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.
Eliza EphankaBethel, AK
“I’ve lived in Bethel all my life. All my younger children received services at the Dental Health Aide program. Before this clinic we never received any dental services. It was so hard to get an appointment with a dentist. We’d call every Monday. Sometimes they’d tell us to call next week. My first dental experience was scary. I was 6 or 7 years, going to the dentist for a toothache. After that I suffered with toothaches before going back to see the dentist. It’s easier for me to communicate with the Dental Health Aides here as they are local.”