Second year students travel to remote Bethel, Alaska, 400 air miles west of Anchorage, to gain practical experience working with patients in real life clinical situations. Accessible only by air and river, Bethel is the largest community in Western Alaska and serves the health needs of more than 50 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim river delta. The training program has an up to date six-chair dental clinic where, since 2008, Alaska Native residents can go to have their oral healthcare needs met by DHAT trainees. Under the supervision of dentist faculty students bring into their clinical year everything learned in their first year classroom and pre-clinic laboratory. Upon graduation at the end of this clinical year, and following a 400 hour clinical preceptorship and federal certification, the DHATs return to their own communities to offer dental healthcare services that meet the most common needs of their fellow villagers.
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.”