Dental Assisting Students Gain More Than They Give
For Vicki Brett, volunteering is as natural as breathing. Her enthusiasm for service work is palpable and it almost always rubs off on her students. She’s the Dental Assisting program director at ECPI University’s Newport News campus. When she’s not in the classroom, she works to provide dental care to those in need.
Vicki has served as president of the Oral Health Improvement Coalition of South Hampton Roads, board chair for Montero Medical Missions, and volunteer chairperson for Mission of Mercy (MOM). Whenever possible, she tries to involve her students. Earlier this year, more than 50 of them volunteered at a MOM event in Portsmouth, Virginia. A few months before, some of them participated in a “Denture Venture” event that Brett spearheaded, through which 24 Virginia Mission of Mercy patients received nearly $20,000 worth of dentures.
“It’s amazing to see my students become a part of the community, to see the compassion that they have at such an early stage in their profession, and that they see the need in their community for oral health,” Brett says. “This also affords them the opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom.”
Brett says this sort of thing serves as an excellent motivator, giving students a glimpse into the future they are working to create for themselves. “What I like best about the MOM project was the real life experience,” says Dental Assisting student Kathryn Bowman. “I got to directly talk to hundreds of patients and find out about their life and why they were there for treatment. Plus, I got great practice on explaining to the patient what the doctor was talking about.”
Patient contact, says Brett, brings the element of humanity into what would otherwise be a purely academic experience. “One thing I really enjoyed about the MOM project was that I was able to interact with patients, and physically work next to a dentist,” says Dental Assisting student Caylie Wattenbarger. “It gave me an idea of what working in a real office is like. It made me more excited to finish school and begin working.”
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Vicki Brett believes that adding an element of compassion to a student’s education goes a long way toward retention and professional development. “When they talk about it back in the classroom, they cry. It’s so heartfelt.”