The distances in Alaska are vast. Even when they’re not neighboring communities are often cut off from one another during the winter as waterways freeze over requiring snow vehicles where once a boat would do. DHATs are meant to bridge the gap of yearly visits from itinerant dentists by living in these communities where they were raised and understand the culture. Many DHAT providers have a service region that extends beyond the base community where they live. Neighboring communities can add 80 more residents here, 100 more there, sometimes doubling their patient load above the base community. Even short distances require complex travel, usually by plane, to provide proper oral healthcare services to those who would not otherwise benefit.
Ferdella J. SharpBased in Manokotak, AK
Employed by Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation
“Is it worth it? That was my first thought when I heard of the opportunity to apply to DENTEX for the DHAT training. I am someone the people of Manokotak trusted to do any job put before me. But I had never done anything in the health field. So the encouragement I got for the community proved to me it was worth trying. It takes a steady hand and people skills to be an effective Dental Health Aide Therapist. My community’s faith in me—my future plans, and the confidence that I could be an effective Dental Health Aide Therapist— became reasons to answer my question, “Is it worth it?” with yes, it is!”