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.
Robert CurtisBased in Shishmaref, AK
Employed by Norton Sound Health Corporation
“Initially I worked as a Dental Assistant. The DHAT program interested me, and I trained as a DHAT in New Zealand during 2003-2004. Currently I live in a remote community of 600 to 700 people. The population of kids is around 200 to 300. We have a weekly flouride schedule where we go up to the school at a set time Monday through Thursdays. During the school year we take kids out of class to do cleaning, provide fluoride treatment and talk about brushing. If they have other work that needs to be done we get them in after. With adults we schedule them into the clinic early in the morning or after school is out. If a patient comes in and I see the procedure will be out of my scope of practice I refer them to the dentist in Nome.”