In January 2005 the first of three groups of dental health aide therapists returned to Alaska after finishing two years of training at the University of Otago, New Zealand.  New Zealand has been training dental therapists for more than 90 years.  After completing clinical preceptorships lasting from four to 12 months, returning DHATs entered practice in underserved areas throughout Alaska.  The earliest of them have been serving Alaska Natives for more than seven years.

The DHAT training program moved to Alaska in January 2007 when Cohort I moved into the didactic training site in Anchorage.  The students completed their clinical year in Bethel, graduating in December 2008.  As of 2013 five cohorts have graduated, and Cohorts 6 and 7 are currently in training.  Currently, 24 New Zealand- and Alaska-trained DHATs are federally certified and serving their communities in rural Alaska.

Savannah Bonorden

From Sitka,AK

Employed by Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium

“Alaska is a big state and access can be difficult especially with the conditions of weather or with the expensive of travel. So having a DHAT placed in a village setting is both rewarding and beneficial for the people. I see the dental therapists as a new mainstream for dental prevention, working together as a team with all occupations of the dental field. We’re a new kind of provider, a profession that has so much promise to the future of oral health. I see all the smiles and gratitude the patients have for the services we provide and I’m proud to be here helping. It warms my heart and gives me the sense that I’m doing something right.”