durley attended her first ICE Exchange with a specific purpose in mind. Relatively new to the field, she had been tasked by her employer at the time – the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) – to lead the charge in developing a certifying board for general dentists. Up until then, only specialists, such as orthodontists or oral surgeons, could be board certified, leaving few options for career growth or opportunities to lead to a professional designation for generalists in the field.
“That's when I started going to ICE [formerly National Commission for Health Certifying Agencies (NCHCA) and then National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA)] meetings. I was looking for information. The question of, ‘How do I go about doing this?’ is what I believe prompts a lot of first-timers to come to ICE,” Durley explained. “You get charged with a duty to develop something and you don't know where to start. Then you find this mecca of information and all kinds of people to support you in your search for innovative concepts and best practices.”
Durley has since been a longstanding member of ICE, holding various roles on ICE task forces, committees, as a Commissioner on the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and a Director on the ICE (then called NOCA) Board of Directors, serving as ICE President (now known as the Board Chair) in 2006.
“It was the participation in a variety of task forces and committees that engaged me even more than I had already been in the profession,” Durley said, noting her participation in ICE opened her eyes to the breadth and depth of what people were doing in the field, and the broad impact it had on certification.
Throughout her career, Durley has witnessed a number of changes in the field, as well. “When I started, there were no websites. There was no exam application processing online, no secure computerized test centers, and no digital badging or micro-credentials,” she said. “The whole concept of exam security was in its infancy.”
Today, Durley notes, the ability to leverage technology to improve exam turnaround times is one thing that excites her about the current state and future of the industry. “With paper and pencil tests, the turnaround time was extremely slow – about four to six weeks from the time you tested,” she explained. “If you failed, you had to wait up to a year before re-testing. That’s a long time if you need to hold a specific certification to get a job or promotion.
“The ability to get qualified people into an industry more quickly, while still ensuring proper standards are met, has had a big impact, from a public protection standpoint, as well as the exponential growth in the industry itself,” she said.
No matter the changes Durley has seen, however, one thing holds true: you cannot get far – let alone receive a lifetime achievement award – without support from mentors and colleagues.
Durley’s remarks on her award at the ICE Exchange reflected this sentiment. More importantly, she believes that mentorship does not discriminate based on age or experience in the field. “You can be an excellent mentor to someone who has more experience than you do,” she said. “There are people mentoring in every direction at ICE. It's one of the most mentor-rich organizations I'm aware of.”
Durley believes a good mentor is one who shares knowledge freely. “They treat knowledge as something that's very important. It’s not in limited supply, where all of a sudden your light is dimmed if you share it,” she explained. “In fact, sharing knowledge has the ability to exponentially increase its growth and potential impact.”
Mentors are good listeners and ask the right questions. They are accessible leaders, always looking for more information, and lifelong learners, seeking information outside their daily work. “Any mentor I've had through ICE is someone who is searching to learn as much as they can and never thinks that they've cornered the market on the knowledge available,” Durley noted.
For those new to the field, or even new to ICE, Durley has one clear piece of advice: Don’t wait to get involved. Whether learning more in one’s own workplace or through a membership organization like ICE, there is no time like the present to be more active. “Credentialing continues to evolve – it isn't a dead end. The pace of change is rapid. Learn about the profession you're serving, and certainly learn from others through ICE membership,” she encouraged.
“Find out as much as you can and work with as many people as you can in other related organizations. There will be more collaborative opportunities to work within your industry than you might expect. You've only got so many hours in a day, but do your best to attend meetings in your industry to learn more. You may have an epiphany.”
Cynthia Durley is the executive director of both the DALE Foundation and the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). She has been employed by DANB for over 30 years and by the DALE Foundation since its incorporation in 2010. In her dual role of executive director to both DANB and the DALE Foundation, Cynthia provides leadership in organizational governance, fiscal accountability, short- and long-term strategic planning, and administrative, operations, and personnel management. She also promotes the respective missions of DANB and the DALE Foundation and works to ensure that each organization’s interests are represented at the state and national levels.