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Final Words for Pipette Gazette: April Turner & Dental Hygiene

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Author: April Turner | Category: Final Words... | Dental Hygiene (M.S.) | November 24, 2015

Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.

I am a registered dental hygienist living in Southern California. I have practiced clinically for 25 years. I teach radiology at West Coast University’s dental hygiene program in Anaheim, California and was recently promoted to full time. 

I decided to pursue a master’s degree in order to further my career. I chose UTHSCSA because it had a fully online Master of Science Dental Hygiene program which was appealing to me. 

I had also heard great things about the program and found it to be a great fit. I decided to enroll in a MSDH program because I wanted to study topics that interested me such as dental hygiene topics, research and education.

Please provide a few sentences summarizing your thesis. What was the experience like for you?

I conducted a national survey of dental hygiene students and faculty which asked them their preferences for and use of a variety of teaching methods including lecture, collaborative activities, technology and group work. I found that dental hygiene faculty are implementing the teaching practices suggested by experts on millennial learners however, student may not understand the reason for new teaching methods and reported lower preferences for them.

It was a challenging but rewarding experience. I had great support from my thesis chair, Mary Jacks, and she walked me through the process step by step. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?

When I first started teaching, I was learning a lot about the millennial learner and how best to teach them. I found it interesting since my children are millennials. I also was interested in whether faculty understand the millennial generation and are teaching them the experts suggest.

What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?

I enjoyed interacting with my fellow students and faculty online. I learned how to be a better writer which in turn has helped me help my students.

Why did you pick a program online and what it was like? Did you enjoy it?

I picked an online program for many reasons. I work full time and have a family so I wanted flexibility with my time. I felt an “on ground” class would not allow me to be flexible with study and reading. I also wanted to get an MSDH degree and there are no programs near me. The program worked well with my schedule and I was able to plan my time studying around work and family commitments.

How is an online program structured differently than in person? What did you gain from it?

An online program requires students to read material and understand it with less guidance from classmates and faculty. There are no tests but rather, many writing assignments and discussion boards to show understanding. It helped me become a better writer.

Would you recommend an online program? Was it a good experience?

I would recommend an online program. I found the MSDH program at UTHSCSA a great experience. The faculty are knowledgeable, approachable and easy to get a hold of. That makes all the difference since I couldn’t walk into their office with questions! 

What’s next?

My thesis has been submitted for publication with the Journal of Dental Education. I’m excited to see what happens next. I am continuing my career as a professor and am happy to have achieved this milestone.

Any advice for your fellow graduate students?

My best advice for any student is to take things one assignment at a time. In the beginning I would get overwhelmed by all I had to read, write and understand. As time went on, I learned to focus on the next task instead of looking many weeks ahead at the list of assignments due.

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