USC Revamps Dental Hygiene Program

Dentistry Today


Beginning with the fall 2019 trimester, the dental hygiene program at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California (USC) will see some key changes. First, class sizes will be smaller, with 20 students enrolled in the incoming class of 2021 this fall.

“We’re very excited because there’s going to be more personalized education and more one-on-one time between students and faculty,” said Diane Melrose, MA, professor of clinical dentistry and chair of the dental hygiene program.

“The program is clinically the best in the United States, but we’re enhancing it to make it even better,” said Melrose.

There are 330 accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States, with 27 in California. Most provide an associate’s degree at a lower cost, but none offer the opportunities available at a major university like USC, the school reports. Only two other California dental hygiene programs are located at a dental school.

“We want to emphasize our dental hygiene program’s level of expertise and the advantage we have with it being housed within the dental school,” Melrose said.

The new model’s goal is to integrate dental hygiene students with dental students so they are working side by side as they would in a dental office. Dental hygiene and dental students also will take courses and seminars together.

“It’ll be a win-win situation for both the dental hygiene and dental students, because it’s very important they learn to work together as a team in order to have a successful practice and provide optimal care to the patients,” Melrose said.

The school also plans on opportunities for dental hygiene students to collaborate with students from other professions at USC, including pharmacists, social workers, physician assistants, and occupational and physical therapists. 

“Healthcare is increasingly becoming interprofessional, and we want our students to be prepared to work with other disciplines,” Melrose said. “Collaboration between professionals can lead to an optimal treatment plan and care. It will also broaden the student’s educational experience and knowledge.”

According to the school, the USC dental hygiene program places a strong emphasis on its students becoming leaders in the profession.

“It is our goal that our students be prepared to promote our profession in different ways, such as through advocacy, creating community programs, and becoming administrators and educators,” said Melrose. 

“We are excited about our new model and the opportunity to graduate students who will advance our profession for the future,” Melrose said.

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