On top of an interest in the
dental professions do you enjoy learning, fact finding and creating alternate
solutions to problems? A career in educational research may be an unexplored
passion in your near future. Educational researcher, Michele P. Carr, RDH,
M.A., tapped into her love of learning and desire to motivate younger
generations on her journey to Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Dental
Hygiene at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry (OSU COD). Experience
a different side to dental hygiene careers as Ms. Carr shares her insight and
advice for students with the ADEA GoDental team.
(GD): What initially led you to a career in dental
Michele P. Carr (MC):
Ultimately I knew I wanted a career in education. After being a part-time
clinical instructor for seven years, a full-time tenure track position became
available which required productivity in research. I had previously dabbled in
some research projects so applied for the position with success! In the
past I had not ever focused primarily on research, yet, as I became involved in
projects that interested me, I fell in love with it!
GD: How did
you first learn about your current position as an option within the dental
MC: When I was a student in the Ohio State Dental Hygiene
program, I learned quickly that if you wanted to teach dental hygiene, research
was part of the job requirements. It wasn’t until I obtained my position
at Ohio State that I learned how much research was involved for a tenure track
GD: What does
a typical day in your current position entail?
MC: As the Chair of the Division of Dental Hygiene
there are numerous roles and responsibilities, research being one of them.
Since becoming tenured, I try to keep publishing and distributing new knowledge
in the profession, but performing multiple roles can make this
difficult. We recently added a master’s program for dental hygiene
requiring students to complete a thesis. It’s important for students to have
research and publishing skills if they want to be an educator, so my role has
evolved into mentoring these students. In addition, I teach a research
class to the baccalaureate students. So, in many ways, research plays a major
role in my position.
skills or personality traits would you say someone looking to obtain a similar
role should hold?
MC: A key skill to have when conducting research in an
educational setting is the ability to function well as part of a team.
Collaboration is important. No one can do it alone, so one must be good at
working with a variety of people with different skill sets to be successful.
GD: What is
your favorite part about being in your current role, and why?
MC: I enjoy working with many people and different
disciplines. Outside of other dental professionals in my college, I have
had the chance to work with nurses, doctors, geologists, engineers and
statisticians. We all have a common goal—to disseminate knowledge! In
addition, I learn so much from these other individuals.
motivated you to continue your education beyond the entry level?
MC: I love to learn and could definitely be a student
my whole life. In some respects, I am still a student since this
profession is about lifelong learning. Teaching at my institution required
a master’s level degree, so of course that was a major motivator as well.
GD: How did
your dental hygiene education help you prepare for your career?
MC: I was very fortunate to attend a baccalaureate
dental hygiene program in a dental school setting. I participated as a
subject in research being conducted and was exposed to the whole dental hygiene
process in that manner. I was also fortunate enough to be a research assistant
for an independent study class. Being at a dental hygiene program in a college
of dentistry offered me experiences and classes I could not get elsewhere.
GD: What is
one thing you wish you knew about your current position before starting out?
MC: I don’t think there is anything “I wish I knew”
about my position now that I am in it. I needed to experience it first
hand and figure it out for myself. There isn’t anything someone could have said
to prepare me to do research other than to suggest I have a passion for it; surrounding
myself with good mentors was also key.
GD: If you
could give one piece of advice to dental hygiene students considering a role
similar to yours, what would it be?
Pay attention in your research class if you have one! You never know if or
when you can make a career of it.