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Partnering to bring smiles

By Skagit Valley College

Skagit Valley College (SVC) is partnering with Swinomish Indian Tribal Community (Swinomish) to launch the first dental therapy education program in Washington to address the ongoing oral health workforce disparities among underrepresented minorities, specifically the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.

The name of the dental therapy program is dəxʷx̌ayəbus, which is a Lushootseed phrase pronounced as dahf-hi-ya-buus and translates to a Place of Smiles. Lushootseed is a common language of coastal Salish tribes, made up of many local dialects of Native Americans throughout the Puget Sound region.

The program was recently granted accreditation by Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) after a decade of advocacy, collaboration, planning, developing and implementation between Swinomish and SVC. It is the first education program of its kind in the lower 48 contiguous states to receive accreditation.

“We are very excited to receive accreditation and begin offering the program this fall,” SVC President Tom Keegan said. “Graduates will help provide much needed high-quality dental care to tribal communities across the country.”

“This has been a truly collaborative effort inspired by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and many others,” said Keegan. “It has required vision, innovation, persistence, technical expertise, and a commitment to serve others.”

“We are very pleased and thankful that the dəxʷx̌ayəbus-Dental Therapy Program has now received accreditation,” Swinomish Tribal Chairman Steve Edwards said. “Swinomish and SVC staff have worked for years to develop this important training program and then to take the steps necessary for accreditation.”

“Dental therapists bring culturally appropriate oral health care to Native communities,” continued Edwards. “There is an unmet need for dental therapists, and now this training program will make dental therapy training available here in Washington, so students won’t have to move far from home to learn these valuable skills.”

This new professional dental education program is co-located at Skagit Valley College’s Mount Vernon Campus and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s Dental Clinic. The cohort-based program is a rigorous three-years curriculum and focuses on student-centered teaching and learning with a commitment to equitable student outcomes.

This article originally appeared here.

Skagit Valley College

has campuses in Mount Vernon and Oak Harbor, Washington.