Meet us

Mary Hughes and Stephanie Palmer of Dental Education Partners

Experienced Leadership

The Dental Education Partners (DEP) owners, consultants, and instructors are experienced dental professionals dedicated to improving the dental industry through consulting, customized training, and continuing education.


CEO, Founder, and Instructor - Dental Education Partners

Mary Hughes, RDH is Dental Education Partners CEO, Founder, and Instructor. Her passion for dentistry, sales training, and helping individuals achieve their full potential is a hallmark of her career and is the foundation of Dental Education Partners. With a proven track record of coaching dental teams to immediate success, Mary inspires owner dentists and their dental teams to achieve the highest standard of comprehensive patient care that translates in both the hygiene and the restorative sides of the practice.

She began her career as a Registered Dental Assistant. She fell in love with dentistry and continued her education as a clinical Dental Hygienist after graduating from the State University of New York with a bachelor’s degree in Health Science. Mary became an expert in team training and effective patient communication coaching methods, which tripled daily hygiene production for her office and all the operatories of the colleagues she coached.

Mary’s career transitioned from private practices to corporate dentistry, and she began to professionally consult with dental offices across North America. Since that time, Mary was promoted within the corporate dental industry to roles including International Training Manager, Senior Director of North American Sales, and Senior Director of Professional Relations. Most recently, Mary had the privilege of becoming the Vice President of Clinical Affairs for a large DSO.

Mary has the unique credential of being certified as a Professional Selling Skills Trainer by Achieve Global® – a prestigious and widely recognized leader in sales training, communication, and personnel development. This certification enabled Mary to train dental teams on using an influential solution-based approach for significantly increasing treatment acceptance. She is a member of the American Dental Hygienist’s Association and has been published in peer reviewed dental journals. Mary is an internationally recognized lecturer and educator known for her fun and interactive teaching style.

Stephanie Palmer, BA, DA

COO and Instructor - Dental Education Partners

Stephanie Palmer is Dental Education Partners Chief Operating Officer and Instructor. Her passion for dentistry, training, and driving results-based growth is a trademark of her career and helped build the foundation for Dental Education Partners, an approved AGD PACE Program Provider. 

Stephanie had a unique pathway to dentistry. After skiing internationally for the United States Alpine Ski Team, she attended Whitman College earning her Bachelor of Arts in Economics. She began her professional career first as a financial advisor, followed by managing educational events in the technology sector overseeing as many as 300 events per year. As a natural leader, she continued her career managing operations for a PGA Tour tournament as well as managing events and marketing for a business startup accelerator. With a breadth of experience guiding successful businesses, Stephanie fell in love with dentistry while managing the continuing education department for a dental manufacturer. In that role she further developed her skills as a public speaker and dental educator.

With over a decade in dentistry, Stephanie went on to graduate from the South Florida Dental Assisting School and helped start, manage, and grow Dental Education Partners. She is experienced delivering lectures, webinars, and team trainings. Her first step when consulting with dental offices and professionals is to “start with the end in mind”. Understanding baseline performance metrics and goals, together with a “patients first” philosophy allows her to guide and provide customized training to help them achieve those goals. She prides herself on being a partner for growth for the practices and professionals with which she works.


Advisory Board Member, Cosmetic Dentistry Instructor, Key Note Speaker

Dr. Harnois graduated from University of Illinois College of Dentistry with Honors in 1982. He was Class President for 3 years and received numerous awards for educational and clinical excellence. Dr. Harnois has been practicing Dentistry in Hinsdale, IL for over 30 years. His philosophy is to provide the most gentle and minimally invasive cosmetic and metal-free dental treatments with natural results. His philosophy is complimented by the use of top-tier technology, and his office sets the standard of exceptional patient care with the aid of tools such as iTero scanners and lasers. Dr. Harnois is well-known for his ability to build trust and rapport with patients. In his own words: “Having grown up in Hinsdale my patients feel like family to me. We bring our A-game every day and from the moment you enter our office until you leave we focus our full attention on you as an individual so you get the best customized care that fits your needs, wants and desires. Our patients appreciate our commitment to listen first to their concerns.” Dr. Harnois lectures internationally to properly educate his fellow dentists on emerging technologies in dentistry that he utilizes in his own practice. He is a clinical trainer for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Academy of Facial Esthetics, and DenMat (manufacturer of Lumineers). Dr. Harnois also is the President of the Illinois American Academy of Facial Esthetics and trains dentists on injection techniques.

Julie Hannan

Advisory Board Member, Success Coach, Trainer

Julie Hannan has been in the dental profession for over 35 years having worked in both clinical and non-clinical roles in the dental office.
She has worked in both private practice and DSO settings. She is renowned for her training in the areas of case acceptance and the patient experience. 
She is passionate about the dental industry and helping people be the BEST in their chosen field! 

Cassandra Bianchi, RDH, BS

Advisory Board Member, lecturer and consultant

Cassandra Bianchi is the second-year clinical coordinator in the Dental Studies Program of the Health-Related Professions Department at SUNY Monroe Community College. She is passionate about mentoring future dental professionals, and presently teaches Periodontics I, II, III, Ethics and Law, and Second-year Clinical Dental Hygiene Coordinator to students at SUNY Monroe. Cassandra received her A.A.S. degree in Dental Hygiene from Monroe Community College, her B.S. in Human Development from SUNY Empire State College. As an avid, lifelong learner, she is currently working towards her M.A. in Adult Learning from SUNY Empire State College. Prior to transitioning into education, Cassandra enjoyed a successful career in both Periodontal and General settings. Her experience as a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) has helped her develop a deep understanding of comprehensive patient care, and she enjoys using her clinical background to help coach hygienists to reach their full potential. Along with her RDH certification, Cassandra has spent a great deal of time expanding her skills through ongoing education, and received her certificate as an Orofacial Myology Specialist (COMS), from the Graduate School of Behavioral Science in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and her certification as a Myobrace Educator through the Myofunctional Research Co. (MRC).

Rita Weaver, JD, CHC

Advisory Board Member and Compliance Expert

Rita Chernyak Weaver, JD CHC, serves as the Deputy Compliance Officer for Lincare Holdings LLC, one of the nation’s largest durable medical equipment suppliers.As the Deputy Compliance Officer, Rita is responsible for ensuring that all Lincare employees (nearly 12,000) comply with the various Federal and State Healthcare regulations and the Company’s policies and procedures. Before joining Lincare, Rita worked as the director of Compliance at Dental Whale LLC. In her role at Dental Whale, Rita was in charge of implementing a robust compliance program both on the company’s corporate level and at its owned dental practices throughout the country. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Rita successfully led and delivered protocols to meet health care provider, patient, and corporate needs at a time where creative, practical and effective solutions were needed, with no established precedent. Rita attended college at the University of Florida, where she graduated Cum Laude, earning a double major in Public Relations (BS) and Russian Studies (BA). She then attended law school at the Florida International University (FIU) College of Law and earned her Juris Doctorate in May 2013. Rita is a Florida-barred attorney, who, prior to transitioning out of private practice and into heath care and corporate compliance, worked as a litigator for nearly six years. Her practice focused on general liability litigation with an emphasis on cases involving catastrophic injuries, wrongful deaths, motor vehicle accidents, and premises liability. As part of this work, Rita defended incidents that could have been prevented (or significantly mitigated) if better compliance and risk management practices were in existence. Rita has completed additional education to specialize in the ever-evolving field of Health Care Compliance. She earned a Graduate Certificate of Advanced Study in Health Care Compliance from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Rita also recently obtained the Certified in Health Care Compliance (CHC)® designation, which is granted by the Compliance Certification Board (CCB) to individuals with expertise in compliance processes specific to organizations in the healthcare industry.

Nancy Vargas

AR Specialist and Consultant

Nancy Vargas has enjoyed a career in the dental industry that spans over three decades, serving in various leadership roles across offices of all sizes. She has experience in both private practices and DSO settings, which has given her a deep knowledge of how to leverage AR to maximize growth. Nancy has spent her career creating efficient, scalable AR protocols, including developing a large insurance department that provided outsourced accounts receivable services to dental offices, and leading a team that managed AR at over 80 practices. She has managed numerous dental practices as a Practice Administrator including many startup practices. For these practices, Nancy was responsible for the development and implementation of scalable AR processes, helping to create efficient systems and maximize revenue. Nancy is highly sought after for her expertise in managing outstanding patient AR, dental insurance billing, verification, claims, appeals and EOB processing. In her current role as an AR Specialist and Consultant, she utilizes her vast experience to support the entrepreneurial dentist in achieving his/her goal of creating business growth.

Dr. Steven Wingfield

Advisory Board Member, Consultant, Keynote Speaker

Dr. Steven Wingfield is a practicing dentist and owner/operator of multiple dental practices. He is also the Chief Clinical Officer for a DSO.  He is an Advisory Board Member for multiple organizations, including Dental Education Partners. He is a recognized key opinion leader and lectures and consults regularly within the dental industry.

Krisa Swanson, RDH

Hygiene Instructor and Consultant

Life-long Georgia resident Krisa Swanson knew at a young age that she wanted to follow other family members’ lead and become a dental hygienist; she loved having her teeth cleaned and was fascinated with the profession. The transformative experience of having braces as a teen solidified her desire to provide a service that would give patients a reason to feel safe, and confident in their smiles.

Krisa has a 20-year background in patient care and is dedicated to both the clinical and financial satisfaction of the provider-client relationship. She is committed to increasing productivity and engagement, especially with respect to patient retention and new patient referrals.

Passionate about sharing the knowledge she has gained in her career; Krisa is a trainer in the offices where she works. She also works for Dental Education Partners as a hygiene instructor and consultant providing in-office and web-based services and continuing education.

The most important element of patient care according to Krisa is trust. Dedicated to providing accessible and excellent care, she consistently strives to raise the bar for the entire practice in addition to remaining a life-long learner for how to improve processes and procedures.

Krisa holds an AS in Dental Hygiene from Armstrong State University in Savannah, GA. When not serving patients, you can find her cheering on her kids from the sidelines of the soccer field and volunteering for school functions. She also loves travel, running, and reading a good book when she has some quiet time.

Sherrie McDaniel, RDH

Hygiene Instructor and Consultant

Sherrie has over 35 years of experience as a clinical Dental Hygienist. As a recognized subject matter expert in the industry, Sherrie has worked as a Hygiene consultant and trainer for some of the leading Dental Hygiene Consulting firms in the US. She works with a ‘Total Team’ mindset to ensure immediate impact on patient outcomes and practice growth.