Big Sandy Community and Technical College has announced the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art dental facility, the East Kentucky Oral Health Training Center (EKOHTC). A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Oct. 7.
The center, according to a statement from BSCTC, will be the new home for the College’s Dental Assisting/Dental Hygiene Integrated Program (DA/DH program) certificate, diploma, and A.A.S. degree programs and the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC) certificate.
EKOHTC will become a site for Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS) and a hub for training the region’s oral health professionals (incumbent workers and small businesses) in continuing education, updated technology, telehealth and emerging oral health treatment, the statement said.
Delta Dental and Workforce Opportunities (WORC): A Grant Initiative for the Appalachian Region through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration funded the
creation of EKOHTC.
Dr. Jill Keaton, BSCTC’s program coordinator of Dental Hygiene/Dental Assisting said, “We are proud to serve eastern Kentucky by providing oral healthcare while educating future dental professionals. We are enthusiastic about the positive impact we will have on our region.”
Brian Hart, the chief revenue officer for Delta Dental, spoke fondly of Dr. Keaton as he reflected on the first moments of the project when Keaton first approached his company with the idea for the center and asked for funding.
“All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ Walking in and seeing the facility, it’s world-class, beautiful, it’s just top shelf. We’re grateful and humbled to be a part of this, but our first interaction with Dr. Jill and team, it wasn’t this,” Hart laughed. “It was a blueprint on an easel and in Dr. Jill’s kind and humble and generous way, she said, ‘We need $590,000.’ It was then, and still to this day, the largest single gift that Delta Dental in Kentucky has ever given.”
The center will increase the region’s capacity to provide a reliable pipeline of trained oral health professionals to mitigate the oral health disparities in our communities, the statement said.
“The opening of our new dental clinic signifies the power of partnerships to accomplish milestones. As the community college, we strive to be purveyors of hope for the people of our region; these are the investments we seek,” stated BSCTC President Telly Sellars.
EKOHTC, the statement said, features 20 operatories and the latest technological advances in oral health/dental care. BSCTC is committed to serving 200 incumbent workers through continuing education and workforce training customized for oral health professionals in the region.
Dr. Jeff Okenson, DMD, who also serves as dean for the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry, spoke about the significance of the event for past and future dental students and the residents of the more rural regions of Kentucky.
“When I became the dean a few years ago, I thought one of the things that we need to do at our university is to make sure to reach out to our rural areas to make sure we can do whatever we can to help out with our dental needs,” Okeson said. “So, we came down here … Met with your leaders at Big Sandy at that time, and developed a memorandum of understanding that we would partner as well as we could and help a vision like this, a vision that Dr. Keaton has had for some time. She’s one of my former students … We’re so proud of what both of them have accomplished, especially what Jill’s done here.
“We came down two years ago and walked through this cafeteria, which is what it was,” Okeson continued. “To see what it has emerged to in the last couple of years is just remarkable. I wish our dental school was this nice. We have the space there, the beauty, the colors, the lightness. It’s just so positive. I know it’s going to be such a wonderful facility for this region, to help the patients here who need dental care … Thank you Delta Dental, thank you to the Department of Labor, and all that Jill said. There’s too many to thank, this is a village to make this happen and we’re so proud of what’s going on down here.”
Continuing education and workforce training will focus on coronal polishing and radiology certifications for dental assistants, laser debridement, and local anesthesia for dental hygienists, telemedicine and others to support and grow the oral health/dental care workforce in the region, the statement said.