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Partnering with you to help create healthy smiles

Spotlight: Harrisburg Area Community College and the future of dental hygiene

All throughout the oral health care industry, there is a lack of diversity that can negatively affect health care outcomes. An ADA study in 2016 found that only 15% of dental school applicants were from underrepresented populations, and this number is expected to have fallen since then because of the societal disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This paucity of minority dentists and dental staff is felt keenly, since studies have found that minority patients are  more trusting of (PDF) and more likely to be satisfied with the care they receive, seek out preventive care and agree to necessary procedures when treated by health care providers of their own race and ethnicity. Meeting this need for more minority dental industry professionals is why the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation is on track to endow seven Scholarships for Opportunity by the end of the year.

But providing scholarships for students isn’t enough if those students don’t also have a great place to learn. Fortunately, for students in the central Pennsylvania area, there’s an excellent oral hygiene program right in their own backyard: Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC).

HACC is more than just the largest community college in Pennsylvania; it’s also an accessible, affordable, high quality comprehensive community college. With multiple campuses in the central Pennsylvania area, HACC has a diverse student and faculty base, as well as the second largest military and veteran enrollment of any higher learning institution within the state of Pennsylvania.

One of the strongest programs at HACC is its dental hygiene program. This program has an 85% completion rate and students collectively have a 100% success rate in passing national board exams. Additionally, 100% of students pass the CDCA written exam on their first try and 100% of graduates succeed in getting job placements. To help make oral health careers more accessible for traditionally underrepresented populations and increase the number of professionals entering the dental workforce, Delta Dental has donated nearly $160,000 to HACC’s oral hygiene program. This money has gone to new training operatories, clinics that provide free and reduced cost services to the community and more. 

Additionally, the Community Care Foundation also provided funding for HACC to build virtual simulation stations that allowed students to continue learning during the pandemic and has expanded the educational opportunities available to them. 

“The dental simulation laboratory project was a much-needed enhancement prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in light of the pandemic, this project has become even more critical as it provides a safe option for students to continue to learn in an environment that mimics a modern dental office,” said John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D., HACC president and CEO.

“Patient and student safety are our top priority, and we believe this project will provide great benefits for future clinicians as well as the community we serve,” Sygielski said.

Delta Dental is proud to be partner of the Harrisburg Area Community College in driving change, increasing representation and growing the oral health care industry.