Growing interest in new dental assistant program at BSCC

Bevill State Community College has unveiled a new dental assistant program on the Jasper campus that has already capped in enrollment. The new program has been in development for the past three years, and is made possible through a $60,000 startup grant from the governor’s office of workforce development that was awarded to the college in Oct. 2016. BSCC Dean of Health Science Penne Mott said the grant has helped to purchase two dental chairs and dental training tools, and has helped to convert a biology lab for the program on BSCC’s Jasper campus. The new dental assistant program at the college will teach students patient care, procedural preparation, how ot take and expose radiographs and other skills associated with the profession. The 15-week course already has 15 students enrolled, with many on a waiting list. Upon completion of the course, students will receive a certificate of completion and be able to enter the workforce. Ronda Henson, a dental assistant and hygienist, will be teaching the program. “I’ve always had a desire to teach, and I’ve been in dentistry a while,” Henson said. Henson said she taught a dental assisting program for the college nearly 20 years ago, but the program was made possible through the use of a dental office.

Once the doctor at that office didn’t want to house the program any longer, it ended. Now, the college will have full control of the program and provide the equipment necessary for certification. Mott said the dental assistant program is a collaboration between the college’s departments of health sciences and workforce solutions. “It has been a focus for the college to look at programs like this that will get people out into the workforce very quickly,” Mott said. Henson shared her personal story on becoming a dental assistant, and said she hopes others will take interest in the career field. “Dentistry has given me a lot of ways to improve myself. I didn’t go the regular pathway out of high school into college. I got married, had children and then went to school, and dentistry gave me a way to become a professional,” Henson said. “To me, it helps people go from getting a job to going into a profession.” She added that the 15-week course will be intense and cover a lot of material, but after certification, completers can expect a median pay of nearly $37,000 annually. Henson currently works for Dr. Michael Jennings, who will be a speaker during the course. Classes will begin next week and are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 until 9 p.m. A 50-hour externship during the course is also required. Prerequisites include a high school diploma or GED, and the cost of the course is $1,400 plus books. “We looked at this program and it was also a recommendation from our community advisory council several years ago to look at dental assisting, because there was such a need for employment of dental assistants in the community,” Mott said. “When you have that community need for people to be able to complete a one semester program and be able to go out and get a job, that’s really a win for the college and a win for the students who can become employed very quickly after just completing a one semester program like this.” To get on a waiting list for the program, call Dental Assisting Coordinator Bonnie Barton at (205) 387-0511, ext. 5941.