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ADA Foundation awards 30 allied dental students with $1,000 scholarships

July 31, 2013

By Jean Williams, ADA News staff

Dawn Pettet

Charles Mason

Phuong Hoang Pham
Winning one of the ADA Foundation's 2013 Allied Dental Student Scholarships has made starting over in life that much easier for dental assisting student Dawn Pettet.

Ms. Pettet of Bradenton, Fla., won one of 30 scholarships of $1,000 each that support the academic pursuits of dental assisting, dental hygiene and dental laboratory technician students enrolled in Commission on Dental Accreditation accredited programs.

A former small business owner who worked in mechanical trades, primarily plumbing, Ms. Pettet, 42, was forced to switch careers after an injury to her legs.

After her injury, she underwent testing for vocational rehabilitation and chose dental assisting from the recommendations.

“They sent me to orthopedic surgeons and doctors to evaluate what I would be physically capable of doing,” she said. “It was a short list. I wanted to do mortuary science. They said, 'You're crazy. You can't physically.' That didn't occur to me. They said, 'How about dental assisting?' I had not considered it before. So it's not that I was reluctant. It's just something I never pictured myself doing. And I like it a lot more than I thought I would have.”

The Allied Dental Student Scholarship helped defray key costs related to Ms. Pettet's pursuit of dental assisting. It also gave her renewed confidence in pursuit of her new career.

“I wouldn't devalue my life experience,” she said. “It's made me who I am. But I've got to say that this is a whole new lease. Everything about dental assisting is brand new to me, and it's not like anything I've done before. I'm enjoying it very much.”

Charles Mason, who previously worked as a special effects makeup artist for small theaters, graduated in June from Portland Community College in Portland, Ore. He received a scholarship to defray costs associated with his dental laboratory technology studies.

“I felt really good,” Mr. Mason said about receiving the scholarship. “It's a sense of accomplishment. I worked really hard. I worked at home, and then I would go to different laboratories and observe and I would do volunteer work. I just feel really good that someone would recognize that.”

Mr. Mason, 42, said his makeup background sparked his interest in dental laboratory technology. “We would make fake noses and different things,” he said. “We would use the same materials as they do in dental technology. I got braces on and I was going to the orthodontist, and I would see different impressions on the table—the teeth that are made in plaster. That made me interested in the field. I thought that dentists did all their laboratory work, but then I found out that there are laboratories that do it. I thought that was something that I could do.”

Scholarship recipient Phuong Hoang Pham, 37, of Escondido, Calif., graduated in June from Concorde Career College in Garden Grove, Calif. Previously a dental assistant, Ms. Pham has plans to become a dental hygienist. Said Ms. Pham, “Right now I'm in the process of taking the board exam to get my license. So the money has really helped me during this time. I'm not working because I've got to focus on taking the test. My student loan has run out and I'm paying some of it. So it's really helped me during this time.”

Directors at CODA accredited schools submitted nominees for scholarship consideration. For more information about the ADA Foundation's scholarship programs, visit ADA foundation.