Dentists appreciate ODS school’s presence

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 14, 2010 01:42 pm

The newspaper ad conveyed humor and more than a hint of desperation.

It was from a dentist in the eastern United States who was advertising several years ago for a dental hygienist. The dentist concluded it with this plea, “Willing to marry if necessary.’’

Dentists in La Grande can appreciate the desperation expressed in the ad. Not long ago filling an opening for a hygienist at a La Grande clinic could be as challenging as completing a complex dental procedure.

“Finding hygienists was nearly impossible,’’ said La Grande dentist Lynn Harris.

Today Harris and other local dentists have a perpetually strong pool of qualified hygienists to draw upon, a credit to the ODS College of Dental Sciences, which opened in La Grande 4 1/2 years ago. Each year 24 students graduate from the school as certified dental hygienists. Many stay in Union County or the region to work in dental offices.

“It has had such a positive impact on the community,’’ Harris said.

So appreciative are Harris and other local dentists that many jump at the opportunity to help ODS with classroom instruction, supervising community service programs, conducting mock job interviews and more. About half a dozen La Grande dentists assist ODS regularly each year, according to Suzanne Hopper, the academic director for the ODS College of Dental Sciences.

“We are very fortunate to have them. They are so supportive and willing to come and help out and be a part of the school,’’ Hopper said.

The dentists reach out because they value ODS and for another reason.

“They are like me. They like being around students,’’ Hopper said.

La Grande dentist Patrick Nearing, who assists at the school once a week during the summer, echoes this sentiment.

“It is my favorite part of the week, it truly is,’’ Nearing said. “I like seeing all of those bright faces who are interested in learning.’’

La Grande dentist Stephen Koza, who teaches a lab one day a week during portions of the year at ODS, expresses a similar sentiment.

“It is a nice break from the rest of the week. I joke that it is my day off,’’ Koza said.

Koza, who has been teaching at ODS for several years, is delighted for the opportunity to assist the school.

“The school is so good for the community and I like sharing what I know,’’ he said.

Nearing said ODS provides an important service by providing services such as low-cost teeth cleanings. Nearing said this helps many people in  today’s tough economic climate. He added that he is impressed with how ODS students take the time to discuss with patients the importance of good dental hygiene, something he cannot always do because of time limitations.

“They get people excited about taking care of their teeth,’’ Nearing said.

Nearing, Harris and Koza, like many of the dentists who assist, are adjunct faculty and are paid for some of the help they provide. The dentists, however, are not reimbursed for much of the help they provide, including the conducting of mock job interviews.

La Grande dentist Wes Rampton is among those who assist with the mock job interviews.

“I want them to know what employers are looking for,’’ Rampton said.

Once a year Rampton has ODS students visit his office, where he provides a guest lecture about root canals. Rampton and his wife, Marie, provide a lunch featuring parmesan tortellie soup. The soup is such a hit with the students that the ODS class of 2009 paid the Ramptons a major culinary compliment. It voted the delectable dish their their class soup.

Hopper is impressed with how the dentists assisting ODS are willing to come in at almost any time. Some, for example, will come in the afternoon after completing a full work day.

“They are always willing to jump in,’’ Hopper said. “They are so committed.’’