MCAS BEAUFORT -- Military Identification card holders will have an opportunity to gain a new skill as a dental assistant as part of the American Red Cross Dental Assistant Program taking place at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, starting in May.
“This type of training would cost someone anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 at local colleges,” said Jong Gamboa, Clinic Manager for the Directorate for Dental Services. “It is relatively free, except for a very minimal administrative fee for the Red Cross.”
The program is scheduled to start in May and will have two weeks of classroom study then students will have to complete 600 hours of chair-side assistance by December.
“When it’s time to start working on their hours we assign them whatever doctor is available,” said Gamboa, who is a native of Beaufort, S.C. “We cover about 26,000 patients a year, we keep them busy.”
Requirements for the program include a high school diploma or equivalent, up-to-date immunizations, must be a dependent of a service member or retired service member and applicants should not be squeamish.
“They’re able to rotate through different specialties; oral surgery, periodontics, prodontics, oral diagnosis. They learn all those things along with more experience that will help them get jobs not only in the military setting but with civilian doctors as well,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bryan P. Rasmussen, Chairman for the Dental Directorate’s Red Cross Dental Assisting Program.
A quality that is sought after in applicants is a desire to learn and to step up to challenges in front of them.
“We like to see them have the desire to learn, enthusiasm toward the job,” said Rasmussen, who is a native of Ephraim, Utah. “They learn to work with different people, develop a job skill that they can take with them wherever they go. It’s a pretty steady work tempo. There are always patients to see.”
Those who step up to the challenge will receive a certificate of completion from the American Red Cross, which is well recognized in the dental assistant field of work.
“Many dentists know that the Red Cross Dental Assisting Program is a real good program, so they tend to pay more,” said Gamboa. “It demonstrates to the dentist the commitment to the field and will compliment any degree or other dental assistant certificates.”
Although the entire program does take place at the MCRD Parris Island Dental Clinic, completion of the program does not guarantee a position at the clinic. Graduates will have to apply and compete for positions available just like any other job opening.
“I was looking for a different career, after learning everything in the program I fell in love with it,” said Monica A. Masanto, a medical support assistant and coordinator for the Red Cross Dental Assisting Program, who started off in the program nine years ago and has worked at MCRD Parris Island Dental Clinic since earning her certificate of completion. “It was something very different that was challenging.”
The certificate of completion is just a small reward for completion of the program. There are many intangibles that go along with the profession. According to Salary.com the median salary for entry-level dental assistants in the U.S. is $33, 247.
“Graduates get their own career, they’re independent, they earn it and it’s something they can be proud of accomplishing that can give back to their family,” said Masanto, who is a native of Bardstown, Ky. “If it’s something you've been looking at go ahead and do it. Don’t hesitate, accomplish it.”
For those interested in applying the application deadline is Feb. 22. Applications are available and can be turned into the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Dental Clinic or the MCRD Parris Island Dental Clinic.