Fort Drum DENTAC and American Red Cross officials join in congratulating the three newest graduates of the dental assistant training program on post. From left are Col. Valerie Holmes, DENTAC commander; Capt. Jorge Valdes, training facilitator; graduates Litza Suarez, Melissa Diaz and Artisha Gordon; and Cheryl Dean, American Red Cross station manager for Fort Drum.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Family Members, dental pro-viders and guests gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of three newly graduated dental assistants during a ceremony held Thursday at Stone Dental Clinic.

Each of the three graduates completed a rigorous training process that included both classroom instruction and hands-on learning. Administered by the American Red Cross, the program was facilitated by personnel from Marshall and Stone dental clinics.

The classroom component of the program consisted of more than 60 hours of training in subjects such as charting, taking X-rays, and following proper administrative procedure and sterilization methods. Students were then required to complete 1,000 hours of hands-on training, assisting the providers at both clinics.

Altogether, the classroom and practical portion of the program took more than eight months to complete.

Cheryl Dean, American Red Cross station manager for Fort Drum, said the program presents a unique opportunity for Family Members to better their job prospects.

"This dental assistants training program is one of only two training programs in the entire Department of Defense that allows spouses or Family Members to be trained for a job they can get anywhere in the world," Dean said.

There is no monetary cost for those applicants who are accepted into the program, but they more than put in their dues, according to Capt. Jorge Valdes, a comprehensive dentist with Stone Dental Clinic and facilitator for this training cycle. He applauded each of the three for their diligent efforts and hard work.

"I know that you've become so competent that you can compete with the most seasoned dental assistants we have in DENTAC," Valdes said. "You have helped me to raise the quality of the program."

DENTAC commander Col. Valerie Holmes spoke of Clara Barton, who founded the Red Cross in 1881, and of the importance of remembering to put compassionate patient care first every day.
"In 1881, when the American Red Cross was started, I'm sure they didn't have the facilities and equipment we have, but they were (still) able to take care of Soldiers," Holmes said.

"Remember every day when you go to work -- you're taking care of a person, not a number," Holmes said. "Although you're doing this to take care of your Family and get the desires of your heart, if you allow your selfless service to lead you, you will always do well."

Melissa Diaz, Artisha Gordon and Litza Suarez each received a plaque in recognition of their efforts and a party in their honor.

Each of the three spoke of the challenges involved and of the sense of accomplishment that completing the course had given them.

"I know it's going to help us all in our futures," Diaz said. "I feel that I'm ready to go out and start working."

New challenges await DENTAC and the American Red Cross as they broaden their vision for next year. More than 50 applicants have been accepted into the next cycle of the program, which will begin in the spring.

Page last updated Fri December 13th, 2013 at 11:52