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OTC dental program shines
Statesboro dentists help train students
Web OTC Dental 1
Ogeechee Technical College dental assisting instructor Yvonne Jenkins, left, pins student Mara Greene during a ceremony last week inside the Joseph Kennedy Auditorium on OTC's campus marking a milestone for 13 dental students. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff

      With the state unemployment rate holding at more than 10 percent, many Georgia residents are struggling to find a job, unless perhaps, they are a recent graduate of one of Georgia's technical colleges.
      Technical college job placement rates in Georgia have remained very high, especially for Ogeechee Technical College. In 2010, Ogeechee Tech's in-field placement rate was 94 percent and total placement was 98.5 percent. That translates to almost all of OTC graduates in fiscal year 2010 finding a job upon completing their program of study.
      The college's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
      "Our internal data is a one-time snapshot at the time of graduation, whereas state data monitors the graduates for a full year," said OTC president Dawn Cartee. "For the state monitored data, our total placement rate was 86.8 percent, which was the highest in the Technical College System of Georgia for fiscal year 2010."
      A positive illustration of these numbers is the track record of the college's Dental Assisting program.
      "We had a 100-percent job placement rate for fiscal year 2011 which ended this past June," said Yvonne Jenkins, the program's director. "The program takes about a year and a half to complete, and we graduate one class per year, averaging ten to 12 students."
      Local dentist Ricky Lane served as the keynote speaker at the program's pinning ceremony held last week, which marks the completion of the dental assisting program. Lane has been involved with the program since its inception, with his office serving as a clinical site. Lane said it is a win-win situation for local dentists and the program's graduates.
      "The quality of these graduates is truly beneficial to us as dentists, because we need well qualified assistants on a rotational basis," he said. "I am pleased to say that I have employed many OTC graduates from the program over the years, and will continue to do so."
      Danielle Owen, one of the 13 dental assistants honored at the pinning ceremony plans to apply to Georgia Health Sciences University's College of Dental Medicine in fall 2012. A graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in biology, she now plans to use her additional dental assisting education to gain a competitive edge when she applies.
      "Ogeechee Tech's dental assisting program has been very hands-on," Owen said. "Our operatory/exam rooms allow on-the-job training, and that has been a crucial compliment to what I have learned from books."
      Like other programs at OTC, the dental assisting program has an advisory committee which in this case is made up of dental professionals who provide expert support for the program. Lane is a member of that advisory board which assists with developing strategic and operational plans, in addition to providing recommendations and advice regarding curriculum content.
      "It is through the professional interest of supporters such as Dr. Lane that our students gain valuable clinical experience, as well as classroom knowledge," Jenkins said. "Our dental assistants become valuable members of the dental health care team performing a variety of patient care. They are qualified to assist the dentist during treatment, exposing dental radiographs, preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment, taking impressions, conducting laboratory procedures, educating patients about good homecare, scheduling and confirming appointments, and most importantly helping to keep the patient comfortable."
      Cartee said the college serves a very important role in providing an education that allows graduates to get a job, support themselves and their families, and make a better life for themselves.
       "It is worth noting that most of our graduates get good, steady jobs, many with benefits," Cartee said. "While the pay scale of our graduates varies greatly, depending on their program of study, moving from a non-skilled, non-benefit job paying $15,000 per year, to one making $25,000 with benefits is pretty significant. In many cases, we have graduates making more than $50,000, but it is all relative. Making that $25,000 per year may be more significant for some graduates than making twice that for some others."