From Trainee to Teacher, Success in the Dental Assistant Training Program

By Public Relations Specialist Levi Oyster

Southcentral Foundation Learning and Development Clinical Advisor Carol East, of Aleut descent, found out about the Dental Assistant Training Program in 1999. At the time, East was seeking a career change.

One day she was with her son at the SCF Dental clinic and asked the attending dental assistant how to enter the field. The assistant shared that she trained elsewhere, but if East was interested, training was available at SCF. After speaking with a DAT program advisor, East started as a trainee five days later.

“The program changed my life,” East said. “I had always wanted to be in dentistry, but I married young, had a family, and had a job that helped us get by. With this program, I had a career.”

Carol East recruiting for the next cohort of dental assistant trainees.

The DATP is a paid employee training that combines classroom instruction with intense hands-on clinical training. The curriculum includes preventive, restorative, surgical, endodontic treatments, and more.

Upon enrollment, East soon learned to assist the dental team and providers in chairside-related duties in all aspects of general dentistry.

After graduating from the program, she became a passionate dental assistant and quickly progressed to supervisor and began mentoring incoming trainees. East loved the teaching aspect and wanted to become an instructor of the program, so she went back to school for a Bachelor of Health Science with an emphasis in public health.

“Once I completed my bachelor’s degree, I applied for and was hired as a dental assistant training specialist at SCF,” East shared. “After teaching my first cohort, I decided I wanted to know why people learn differently and what I could do to enhance other people’s learning.”

She then went back to school for her Master of Education to be able to teach at a higher level.

After teaching the DATP for three years, East progressed to her current clinical advisor role in the Development Center with a primary focus on supporting training within the Dental department. Having her life changed by the program, East enjoys seeing the impact training has on new employees.

“I love watching young men and women grow into their role as a dental assistant,” East said. “The smile on their faces when they finally get what we are asking them to do is priceless. That personal accomplishment I see on their faces is the best gift this teacher could ever ask for.”

One of SCF’s corporate objectives is to increase the percentage of Alaska Native and American Indian people in clinical positions. The DATP teaches entry-level applicants to become dental assistants and is designed to help SCF reach this goal. Many graduates of the program quickly find this opportunity to be a life changing steppingstone in their careers.

For more information about the Dental Assistant Training Program, visit To view all Southcentral Foundation job opportunities,
visit or call (907) 729-4977.