Research a dental hygiene degree highlight

Program graduates first class of 15

If Eugene Chien had one wish,  it would be to give everyone a bright,  healthy smile.

“Often we think we need to go abroad to help those less fortunate, “says Chien, whose family moved from Taipei to Vancouver when he was a child. “But if you really look around the city, there are a lot of people who aren’t on dental plans and can’t afford to get their teeth looked at.”

Chien is one of 15 students in the first graduating class of the Bachelor of Dental Science in Dental Hygiene “entry-to-practice” degree program. Established in 2007, this program offers an alternative to the Bachelor of Dental Science in Dental Hygiene degree that UBC launched in 1992 for dental hygienists who already hold a college diploma.

At the Faculty of Dentistry, Chien distinguished himself as an enthusiastic leader representing student issues. He also organized numerous free community clinics in New Westminster. Aimed at diverse communities, these oral health initiatives involved UBC faculty and student volunteers from both dental hygiene and dentistry programs.

“Overall, I’ve matured a lot. I know how to conduct myself in front of clients, how to be professional,” says Chien.

Midway through his degree, Chien was thrilled to land a work-study position as a research assistant to Dentistry Dean Dr. Charles Schuler, looking at the causes of cleft palate. “When I started at UBC, I never dreamed I would be doing actual biomedical research.”

Chien was able to hone interpersonal skills in settings including Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and a long-term care facility for seniors. Some of the care home residents faced cognitive difficulties such as dementia or Alzheimer’s and would forget to brush their teeth or improperly store their dentures. Others with arthritis would struggle to hold a toothbrush.

“In these cases, we’d work closely with the care providers,” says Chien. “For example, we’d suggest posting a reminder on the bathroom mirror or having them help clients with brushing.”

Chien says he values the BDSc degree for opening up numerous career possibilities. “We can work not only as clinicians, but also as researchers, administrators or health advocates.”

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