Madeleine Haggerty, director of dental hygiene at Youngstown State University, is proud of the associate degree program she helped build over two decades.
But now she says it’s time for a bold step — a four-year bachelor’s degree.
The bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, approved by the YSU Board of Trustees a year ago, will welcome its first class in Jan.14 for the start of spring semester. It is only the second program of its kind in Ohio. The new degree was identified as a goal in the Department of Health Professions Strategic Plan in 2009.
The associate-degree program began in 1976 with the first class of 30 students graduating in 1978. Haggerty was hired in 1975 to develop the program, and in 2000 the program was named the Dr. Madeleine Haggerty Dental Hygiene Program. Haggerty has been at YSU for 37 years.
“If students want to pursue other roles in dental hygiene, such as working in public health, or dental sales, or in teaching, then they need to have an advanced degree,” said Haggerty.
To nurture the growth of the bachelor’s program, a new practicum dental-hygiene clinic where hygienists can practice providing dental care on real patients is now being constructed in Cushwa Hall on the YSU campus, with an expected completion date in summer 2014.
Dental hygienists work on the front line of dental-health care, cleaning patients’ teeth, charting oral conditions, taking X-rays, applying fluoride treatments, taking dental impressions and generally prepping patients for the dentist’s exam.
Haggerty said the impetus for upgrading from a two- to four-year program included a reduction in time for students to attain advanced degrees and greater upward mobility for students within the profession.
The program, accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation, is housed in Cushwa Hall as part of the Department of Health Professions in the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services. The program has four full-time and 15 part-time faculty members.
“There is a need for the students we graduate in our area,” said Haggerty. “This is a desirable major and profession. Our graduates do very well, and when they graduate, they are licensed in many states.”
According to the United States Department of Labor and Statistics, the average annual salary for a dental hygienist is $68,250, or just under $32 per hour, with an expected career growth rate of 38 percent through 2020. The Ohio Board of Health puts dental care at the top of the state’s list of greatest unmet health-care needs for children and low-income adults.
Haggerty said an ideal dental hygienist will have academic ability, manual dexterity and critical thinking and communication skills, along with a people-oriented, caring personality.
Students interested in applying for admission to the program must have a minimum GPA of 2.5. Class sizes are limited, and students are admitted on a competitive basis.
For more information, visit http://web.ysu.edu/gen/bcohhs/Dental_Hygiene_m29.html, or call 330-941-3342.