Ohio Dental Association Foundation awards CDHC scholarship
November 01, 2016
— When Tiffaney Hamm first started as a dental assistant she was looking for a stable career, something she could both enjoy and help support her family. What she found was a calling and desire to do whatever it takes to help patients in her community.
"Treating the person behind the smile is as important as treating the smile itself," said Ms. Hamm, program coordinator for the Delta Dental Center at Oyler School, part of the Cincinnati Health Department.
Ms. Hamm's work as a dental assistant opened a whole new world and thirst for learning, which is why when she learned of the ADA's Community Dental Health Coordinator program, she jumped at the chance to do more.
The CDHC model was designed to help bridge the medical and dental treatment worlds by providing better case management of dental disease and integration of care in many health care settings including school-based health centers, medical offices and nursing homes.
"I see loopholes every day — patients not meeting certain criteria or clinics that are overfilled and unable to absorb the immediate need," Ms. Hamm said. "I want to help provide resources. I want to help open opportunities not only for patients, but also for providers."
This passion led the Ohio Dental Association Foundation to award Ms. Hamm a full tuition scholarship for Community Dental Health Coordinator training. She is currently working on obtaining her CDHC certificate from Rio Salado College in Tempe, Ariz., via distance learning.
"To my knowledge, the ODA Foundation is one of the first groups to provide a full tuition scholarship to a CDHC student," said Dr. Kim Gardner, chair, Ohio Dental Association Foundation Board of Trustees. "The ODAF Board felt this was an important first step in showing how the profession values optimum dental care to the underserved."
Ms. Hamm, who has 17 years of experience as a dental assistant — 11 years in private practice, six in public health — is excited for the opportunity.
"I know this is a new role [in health care] but I believe that being a CDHC will give me the skills needed that I can take to help break barriers, and provide options to those who are looking for guidance," said Hamm. "The bottom line will be that patients will know that I truly just want what's best for them... and that I am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our patients are comfortable, supported, trusted and loved."
One of the biggest strengths Ms. Hamm brings to the job is empathy. Because her own childhood was hard — her parents struggled with drug and alcohol issues — she understands that everyone needs help sometimes. She's needed it herself at times.
"I have been both the child that needed help and the parent needing help for their child," she said. "I understand that sometimes life deals you bad hands, but I was fortunate to have people who invested in me. They truly cared. I hope to be that person to someone someday. Having the ADA and the ODA stand behind me as I start this adventure gave me hope."
Ms. Hamm, 36, grew up in Indiana but moved to Kentucky when she was 17. When she was 20 and balancing life as a single mother, she set out to find a "stable" profession to support herself and her son.
"I wanted to have a job that I could truly love," she said.
She saw a job posting from Dr. Bradley Huey, an ADA member in Walton, Kentucky, offering to hire and train a dental assistant.
"I had zero experience in health care, but had the desire to grow," she said.
"He worked with me, showing me how to pour models and learning anatomy — even just learning how to hold instruments properly," Ms. Hamm said of Dr. Huey. "Little by little, step-by-step I was laid the path to get me where I am today."
"Having this scholarship, it shows me that there are big organizations on a state-wide and national level that still believe in having heart," said Ms. Hamm, now married with two children, ages 12 and 16. "That we are all dedicated to work together for the greater good. The ODA supplied me with this gift so I can pay it forward. Hopefully I make them proud through the work that I do, and the families that I serve. It helped push me, to keep growing professionally and personally. I am already learning and using things in my classes that I am implementing in my day-to-day conversations."
For more information about the ADA's CDHC program, visit ADA.org