September 20, 2017
On August 5-7, 2017, twenty-six high school students from across New England converged at the University of New England (UNE) for an immersive Dental Careers Exploration Camp. Designed for students who have expressed an interest in oral health professions, the camp exposed them to a variety of career pathways in the field. Camp organizers hope that the event will inspire attendees to study dentistry and dental hygiene, eventually helping to alleviate the region’s shortage of oral health providers.
The students engaged in experiential dental activities in UNE’s state-of-the-art clinic, the Oral Health Center (OHC). They had the opportunity to prepare 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 job shadowed local dentists who have 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,” said Jessica Gellar-Cote ‘07, 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 24 enthusiastic students learn about all facets of the dental field and how oral health is connected to overall health,” said 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 the College of Dental Medicine, and Jessica Gellar-Cote. They were assisted by students in UNE’s Doctor of Dental Medicine 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’s dental school.
The camp is coordinated by Zoe Hull, M.P.H. ‘16, program manager for UNE’s Maine 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,” Hull explained. “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 of cost for the campers and their families thanks to generous donations from TD Bank Charitable Foundation and the Maine Area Health Education Center (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.
To learn more about the College of Dental Medicine, visit www.une.edu/dentalmedicine
To apply, visit www.une.edu/admissions