Bay Mills, NMC partnership could help dental care in Native communities
An agreement between community colleges could bring about more dental assistants in Northern Michigan.
Students at Bay Mills Community College will be able to transfer to Northwestern Michigan College’s dental assistant program after their first year of classes.
Advocates said the program will fill a dire need for dental assistants particularly in Native communities.
Dr. Jessica Rickert, a now-retired Traverse City dentist, helped bring about the agreement. She’s also the first female Native American dentist in the United States, and remains the only one in Michigan.
“As I visit the reservations, dental clinics in northern Michigan and in the Upper Peninsula … they're booked way, way, way into the future,” she said. ‘So if American Indians return to the reservation, or they live on the reservation, they are not able to get timely dental care.”
Rickert now consults with insurer Delta Dental of Michigan and leads Anishinaabe Dental Outreach, whose goal is to improve dental health in Native communities. She also sits on IPR’s Community Advisory Council.
Over 60 percent of students enrolled at Bay Mills Community College are Native American.
Beckie Wooters is the Dental Assistance program director at NMC in Traverse City. She said the agreement was designed to be convenient for students who live in the Upper Peninsula.
“They have classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, every fall and spring. So they do have a long weekend, they want to go home,” she said. “Then they will be able to go back and do their internship experience in an office where they live.”
Wooters said students could start transferring as early as this fall semester.