209-804-8078 info@rdhapconnect.com

Member Spotlight | Elena Francisco, MS, RDHAP

Apr 17, 2024 | Community, Member Spotlight

Nicole Bolinger

Nicole Bolinger

One of the perks of being a member of RDHAP Connect is being featured in a member spotlight on our website and social media pages. Today we’re spotlighting our founder, Elena (Elly) Francisco, MS, RDHAP.

We’re so excited to hear from her and tell her story!! We hear directly from her below.

elena francisco, rdhap, rdhapconnect

To start from the beginning, my love for educating and caring began with my parents, who were ‘serial’ volunteers and students. No matter how hard they worked, they found time to help others and take another class. My Dad was a scout leader, helping boys grow up to be solid and thoughtful men. My mother used to volunteer her summers as the nurse for a camp for kids with disabilities in the mountains of SoCal. It just seemed natural for me to follow in their footsteps. 

Toward the end of my father’s career, he worked as an engineer for the state of California in the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD). He was a partner in the initial planning and development of the Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP), sharing with me what an exciting opportunity it would be for me to treat the patients most in need. Though I did not join the initial group of RDHAP pioneers in the mid-1980s, I did take the course at the University of the Pacific (UOP) in early 2005 and was quickly licensed to become an RDHAP.

I had a small private practice in the early years when I began to teach dental hygiene and subsequently got so busy teaching full time, that I could not dedicate the time to my practice it needed. I have not treated patients in 5-6 years and no longer practice dental hygiene. I am the RDHAP Program Director at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, guiding other dental hygienists through the program and licensure as an RDHAP.

Through the years of practicing dental hygiene, I have seen the unmet dental hygiene needs of those who are challenged to get to the traditional dental office for regular visits. I have seen people who treasured their oral health get to the point where they could no longer keep their teeth clean and lost all hope of keeping their teeth. I had the joy of providing care for a patient with multiple sclerosis who grudgingly had to admit she was too sick to come to the office for her dental hygiene care. Helping these patients was one of my greatest joys.

All dental hygienists know that without good oral health, we cannot have good general health. My new goal as an RDHAP and educator is to provide the best education possible for the budding RDHAP. I have been blessed to know many inspirational, well-educated, and passionate dental hygienists and dentists. Among them are the dental hygienists we are training to continue caring for those with medical and mental disabilities in their homes, living facilities, and schools.

Coming full circle, I go back to a saying my father would repeat and I now paraphrase: A good [educator] does not need to know everything, we just need to know where to find the best information. And in my case, I have been blessed to know some of the best, most compassionate minds in caring for the dentally underserved community. I thank them for sharing their knowledge with us. I continue to be a lifelong learner (and flosser 😉).

I also started this website, RDHAP Connect, to help people looking for an RDHAP find one. This is a labor of love and we help people regularly find a caring RDHAP in their area. You can visit our website to find a local RDHAP.

Follow her RDHAP connect on social at:



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors. Guest authors are responsible for the material in their posts. The material shared is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical or dental advice. The accuracy of the information in these posts are not guaranteed. RDHAP Connect is not responsible for the actions of products or advertisers linked to posts.