Newswise — Mix 20 Kansas high school students with 2 ½ days of hands-on experience at Wichita State University's AEGD Dental Camp, and you might get what you wished for: 20 impressed young people more focused on careers in dentistry.

The Advanced Education in General Dentistry Dental Camp -- June 13-15 at the high-tech AEGD facility -- reached out to high schools across the state with an invitation to their students to participate in a no-cost, hands-on experience driven by faculty dentists who oversee dental residents in the WSU College of Education's AEGD program.

Because the camp was a first-time event for AEGD, expectations for attendance were modest, according to event coordinator Jasmine Massions. Receiving almost twice the expected applications and filling all available slots was a pleasant surprise, she said.

"We were also surprised and thrilled that so many students came from outside of Wichita," said Massions.

Many of their hometowns are underserved in medical areas, including dentistry. Part of the AEGD program mission is directed toward recruiting and retaining dentists to practice in underserved areas of Kansas.

Hands-on experience

On June 14, the heaviest day of hands-on work, AEGD dental faculty Mike Snowbarger led two groups of 10 students each in back-to-back visuals and lecture, followed by students applying what they had just learned.

The students took X rays of each other's mouths, and made impressions and alginate-pour models. They made triad custom trays for bleaching and practiced suturing techniques.

In the AEGD simulation lab, they drilled and filled real teeth, overseen by Snowbarger and dental resident Dan Stipes. AEGD program director Dexter Woods was also on hand.

During lunch, students enjoyed pizza and salad, compared notes and raved about their experiences.

"It's very eye-opening and a lot more hands-on than I thought it would be," said Kogan Finney, McPherson.

Opening doors

Alexander Dodsworth, from Altamont, talked about his preconceived notions of dental school: lots of reading; lots of tests; not much clinical work at first. He was glad to have an opportunity to experience just a fraction of what dentists do.

"I honestly had no idea until I came here," Dodsworth said. "It has opened so many doors in my mind."

While a majority of the students are hoping to become dentists, three are interested in dental hygiene degrees.

Tianna Francis, Wichita, and Whitney Wilson, Carbondale, have already been accepted into Wichita State's dental hygiene program.

"We learned that if you floss you'll live 10 years longer," said Francis. "We've learned charting, too. And I'm excited to be filling teeth."

Stipe, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma's dental program, worked closely with the students all day. He was known at his alma mater for working with pre-dental students in seminar sessions.

"I like to do this hands-on with the students," Stipe said. "I just want to pay back the education I got."

From McAlister, Okla., Stipe attended Oklahoma State University as an undergraduate pre-med student. By his sophomore year he had turned toward dentistry and eventually was accepted by OU to become a dentist.

Wichita State's dental residency program is just what he needed, Stipe said.

"I know what to do now," he said. "But the goal of the residency is gaining speed, more knowledge, new technology, confidence, better hand skills and improved patient communication."

A godsend

Working with AEGD dental faculty as mentors is a godsend for residents, said Stipe, for the chance to check their own diagnoses and ideas against longtime professionals.

So many layers of learning, all taking place in one academic program: Even the camp counselors were dental hygiene or pre-dental students from Wichita State.

At the end of camp Friday, the students "graduated" from camp, each receiving a personalized framed certificate. After celebrating with mentors and camp counselors, they headed home with a broader view of their futures.

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