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Courtney Vannah’s Thesis Cited in the Journal of Epidemiological Research

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Author: Charlotte Anthony | Category: Of Interest | April 27, 2016

Courtney Vannah, a student in the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program, was recently cited in the Journal of Epidemiological Research.

The article, “Educational Deficiencies Recognized by Independent Practice Dental Hygienists and their Suggestions for Change,” explained that Maine Independent Practice Dental Hygienists (IPHs) were not adequately prepared for careers beyond the private practice dental model from their standard undergraduate dental hygiene education.

As a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of New England Portland, Maine teaching a course on Community Health, Vannah explained that Maine was an interesting case study.

“8 out of 16 counties are entirely designated as dental shortage areas and the remaining counties have at least some localized areas of dental shortage designation,” she said.

“In addition to the existing deficit of dental services in Maine, large numbers of dentists are expected to retire in the next 10 years with twice as many dentists retiring as graduating,” Vannah said.

"Maine is one of the first states in the country to allow Independent Practice Dental Hygiene. Whereas independent practice is still not “mainstream,” dental hygiene education hasn’t molded around this new model yet," she said. "As scopes of practice evolve such as they are here in Maine, we can serve to shine the light on what also needs to evolve in education to keep pace."

In the article, Vannah outlined areas necessary for further preparation including increased exposure to alternative settings and underserved populations in addition to elective courses for students interested in alternative practice and business ownership.

“The responsibility to prepare students for business ownership and independent practice may not lie entirely within the basic dental hygiene curriculum, but as the field of dental hygiene changes so dramatically, there is a responsibility for programs to adjust their methods to align with these emerging priorities,” Vannah said.

Following this research, Vannah created a course called “Career Opportunities in Dental Hygiene” which she said has quickly become the most popular elective

“Students routinely cite the course as essential and invaluable to their future careers,” she said.

Vannah explained that she decided to attend the Master in Dental Hygiene program at UTHSCSA because it was the only program that merged her two passions: education and public health.

“Educating students for the future of our profession is my passion,” she said. “UTHSCSA prepared me well for this opportunity and positioned me exactly where I needed to be to chase my dream of being a public health dental hygiene educator.

Courtney E. Vannah, MS, IPDH, is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of New England Portland, Maine and graduate of the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

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