Fifty high school students from the Yakima Valley will be coming to the University of Washington on the weekend of Jan. 23 and a weekend in February to learn about oral health career opportunities and about the importance of oral health to good overall health. The visiting students, all participants in ConneX (Connecting Students with Health Careers), will also have an opportunity to learn about campus life at the UW during their weekend visit.
The centerpiece of the visit to Seattle will be spending Saturday morning at Dental Camp in the School of Dentistry’s simulation laboratory. Dental Camp, funded by Washington Dental Service Foundation (WDS Foundation), provides an opportunity for students to learn about dental professions and good oral health habits through hands-on exercises. Under the supervision of volunteer Dental Camp mentors, the ConneX students will perform some basic training activities related to careers in dentistry, dental hygiene, dental assisting, and dental laboratory arts. The School of Dentistry’s simulation laboratory is a state-of-the-art pre-clinical teaching facility, remodeled in 1997, and used by faculty to teach laboratory courses to pre-doctoral students and to conduct continuing dental education programs for practicing dentists.
The Dental Camp mentors, — pre-doctoral dental students, student dental hygienists, and student dental assistants — will fill the important roles of lab supervisors and educators, conducting discussions about science, academics and promoting the importance of completing high school and the academic achievement necessary for securing a career in the field of oral health. Plans are also being made to have a mentoring program follow-up with the ConneX students once they return home, in order to provide long-term encouragement for those interested in pursing a career in oral health professions.
ConneX is a program of the Northwest Community Action Center, an affiliate of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, in Toppenish, Wash. , with the goal of helping to increase the diversity of all health professions and to promote practicing in regions that are underserved. ConneX, helps prepare students to successfully complete their education and encourages them to return to work in their local communities. Having fun and learning about the university environment will also be important parts of the weekend the students will spend in Seattle. The ConneX students will spend time bowling and enjoying a pizza dinner Friday evening in the Husky Union Ballroom, and they will have many opportunities throughout the weekend for one-on-one and small-group interactions with practicing oral health professionals and students to learn about the many career opportunities.
Dental Camp was developed in response to the work of WDS Foundation’s Educational Futures Task Force. The Task Force identified the need to increase the diversity of the dental professions. The WDS Foundation Board committed to address this issue by offering scholarships and by supporting ‘pipeline’ programs—including Dental Camp and the ConneX program—to encourage underrepresented minority groups to pursue dental careers.
“This unique learning opportunity for ConneX students would not be possible without the collaboration, contributions, and volunteer spirit of many people and organizations in Seattle and the Yakima Valley,” says Dr. Douglass Jackson, director of educational partnerships for the School of Dentistry.
In addition to ConneX, WDSF, and the School of Dentistry, other partners for these weekend events include the Northwest Alaska Center to Reduce Oral Health Disparities, Washington State Dental Hygienists Association, Yakima Valley Dental Society, and Lake Washington Technical College. Norma Wells and Dr. Susan Coldwell from the UW’s Department of Dental Public Health Sciences and Lisa Campbell-John and Fabian Cortes from ConneX have been instrumental in planning and coordinating the activities for the weekend visits to the Seattle campus.