Pro­file Bright­en­ing Smiles

As­pir­ing stu­dents find their paths to suc­cess­ful den­tal ca­reers at Florida South-West­ern State Col­lege

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS - Jeff Ly­tle is the re­tired ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor and TV host from the Naples Daily News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.

The ed­u­ca­tion en­ergy crack­les at a spe­cialty med­i­cal pro­gram at Florida South-West­ern State Col­lege’s Fort My­ers cam­pus. Here stu­dents not only learn how to be­come den­tal hy­gien­ists in an in­tense twoyear pro­gram, but they learn the im­por­tance of shar­ing what they know about den­tal health with peo­ple of all ages in the com­mu­nity. Stu­dents are taught to be­come teach­ers, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of fullfledged doc­tors.

Led by the ex­am­ple of the den­tal pro­gram’s founders and cur­rent staff, the stu­dents start giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity early by go­ing into ele­men­tary schools with free tooth­brushes and talk­ing about the im­por­tance of brush­ing, floss­ing and eat­ing healthy foods. They also visit skilled nurs­ing cen­ters to teach res­i­dents and staff about good den­tal and diet habits, as well as help with ma­jor pub­lic health fairs such as Give Kids A Smile Day. At the fully equipped clinic on cam­pus, you can find the stu­dents three days a week pro­vid­ing ex­ams, clean­ings and other ba­sics for pub­lic pa­tients.

Thus the ed­u­ca­tion goes full cir­cle, as preached as well as prac­ticed by Dr. Bill Truax, a re­tired Fort My­ers den­tist who helped found the FSW pro­gram—lead­ing to an as­so­ciate of sci­ence de­gree and per­haps ad­vanced cour­ses of pro­fes­sional study—in 1994 when the clos­est classes were in Mi­ami and St. Peters­burg. He now runs and works at a free den­tal clinic, aptly named Project Den­tists Care, in Fort My­ers at 2051 MacGregor Blvd.

Truax, who vol­un­teered at a den­tal fair serv­ing nearly 2,000 peo­ple at Har­bour­side Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in March, is proud of the “make a dif­fer­ence” tra­di­tion and the fact that FSW den­tal grads can earn up to $60,000 a year straight out of school.

That pay­off helps show why the de­gree com­ple­tion rate is so high—92 per­cent—and why around 100 FSW stu­dents, af­ter pass­ing cour­ses in ba­sic sciences, com­pete for the 18 slots that come open each year, says pro­gram di­rec­tor Karen Molumby, a trained hy­gien­ist who heads a staff of three den­tists and six oth­ers from her spe­cialty. Her own ca­reer started with an as­so­ciate de­gree from a tech­ni­cal col­lege in Mil­wau­kee.

The sense of mis­sion among staff is ev­i­denced by Dr. Mar­cia Tim­son: “Our stu­dents are all smart peo­ple. They are all go­ing to be re­ally suc­cess­ful. If we can help them get some­where, that’s great.”

Our stu­dents are all smart peo­ple. They are all go­ing to be re­ally suc­cess­ful. If we can help them get some­where, that’s great.” —Dr. Mar­cia Tim­son, pro­fes­sor at FSW

For those who may be won­der­ing about the staffers at their own den­tist’s of­fice, the men and women who painstak­ingly clean and pol­ish your teeth are re­quired by law to be den­tal hy­gien­ists—and to earn that cer­ti­fi­ca­tion they need the kind of train­ing that the FSW team pro­vides.

The FSW stu­dents of­fer a wide va­ri­ety of rea­sons for choos­ing their field. Some are guided by a ba­sic de­sire to help peo­ple get and stay healthy, and ease or pre­vent pain. Oth­ers en­joy work­ing in medicine, but are not cut out for the rig­ors of a four-year de­gree plus med­i­cal school, and life-and-death treat­ment pres­sures.

For some, the road to the den­tal pro­gram started years ago but was in­ter­rupted by life; for an­other, in­spi­ra­tion came from a brother who chose an­other tra­di­tion­ally woman-dom­i­nated field, nurs­ing.

Stu­dents hone their skills in FSW’s own clinic, which of­fers pub­lic ap­point­ments on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day for fees of $30 for chil­dren and $40 for adults, which in­cludes clean­ings, X-rays and pic­tures, and flu­o­ride and seal­ing to pre­vent de­cay and cav­i­ties.

Stu­dents, al­ways su­per­vised by staff, start by work­ing on one pa­tient per day and work their way up to eight to sim­u­late real-world work, which for them is just around the cor-

ner. They work in 16 treat­ment rooms or op­er­a­to­ries that look and are equipped like those in any mod­ern den­tal of­fice.

Some pa­tients are fam­ily mem­bers. On a sin­gle af­ter­noon in March, one sopho­more was work­ing on her grand­fa­ther while an­other worked on her dad. Yet an­other stu­dent worked on a pa­tient who had been coming to the clinic for 14 years. Mark Can­gelosi says he has gum dis­ease that re­quires thor­ough den­tal clean­ings that would oth­er­wise pose an astro­nom­i­cal ex­pense. “I al­ways get good care,” he says. “I have never come across a bad stu­dent.”

Molumby says clinic stu­dents also dis­pense ad­vice. They cau­tion against high-sugar sports drinks pop­u­lar with con­struc­tion work­ers to stay hy­drated; they re­mind pa­tients that smok­ing is bad for teeth and gums; and they sug­gest sug­ar­less can­dies to ward off dry mouth from high blood pres­sure pre­scrip­tions.

Per year, the clinic treats nearly 3,000 adults and 300 young­sters from across South­west Florida, Molumby points out. To han­dle that de­mand, stu­dents are re­quired to log 945 hours in the clinic and 180 in lab­o­ra­to­ries en route to earn­ing the 88 cred­its—54 of which are den­tal-re­lated—to grad­u­ate.

Many peo­ple may not know about FSW’s role in our re­gion’s health care in­dus­try, which is a leader in work­force de­mand. The den­tal pro­gram is just one of many such spe­cial­ized pro­grams. Stu­dents can look to FSW for de­grees or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to be­come: front­line emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cians (EMTs) and paramedics, car­dio­vas­cu­lar tech­ni­cians, nurses, phys­i­cal ther­apy as­sis­tants, ra­di­ol­ogy tech­ni­cians, res­pi­ra­tory aides, med­i­cal billing staff and many more pro­fes­sions.

The word “com­mu­nity” may be gone from the name of the col­lege once known as Edi­son Com­mu­nity Col­lege. But the com­mu­nity, on and off cam­pus, comes to­gether in very ed­u­ca­tional and sus­tain­able ways through FSW’s den­tal hy­giene pro­gram— with smiles all around.

Stu­dents hone their skills in FSW’s own clinic, which of­fers pub­lic ap­point­ments on Tues­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day for fees of $30 for chil­dren and $40 for adults, which in­cludes clean­ings, X-rays and pic­tures, and flu­o­ride and seal­ing to pre­vent de­cay and cav­i­ties.

From left: Dr. Bill Truax helped found the FSW den­tal pro­gram; Karen Molumby, pro­gram di­rec­tor; den­tal hy­giene stu­dents Rachael Halasz and Ke­tia Si­mons show that they prac­tice what they preach with good den­tal care and win­ning smiles.

FSW stu­dent Christina Sposato treats her fa­vorite pa­tient, grand­fa­ther Larry Iten, at the teach­ing clinic on the Fort My­ers cam­pus.

Clock­wise from top: The An­nual Give Kids A Smile Day event; FSW den­tal hy­giene stu­dents work on pa­tients at­tend­ing the event; stu­dent Alexan­der Gam­boa is proud to be part of the fe­male-dom­i­nated class and pro­fes­sion.

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