North Idaho College dental hygiene program opens

The North Idaho College Dental Hygiene Clinic includes a sensory room and a sterilization room for cleaning and disinfecting instruments.

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — This is how Janis McClelland described the official opening of Winton Hall in its new life as home to the North Idaho College dental hygiene program, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d’Alene Press.

“I couldn’t believe the crowd. It was extraordinary to see that many people come out to witness it,” said McClelland, who directs the program. “I’ve wanted to see a dental hygiene program here for 26 years. To see it actually come together is pretty extraordinary.”

Students, staff, trustees, community members and other college dignitaries were all smiles Thursday afternoon as the college invited one and all to share in the excitement of NIC’s new dental clinic, where 15 students are refining their dental tech skills in the program’s first year. A ribbon-cutting ceremony commenced the festivities.

“My personal favorite is the sensory room,” said dental hygiene student Jennifer Joseph, who led tours through the facility. “A lot of patients probably are hesitant to be seen in this environment, and it’s not offered a lot in general practice either to be able to accommodate those types of things. It was really important to Janis. She’s done an amazing job at offering those things.”

Joseph said she’s also really happy with the facility’s sterilization room, a designated area with state-of-the-art equipment for cleaning and disinfecting instruments.

“The functionality of this sterilization room is absolutely amazing,” Joseph said.

One of the first people to tour the NIC Dental Hygiene Clinic was John Pulsipher, president of the Idaho Panhandle Dental Society, which comprises about 150 dentists. Pulsipher practices at Riverstone Dental Care, which employs 12 dental hygienists but has room for up to 20 more.

“There’s a huge need in our community to have more dental hygienists,” he said. “We love this program.”

Across from Winton Hall, the open house continued as guests explored the newly expanded Meyer Health and Sciences Building, which boasts new technology, office and classroom space, study nooks, meeting rooms and storage.

“I really like the building itself. The expansion reminds me of the DeArmond Building, which I think is a lot of people’s favorite building on campus, especially with that industrial feel, it’s really cool,” said Damian Maxwell, president of the Associated Students of NIC. “On top of that, I heard nursing did extremely well when there was a site visit, they were really impressed with the nursing program. I’m really excited to see the dental hygiene program take off.

Representatives from across campus offered information about more than 35 different programs NIC offers, from graphic design and culinary arts to support for first-generation college graduates.

Natural sciences lab tech Rachel Lunstroth drew people to the augmented reality sandbox, where she discussed how this techie tool is used in geology labs for lessons about topographic maps.

“It’s been very applicable and very useful,” she said.

She said she was excited to help show off the expanded science building.

“From the first day that I worked here, I knew it was a really big deal,” she said. “Just to see the technology that has been put in has been really incredible.”

First-year surgical technology student Melissa Hostetter was among numerous health science students who joined in the celebration.

“The building’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “We’re excited to get into our new lab in January. That will give us more room to have more students and be able to have more hands-on opportunities.”

She said having the support of the community is paramount.

“What’s going on here is going to continue for generations to come,” she said.

The Coeur d’Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.


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