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VDA Urges Swift Action to Support Allied Dental Programs at VCCS Healthcare Summit

The Virginia Dental Association (VDA) joined other healthcare and business advocacy groups November 29 for the first Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Healthcare Summit. Convened by VCCS Chancellor Dr. David Doré, the summit sought to address current workforce shortages in healthcare and explore solutions to help students succeed in pursuing healthcare careers and close the skills gap.

Speaking on an industry panel at lunchtime, VDA CEO Ryan Dunn urged the Governor’s administration and VCCS administrators to recognize the impact that Virginia’s allied dental workforce has on the overall health of our communities, and the critical role the community college system plays in providing allied dental education. He pointed to significant workforce imbalances in regions throughout Virginia, including acute hygienist shortages in the Greater Richmond area and Northern Virginia. Half of dentists report that since the pandemic, they are personally taking on tasks previously assigned to dental hygienists, dental assistants or other team members due to hiring challenges. 

Most of Virginia’s dental hygienists matriculate from community college education programs. Among the points of discussion at the conference were lessons learned from other health professions to address needs, including earn-to-learn programs and strategic partnerships that could help support allied dental programs. 

The afternoon of the conference included regional breakout sessions to develop specific policy goals to be adopted by the Virginia Community College System, and the VDA will be participating with small groups to address those needs identified and urge action to address patient needs in the weeks ahead. 

The VDA will be moderating a panel discussion later this week at the VCCS Hire Education Conference in Roanoke that will include allied dental program directors from Mountain Empire Community College and Germanna Community College, both of which recently launched new programs, to further discuss strategies for collaborating to address oral health workforce needs and sustaining and growing the capacity of crucial education programs in our state. 

More information about the VCCS Healthcare Summit can be found here.