Hear from Practitioners

Dental Hygiene and Research Join Forces

Posted by Michele P. Carr, RDH, M.A. on March 21, 2016

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.

ADEA GoDental (GD): What initially led you to a career in dental hygiene?

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 hygiene profession?

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 position. 

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.

GD: What 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.

GD: What 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?

MC: Pay attention in your research class if you have one! You never know if or when you can make a career of it. 

About Michele P. Carr, RDH, M.A.:


Michele P. Carr, RDH, M.A.

Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Dental Hygiene 
The Ohio State University College of Dentistry

Michele P. Carr, RDH, M.A., is currently Associate Professor and Chair, Division of Dental Hygiene at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry in Columbus, OH. Michele has been involved nationally and locally, serving on numerous committees such as the American Dental Education Association’s Council of Allied Dental Program Directors (ADEA CADPD), The Ohio Dental Hygienists’ Association Government Relations Committee and is a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) consultant.

Michele has published over twenty articles and presents numerous continuing education courses primarily on ultrasonics, local anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation. Currently her research is focusing on interprofessional education (IPE), specifically with nurses in the hospital setting.