Dental Hygiene Program Gets Special Recognition from Williamsburg Health Foundation | Thomas Nelson Community College

Dental Hygiene Program Gets Special Recognition from Williamsburg Health Foundation

October 19, 2018
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Thomas Nelson President John Dever (center) is flanked by (l-r) Dental Hygiene Program Director Dr. Harold Marioneaux Jr.; faculty members Christina Quirós and Margaret Capocelli; and Historic Triangle Campus Provost Dr. Patrick Thompson.

Thomas Nelson Community College’s Dental Hygiene program received special recognition from the Williamsburg Health Foundation on Oct. 17 during the organization’s 2018 annual awards event. In presenting its 2018 annual award to the Virginia Oral Health Coalition, which raises awareness about the need for oral health delivery systems in Virginia, the Foundation acknowledged the College among five local provider groups that offer free or low-cost oral health services.

Thomas Nelson’s Dental Hygiene Director Harold Marioneaux Jr. was joined at the event by Thomas Nelson President John Dever, who accepted the award on the College’s behalf. Others on hand representing the College included Historic Triangle Campus Provost Patrick Tompkins along with Dental Hygiene faculty members Christina Quirós and Margaret Capocelli.

Marioneaux appreciates the acknowledgement. ”No one gets there alone. This was a team effort,” he said, thanking students, faculty and staff for their role in the program’s success.

A congratulatory letter from Senator Mark Warner stated in part: “This award is a testament to your commitment to preparing your students for their careers as dental hygienists. By training more highly-skilled professionals, you are helping to expand Virginians’ access to quality oral health care. I commend all those who work with the Dental Hygiene Program for their dedication to preparing tomorrow’s professionals for success.” 

Thomas Nelson added the associate degree in Dental Hygiene in August 2010 to complement offerings in the Health Professions division. Housed at the Historic Triangle campus in Williamsburg, its clinic began offering free services to community members in January 2018 having offered low-cost services for several years prior. Patrons can receive various oral health services performed by students under faculty supervision including dental sealants, extrinsic stain removal, full-mouth radiographic series, custom fluoride tray and more.

Marioneaux said the program is enriched by the community’s support. The hands-on experience students receive working with real patients coupled with classroom instruction helps the program turn out top-notch graduates. Its 2018 class of nine students passed the National Boards and Southern Regional Testing Agency license exam. This marked the seventh consecutive year the program experienced a 100 percent pass rate on national board and licensing exams. More than 60 students have completed the program to date. 

“Thomas Nelson’s Dental Hygiene Program has some of the best student outcomes in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.  

In addition to Thomas Nelson, others acknowledged by the Williamsburg Health Foundation during its awards event included Child Development Resources, Lackey Clinic, Norge Dental Center and Olde Towne Medical & Dental Center.  

“Oral health is a critical component of overall health and well-being, but well established systems to support oral health are lacking which illustrates the significance of how poorly understood the importance of oral health is,” said Carol L. Sale, president and CEO of the Williamsburg Health Foundation. “We hope the 2018 annual award will help raise awareness of the issue and to celebrate all of those individuals and groups working to provide desperately needed oral healthcare and education.”

In a video featured during the Oct. 17 breakfast, experts explained the critical connection between oral health and overall physical and mental health and total well-being as well as the need to examine the current limited reimbursement structures for oral healthcare. Marioneaux was among professionals in the video. He pointed out gaps in public insurance systems designed to care for Americans and their health. “Dentistry is not part of the Affordable Care Act.  If you’re a veteran, you get medical, but you don’t get dental.  Medicare will take care of medical, but it won’t take care of dental.” 

To see the video, click HERE.

According to Sarah Bedard Holland, CEO of Virginia Oral Health Care Coalition, “From a macro perspective, it is very difficult for adults without dental coverage to access dental services. Without a reimbursement source, it is very difficult for dentists to provide care to those who need it.” 

But, Holland said, “The Williamsburg community could be an exemplar for the state if not the nation” due to its integration of dental and medical care in its safety-net clinics.  It is also clear that the Greater Williamsburg community has many individuals volunteering their time to provide oral care for those in need.  

The Williamsburg Health Foundation serves Williamsburg, Poquoson and the counties of York and James City. The Foundation has a corpus of $122 million and distributes an average of $5 million dollars annually working with multiple partners to reach its vision of “individuals making healthy choices in a community with health opportunity for all.” Learn more about the Williamsburg Health Foundation at WilliamsburgHealthFoundation.org.