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.
Mark Davis, DDSClinical Instructor
Why would I leave my family in sunny Florida in the middle of winter and travel 4000 miles to dark and cold Alaska to teach in the DHAT Program? Because I believe this program has enabled tens of thousands of Native Alaskans to receive essential health care that they were previously denied. Their health has improved markedly by this program, and its success is evidence that adoption in the “Lower 48 States” will make oral health care available to the millions of Americans that find dental care unattainable either due to geographic or economic barriers. Just as Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners have changed the efficiencies and economics of medical practice, DHATs ultimately will make quality dental care attainable for both our poor and middle class under served citizens.