Hagerstown Community College’s new hygiene program benefits students in search of education close by — and underserved patients who need access to care.
For as long as she can remember, Wendy Edens wanted to “help people have a healthy smile,” she told Incisal Edge magazine, and for her that meant pursuing a career in dental hygiene. This May, after some fitful progress, Edens (along with 18 others) was a proud part of Hagerstown Community College’s inaugural class of hygiene graduates (shown).
According to a story by Melanie Bavaria for the dental lifestyle magazine, Maryland has seven dental-hygiene programs overall, five of which are in metropolitan Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The ones at Hagerstown CC and Allegany College, in Cumberland, are located in the rural, less-populated northwestern portion of the state. Edens, 44 years old and a mother of three, initially attended Allegany, but the three-hour commute from Hagerstown to Cumberland and back became too much to manage. In 2013, news that Hagerstown CC was starting a hygiene program spurred her to apply, a decision she hasn’t regretted a bit.
“It’s an amazing program,” Edens says. “The instructors go above and beyond, spending extra time with you in the clinic if there’s something you don’t understand.”
Before the school could bring on students, though, or faculty to spend extra time with them, years of preparation laid the foundation. The primary impetus for the hygiene addition was area dentists (in Pennsylvania and West Virginia in addition to Maryland) who had existing relationships with Hagerstown CC through its dental-assistant program. These doctors hoped to bring more preventive care to rural populations nearby, but there simply weren’t enough credentialed hygienists to make it feasible.
“We really need hygienists for patients in this area,” says Angela Stoops, Hagerstown CC’s director of health sciences. “A lot of treatment isn’t given because of lack of access.”
Until Hagerstown’s program emerged, most hygienists trained in the Old Line State stayed in the communities in which their schools were situated. An initial assessment by Hagerstown CC in 2010 found that, like Wendy Edens, many people wanted to become hygienists but lived too far from the nearest program.
Learn how Stoops helped design a curriculum, present it to the state and apply for program accreditation, and see the final results of her work in bringing it to fruition with the team at Benco Dental, including Friendly Benco Rep Steve Caler and CenterPoint Dental Designer Paul Staritz: