In August, 26 high school students from across New England converged at the University
of New England College of Dental Medicine (UNE-CDM) for an immersive Dental Careers Exploration Camp. Designed for students who have expressed an interest in dental professions, the camp exposed them to a variety of career pathways. Camp organizers hope the event will inspire attendees to study dentistry and dental hygiene, eventually helping to alleviate the region’s shortage of dental providers.
The students engaged in experiential dental activities in UNE-CDM’s state-of-the-art clinic, the Oral Health Center (OHC). They prepared a tooth for restoration using a sophisticated dental simulation unit, learned how to take dental impressions, investigated digital crown technology via CEREC ceramic reconstruction and practiced suturing using raw chicken breast, which mimics gum tissue. On the final day of the program, the students shadowed local dentists who volunteered to share their professional expertise.
“One of our goals is to show students that dental professionals go beyond scraping teeth and putting a filling in a cavity,” says Jessica Gellar-Cote, RDH, Clinical Instructor for the Dental Hygiene Program. “By giving them experiences like blood pressure training and infectious disease prevention, our hope is that they will gain more insight about what we really do as dentists, hygienists and assistants.”
The campers came from diverse backgrounds, with eight from HRSA designated Dental Professional Shortage Areas and eight living in designated rural areas. Attendees included an aspiring dental student whose family was displaced by war in Iraq and a student whose need for oral surgery as a young child is fueling her desire to become an oral surgeon.
“We had 26 enthusiastic students learn about all facets of the dental [profession] and how oral health is connected to overall health,” says Ms. Gellar-Cote. “At the conclusion of our camp, more than half of the students stated that they were seriously contemplating a dental career.”
Faculty instructors at the camp included Lionel Vachon, D.D.S., Associate Clinical Professor and Group Practice Leader for UNE-CDM, and Ms. Gellar-Cote. They were assisted by students from UNE’s dental and dental hygiene programs. Several undergraduate peer mentors assisted in staffing the camp, including a 2011 camp alumna who is entering her second year at UNE-CDM.
The camp is coordinated by Zoe Hull, M.P.H., Program Manager for UNE’s Maine Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Network. “Maine AHEC Network’s mission is to alleviate health workforce shortages in rural and underserved areas of the state, and to create greater diversity in the health workforce,” she explains. “We are especially excited this year to have welcomed a cohort of students from rural areas and those who are underrepresented minorities. It’s our hope that these students will be inspired to not only pursue careers in oral health, but will go on to practice in their communities.”
The Dental Careers Exploration Camp has been held at UNE since 2010. It is free to the campers and their families, thanks to generous donations from TD Bank Charitable Foundation and the Maine AHEC Network.
To learn more about the UNE Dental Careers Exploration Camp, please contact Zoe Hull at (207) 221-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wissler, University of New England
Published on September 13, 2017