Diversifying Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene is the least diverse of all the allied health professions.

But that’s something Ally Bush DHS ’16 and Stephanie Hutchinson DHS ’16 would like to change.

Students in the Pacific University School of Dental Hygiene Studies are required to complete a capstone project, one that addresses a community need and offers a sustainable solution.

Bush and Hutchinson looked at the research around diversity in the field and developed a sustainable program designed to help recruit potential students to the profession.

They found that about 98 percent of dental hygienists are female, and 80 percent are white. But students from diverse backgrounds are no less likely to succeed in a program than their peers.

That means that the problem must come in recruiting people to the profession and helping them access education programs, Bush and Hutchinson said.

In response, they reached out to Benson High School, a diverse polytechnic magnet high school in Portland, as a location to launch a pilot program for prospective teens.

“Our program is designed to inspire students and help them navigate their financial options,” Bush said.

The pair designed a PowerPoint presentation to teach students about the prerequisites for a dental hygiene program, and the 2+2 options that can help make such programs affordable. They also provided information about tuition, degree options and financial aid.

Their hope is that the presentation will be used to provide information for future classes of students and will spread to other schools, as well.

“Our goal was to increase diversity by identifying barriers,” Hutchinson said.

May. 5, 2016