For over 15 years, in an effort to increase access to dental care for residents in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, YKHC has sponsored the training of Dental Health Aide Therapists (DHAT). The rigorous, two-year training program equips local Alaskans to become mid-level dental practitioners who provide essential oral healthcare as close to our patients’ home as possible.
Since 2007 and 2008, through a partnership with Yuut Elitnaurivat, the University of Washington, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Rasmuson Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Alaska-trained DHATs have completed their second year of clinical training in Bethel. YKHC believes there are invaluable benefits to students, patients, and the region in hosting the second year of training in Bethel. As students prepare to become practitioners in rural Alaska, a rural-based training location is vital for the long-term success of our DHATs.
During the second year, DHAT students receive training in a local cultural model and gain a working knowledge of common logistical barriers in rural Alaska. Prospective DHATs train alongside a network of current dental providers and work directly with the patient populations they will serve upon graduation, forming personal relationships with patients. Students experience life in a rural service area firsthand, helping to reduce attrition upon graduation. Local training for high wage, professional employment, allows DHAT students to train closer to home and builds local role models for our youth.
ANTHC’s decision to move the second year of DHAT training to Anchorage will remove over 1,000 annual DHAT encounters, which are closely coordinated through YKHC, from our service area. This move jeopardizes the additional benefits that come with training in a rural environment and could result in DHATs less equipped to work in village or ultra-rural communities, like many in the YK Delta.
YKHC is proud to help produce homegrown practitioners who serve as role models in the communities they serve. Hosting the DHAT program in Bethel prepares our students to be fully equipped to provide high-quality care to our communities, ultimately increasing access to care for the region.