Idaho hygienists salute Congressman

May 26, 2006
Idaho State University shows appreciation for funds that help set up online master's degree program for dental hygiene.

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson visited the Idaho State University dental hygiene and dental sciences programs on Friday, April 21, at the Dental Arts Building in the ISU Pocatello campus

The dental hygiene faculty, staff, and students converted their classroom into a café to host a luncheon in appreciation for the congressman's leadership in acquiring the funding to start the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH) program at ISU. This program is the first fully online graduate dental hygiene program in the United States.

"Our success in addressing a critical nationwide shortage in dental hygiene faculty has been remarkable," says Carlene Paarmann, dental hygiene department chair. "We have enrolled 40 percent of all dental hygiene graduate students in the country in the first year."

The program is housed at ISU's Pocatello campus and Boise Center, but students with diverse backgrounds are enrolled from all regions of Idaho and 10 other states.

In addition to helping the university and the dental hygiene program, Rep. Simpson's assistance has indirectly provided community service through the involvement of MSDH students in Idaho in various projects. For example, ISU-MSDH faculty and ISU dental residents are participating in a community service project in Boise related to the role of periodontal disease in low weight, preterm births.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is funding the "Idaho Prenatal Oral Health Project" because preliminary data indicate a seven-times greater risk of these costly births if a mother has gum disease while pregnant. The goal is to increase awareness of this association among primary health care providers and to assist women at risk with referrals for needed oral health care services.

Dr. Linda Boyd, MSDH program director, also is working with Delta Dental on "Healthy Smiles: A Mother's Gift" to enhance preventive care for pregnant women and mothers of infants until 2 years of age. Graduate and undergraduate dental-hygiene students and dental residents in Pocatello recently provided $17,500 of needed dental care for underprivileged children in Southeast Idaho.

In mid-May, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Simpson announced that $744,000 in federal funding is being released to Idaho State University (ISU) by the U.S. Department of Education. ISU's Department of Dental Hygiene will receive $496,000.

Senator Craig said, "ISU has made great strides in recent years in providing new and needed educational innovations for the state, and has found a unique niche among the Idaho universities. I am pleased that Congressman Simpson and I have the chance to assist them in this and other endeavors, and I expect we'll continue to see more great things from ISU."

"This funding is a crucial component of our ongoing efforts to expand the educational opportunities offered to ISU's students and the people of Southeast Idaho," said Congressman Simpson. "This funding is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone associated with these two programs at ISU. I commend the faculty and students of ISU for their success and look forward to seeing these programs up and running real soon."

ISU's Department of Dental Hygiene will use its share of funding to continue the development of a master's program in dental hygiene. First year students in the master's program are currently in the application stage and will begin classes in late August. Craig and Simpson secured $400,000 in Fiscal Year 2004 to begin the development stage of the master's degree program.