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When I graduated with an Associate’s degree from a two year dental hygiene program in 2006, I happily believed that my college days were over after committing so much of myself to hygiene school. Excited to begin my career as a dental hygienist, I jumped right into clinical practice and was content to stay there for two years.

However, in 2008, my career unexpectedly changed. I was given the opportunity to mentor a small group of about five hygienists within a large group practice. This salaried, non-clinical position was a perfect fit for me, and I began to learn considerably from the hygienists I mentored, as well as the doctors and business professionals that mentored me. The more I learned, the more I realized I needed to learn! Fast forward four years to 2012, and my mentoring role had evolved considerably. I was now coaching over a hundred hygienists in multiple group practice affiliates in several states. My job included designing and presenting Hygiene CE, helping to shape hygiene clinical protocol, and evaluating new hygiene therapies and products.

 

While I felt as if I was making a difference, in the back of my mind, I knew I could be a more effective for the hygienists I served if I furthered my education. This thought played in the back of my mind throughout the years my career was expanding. I knew I had to obtain my bachelors degree if I was going to gain further career opportunity and become a more credible leader in my field.

While obtaining my degree sounded fantastic in theory, reality was not cooperating with my goals! Like most working adults, finding the time to go to school, even in an online program, did not mesh with my hectic schedule. I was traveling the country, working 60 hours per week, and of course all the other activities of running a household and having a personal life. I just could not see where I would find time to attend classes, study, and write reports.

To add to my frustration of not having enough time to attend school, was my dissatisfaction with the curriculum of most degree completion programs. My goal, like so many other hygienists, was to promote oral health within the business space of dentistry. The business and group practice model is expanding rapidly and I found education in this field sorely lacking. My personal goal was not to become a researcher or academic teacher, yet the only programs I came across centered on those avenues. I doubted how well that type of curriculum would serve my needs.

In early 2013, I was introduced to to O’Hehir University, and it was as if a ray of hope was sent my way. While reading about O”hehir, all I could think to myself was “Finally, there is a degree completion program that actually makes sense for working hygienists!” O’Hehir is fundamentally unlike any online hygiene bachelors programs I had looked into, and believes me, I had looked into many over the years. It was as if someone was finally listening and responding to the real needs of real hygienists.

I do not exaggerate when I say I believe that this program will spark a much needed revolution in the way dental hygienists are educated. The program allows students to study the aspect of oral health that makes sense for them, not a rigidly defined set of courses that may or may not be useful for the individual. The program allows for fascinating interaction with hygienists and instructors from all over the world, and these web based conversations take place (mercifully!) on the weekends at times that work for everyone. The course work is self paced, so I find I can work on it when I have time, whenever that might be.

Beyond the convenience factor though, is the ability to incorporate my learning into my current job. For example, I selected my graduation project to center around Caries Risk Assessment, a protocol that I am passionately heading up in my workplace. It doesn’t get more relevant than that. The other students choose projects that are relevant to them as well. What we learn from each other’s projects is intriguing, useful, and cutting edge..

The methodology of the curriculum is something new to me, a process called Reflective Learning. This forward thinking type of learning has literally changed my life. I apply it at work and home, and I believe it has made me a significantly more effective coach. If I were in a clinical role, I am confident it would make me a better hygienist.

I cannot say enough about O’Hehir University. My instructors are fascinating professionals, with years of experience. My classmates are my colleagues, and this University fits me like a glove. I recommend it to anyone looking to further their education as a hygienist, either to advance their career, or to just be more effective where they are.

When I started at O’Hehir, I believed I was getting a convenient way to obtain my Bachelors degree. It has turned out to be so much more. The goal of O’Hehir University is literally to improve the state of oral health for all people, not many years from now, but today. I am thrilled to be a part of that, as a student in the first graduating class, and now I can’t imagine wanting to study any place else.