The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California (USC) has revamped its dental hygiene program with a focus on smaller class sizes and greater collaboration with dental school students.
“We’re very excited because there’s going to be personalized education and more one-on-one time between students and faculty,” said Diane Melrose, MA, professor of clinical dentistry and director of the dental hygiene program.
“The program is clinically the best in the United States, but we’re enhancing it and making it even better than it has been,” said Melrose.
There are 330 accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States, with 27 in California. According to USC, only two other dental hygiene programs in the state also are part of a dental school.
“We want to emphasize our dental hygiene program’s level of expertise and the advantage we have with it being within the dental school. We’re continually collaborating and keeping up with the latest technology in every part of dentistry,” said Melrose.
“Because our students are so involved in communication and explaining things to patients, it’s vital. And they get to have this information firsthand from world-renowned faculty members,” said Melrose.
The new model includes smaller enrollment, with only 20 students in the class of 2021. It also integrates dental hygiene students and dental students so they work together as they would in a dental office. These students will take courses and seminars together as well.
“It’ll be a win-win situation for both the dental students and the dental hygienists, because it’s really important they learn to work together as a team in order to have a successful practice and provide optimal care to the patients,” said Melrose.
The dental hygiene students can teach dental students about scaling, root planing, and assessment, while dental students will teach dental hygiene students the different procedures they perform, the school reports.
“They’ll collaborate and be there with the same patient and work together on assessment,” Melrose said.
The experiences also will serve as perfect networking opportunities, the school says, and Melrose hopes the relationships developed with transition from the classroom into the students’ careers.
“They can learn from each other what their roles are and how they can collaborate and work together when they leave the school,” Melrose said.
There also will be a push for students in the dental hygiene program to collaborate with residents from different specialties at USC, including occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, physician assistants, and social workers to prepare them for the future.
“When they meet a patient, all the disciplines will be there,” Melrose said. “They’ll collaborate to see what would be the best treatment. The dental hygienist can educate the others in the group about oral care and some other aspects to be aware of.”