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Dental Hygiene Care - Old Dominion University School of Dental Hygiene Receives Health Care Heroes Award from INSIDE BUSINESS, The Hampton Roads Business Journal

An international pioneer, Old Dominion University's dental hygiene school never overlooks the underserved communities in its own backyard. Founded in 1969, the Gene W. Hirschfeld School of Dental Hygiene developed one of the first graduate programs in the field. Textbooks, peer reviewed articles, and book chapters penned by its award-winning professors are required reading worldwide. The school is home to the only dental hygiene research center in the U.S. The ODU 11/12 Explorer, one of the most familiar and effective instruments in dental hygiene, was designed by professor Deanne Shuman and former assistant professor Linda Wilson. The School recently was recognized as a 2012 Health Care Hero by INSIDE BUSINESS, the Hampton Roads Business Journal.

"This faculty, they're always one step ahead," said Shelley Mishoe, dean of ODU's College of Health Sciences. "They really are the leaders in dental hygiene internationally." That includes community outreach. Last year, students and faculty donated $65,480 in free dental hygiene services and education at schools, churches, senior centers, social service agencies and community events. The school recently received a Partner in Education award from Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, where students visit special education classes. "They teach the students proper dental hygiene," said special education teacher Maureen Mitchell. "They take a lot of time with each student individually."It's a win-win situation," Mitchell said. "Our kids get a lot out of it."

At the School of Dental Hygiene's low-cost clinic, the Sofia and David Konikoff Dental Hygiene Care Facility, students use state-of-the-art technology - from digital radiography to electronic dental records - to provide exams, X-rays, nonsurgical periodontal therapy and other services to low-income and uninsured patients.

"The people who need dental hygiene care the most are not those in our private practices, but rather those who do not see a regular dentist because of economic, cultural or geographic barriers," said Michele Darby, the school's chair and editor of Mosby's Comprehensive Review of Dental Hygiene, a seventh-edition "bible" for the industry, and Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice, ed 3, edited with Dr. Margaret Walsh from the University of California at San Francisco. Several of the faculty have chapters in these books too.

The school also serves the global community. By partnering with dental hygiene and dental programs in Germany, Jordan and Nicaragua, it offers study-abroad opportunities. Enrollment now includes students from Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Venezuela just to mention a few. In partnership with physicians for peace, the group is helping to build a dental hygiene school in Nicaragua - the first of its kind in Central America.

"Dental hygiene is growing worldwide," Darby said. "Countries that never had dental hygienists are realizing that hygienists can play a major role. In dental disease prevention, providing education, preventive interventions and nonsurgical therapies is a very low-tech, cost-effective way to control dental disease and improve quality of life.

- written by Teresa Talerico
Contributing Writer/Editor of Cox Small Business Navigation Program
INSIDE BUSINESS The Hampton Roads Business Journal