About 40 VDA leaders from the Peninsula, Tidewater and Richmond Dental Societies and representatives from the Virginia Dental Hygienists’ Association and other concerned community members met November 1st at a community meeting to discuss the future and path forward for the Virginia Peninsula Community College Dental Hygiene Program.
The VDA and local component leaders have been urging school administrators, VCCS leadership, the Governor’s administration and local General Assembly leaders to help address the issues at the school that have led to a pause in admissions for the program.
Since welcoming its first students more than a decade ago, there have been more than 100 graduates from the VPCC dental hygiene program, with consistent 100 percent pass rates on board exams. In recent years, it has educated 20 students at a time in the two-year program, with ten graduating each year. Clinic Director Dr. Harold Marioneaux, who plans to retire in June, noted that the program was designed to have a total capacity of up to 40 students, including clinic time in the evenings and on Fridays.
VPCC President Towuanna Porter Brannon and Vice President of Academic Affairs Kerry Ragno said the primary challenges the program needs to address relate to staff, administration, and curriculum.
VDA members and other attendees raised options for addressing the school’s challenges, including addressing the instructor pay disparity between VPCC and other Virginia Community College-based dental hygiene programs, engaging with recent retirees to serve as part-time adjunct faculty, addressing funding needs through the General Assembly, accepting the recommendation of dental program director Kelly Tanner, PhD, RDH to participate in the Medicaid program, incentivizing private practice dentists to release dental hygienists to teach, and potential partnerships with the ODU Dental Hygiene program.
The school is in the process of developing a SWOT analysis on their program, which remains accredited. When questioned, the administrators were not able to provide an estimate on when the admissions process could resume.
The VDA will be further exploring options when its dental workforce council meets later this month.
Two things our members can do right now to make a difference:
1. Consider if you, a colleague or team member can serve as an adjunct instructor for VPCC, or if you are in a different part of the state, for your local allied dental program. Current clinic hours at VPCC are 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday.
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2. Consider joining the Virginia Community College System’s Healthcare Workforce Conference November 29 at Brightpoint Community College in Chester to advocate for the five community college-based dental hygiene programs in Virginia. The VDA is one of the participating associations, and will be represented by CEO Ryan Dunn. As part of the conference, which will look at our overall healthcare workforce needs, attendees will be broken out regionally for feedback, and it is important that our community oral health needs are included in their plans. Attendance is free.
If you can’t make it in-person, please share your comments with Paul Logan at email@example.com so that VDA staff and members in attendance can include your perspective.
Thank you to the many member dentists who have contacted VPCC and your local legislators on this issue. We will keep members updated as we learn more about the path forward.