Launched in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the Alaska Native Tribal Health Center and the University of Washington, DENTEX was developed to meet the oral health needs of native Alaskan people across 200 remote villages. Students enter a 24-month program as Dental Health Aide Therapists to learn prevention services, fillings, and uncomplicated extractions while working under supervising dentists. Year 1 is classroom instruction in Anchorage. In year 2 the trainees transfer to Bethel Alaska for supervised hands-on clinical experience with local patients. Currently, nearly 40,000 Alaska Native people living in rural Alaska now have improved access to regular dental care by more than two dozen federally certified DHATs.
Marian PetlaBased in New Stuyahok
Employed by Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation
“I am from New Stuyahok in the Southwest region, 50 air miles from Dillingham. Grew up and lived in New Stuyahok for 20 years. I moved to Dillingham because there was no work in the village. It was hard to make the decision, as I knew the people very well in the village. I would go home every weekend – but through time I was able to adapt to living in Dillingham. I started taking part-time classes at the campus there, and decided I wanted to continue my education. I was always interested in dentistry, but didn’t know if there was a job for that in New Stu. One of my friends sent me an email about the DHAT program. I thought great — I will still be working with kids, I’ll get to go home – and I’ll get to work in dentistry! What I like most about being a DHAT is giving back to the people – helping everyone I know – the families. One of the biggest things for me is being able to go back and give back.”