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Dental programs picked by OHSU for innovative dental practice project

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The education experience for students in Portland Community College’s Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs has gotten real.

The Tilikum Bridge Project, named after Portland’s new transit bridge that is in full view of Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry, is a pilot program created by the university to allow its fourth-year dental students to simulate what it will be like to run their own practice. The university’s students, who are nearing graduation, are charged with running their clinical schedule four days per week, orchestrating a full schedule of appointments while utilizing the skills of PCC’s students.

Josette Beach, PCC’s Dental Programs director, said the college was honored to be approached for this collaborative project, which began in January.

“It’s been so incredible for the students and us as a college,” Beach said. “The students are able to interact with a dentist in ways that mirror what they will do in a private practice. We have been working toward an inter-professional educational learning experience such as this where students have a learning environment that supports a real-world dental team experience and helps them gain their confidence prior to graduation.”


PCC Dental Hygiene student Marina Ruchin (left) examines a patient in her team’s clinic with OHSU dental student Sandeep Toor (middle) and PCC Dental Hygiene student Michelle Edwards supervising.

Beach said that PCC plans to rotate first-year students into the Tilikum Bridge Project during spring term to help them prepare for what they will experience in the near future as second-year students. Additionally, future planning will include collaboration between second-year dental students and students from PCC’s Dental Laboratory Technology Program.

“The experience they are gaining from this is priceless,” she added. “They are learning time management and how to communicate with the dentist and other members of the dental team. When they graduate from the programs they will assimilate into private practice so much easier because of this.”

So far, 18 PCC students participate in weekly rotations on the project. The Dental Hygiene students work from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and gain experience doing cleanings, exposing radiographs, administering anesthesia and placing restorations that have been prepared by the pre-doctoral students. The Dental Assisting students rotate Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, helping with a full array of dental procedures that they will encounter in a dental office.

“It’s gone pretty well for us considering it’s a pilot project,” said Dental Hygiene student Aubrey Wassouf, 32. “It gives you a better idea on what to expect in the real world. At PCC, we have our own schedule we work through and rely heavily on instruction. But at OHSU you are pushed throughout the day with a full schedule of patients, and it already makes me feel like a real hygienist.”

The partnership between the two schools made sense.

“The Tilikum Bridge Project was designed to test ways we can better prepare students for real-world conditions, including working with other dental professionals to serve patients in a clinical setting,” said Sean Benson, OHSU School of Dentistry assistant professor. “My expectations have been exceeded by the professionalism, teamwork, and patient care provided by all parties of this pilot project.”

PCC’s Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene programs offer a one-year certificate and full associate degree, respectively. Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry prepares graduates in general dentistry and the dental specialties to deliver compassionate and ethical orofacial health care.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Public Relations Manager at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic, Wo... more »

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x by John Saito 6 years ago

A great beginning to what may become a series of collaborations in clinical simulation, to include the School of Medicine and School of Nursing.