Since 1983, dental hygienist Michelle Trammell has been putting her TJC associate’s degree to good use – first as a registered dental hygienist, then as a TJC faculty member.
After raising four kids and putting them through school, Trammell decided it was time to further her own education.
In August, she became a member of the inaugural class in TJC’s new Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program.
“If I’ve taught my children that education is important, then I need to step up and continue with mine,” Trammell said. “I’ve also taught my TJC students that education is important, so as a role model to my students I’ve got to walk the talk.
In the beginning
This is the first four-year degree to be offered at TJC.
No other four-year dental hygiene program existed between Dallas and Shreveport, so TJC President Dr. Mike Metke and his leadership team felt confident that TJC could fill an area need.
Plus, since TJC had just opened the new Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences Center, the school had the latest equipment and technology already on site.
In early 2015, TJC leaders put the plan in motion and began pursuing approval from the Texas Legislature. Legislative action on the issue first was granted in late 2015, after State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, filed companion bills in the Texas Legislature to create the program.
Numerous public entities, including the city of Tyler and Tyler ISD, passed resolutions supporting TJC’s drive to offer the degree; and the bills, introduced by Eltife and Clardy, amended the Texas Education Code to allow the Texas Education Coordinating Board to approve the program for TJC.
Both bills passed the state Legislature, and the coordinating board subsequently approved the program.
Open for business
TJC began offering the degree in the fall 2016 semester, with 15 students signing up to pursue their bachelor’s degree.
Students choose a one- or two-year track, depending on how far along they are in their studies and how quickly they want to move through the program.
Program graduates will have scores of new avenues for professional growth ranging from education and administration to research and public health.
“The degree opens opportunities for those in the field to advance themselves professionally,” said Carrie Hobbs, TJC dental studies department chair. “For instance, if you work for any state facility such as a prison or a public health organization, or if you want to go into marketing or administration.
“There’s also much more research being performed in dentistry, and researchers must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Then, of course, educators are required to have at least a four-year degree to be able to teach at the college level.”
Ultimately, the new degree is a win for the students, for TJC and for the dental health of East Texans, said Tyler dentist Dr. Paul Latta.
“TJC has always produced extremely competent and qualified dental hygienists, and now this program will give their graduates the opportunity to enter academia or other health-related fields,” Latta said.
“Along with the dental studies clinic in the new Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center, this program will attract the best and brightest candidates to Tyler for their dental hygiene education.”
For more information, go to www.tjc.edu/dentalstudies.