Brook Conquers Hygiene School
Brook Evingson always knew she was destined for a career in healthcare, but it wasn’t until recently that she found the opportunity – and the inspiration – to pursue what she wanted to in her home of Alaska.
The opportunity came with the inauguration of the dental hygiene bachelor’s program at UAA.
The inspiration came from her work.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew always healthcare, but seeing the compassion that Dr. Libby has for his patients and everybody on this team – it really stuck with me and motivated me to provide that to other people,” she said, “It’s kind of the perfect career.”
Brook applied to and was accepted into the first class at the UAA dental hygiene bachelor program – an extremely competitive admission process – for a program that was created to address Alaska’s startling crisis in dental hygienists, both in urban and rural areas of the state. (Who says UAA is dying???)
She says that working as a hygiene assistant with the Libby Group, prepared her to understand some of the concepts she’s been learning about at school. It’s not just science, it’s also understanding how to best deliver care. Brook says she’s often able to contribute to the classroom understanding of how dental care works in Anchorage. With the Libby Group, she’s already seen first-hand the great need of the underserved population in Anchorage, and was inspired by the commitment to improving the health of all Anchorage residents, as well as the spirit of volunteerism that led to trips to Africa and Vietnam.
But she also says that she is learning that there is room to do even more to serve Anchorage.
“I know Medicare and Medicaid funding just got cut, like on the first of the month, and a lot of disabled patients don’t have anywhere to go for their care, and I think this would be a great home for them. We have a very small number of them and we love them here, and I think that would be a really good opportunity for us,” she says.
She’s also been learning about the unique parts of providing dental care in Alaska. High homeless populations, diverse immigrant groups, and incarcerated people provide plenty of challenges for dentists and hygienists trying to navigate between different cultural needs and barriers to access.
There’s also a huge need for dental care by Alaska Native patients, both rural and urban. The non-profit healthcare organization the Southcentral Foundation is responsible for nearly 70,000 patients from around the state, and has to do it with just 106 dentist chairs.
“That’s super unique, because the Alaska Native culture and everything that they represent gives us an opportunity to give them special care.”
Of course, learning the nuts and bolts that of dental care has been front and center in her life as a dental hygiene student. The program is learning about cutting edge research about our understanding of oral health.
“The pathogens; how it’s always evolving, and how bacteria’s resistance is changing. Every year, every day we’re learning new things about the oral cavity and how it implements some of the science and health and how it’s related to the systemic system,” she says, “And so I really enjoy the science behind that.”
Recently, it’s been all about instruments – ultra-sonic high-speed polishers, for example – and radiography.
It is challenging to balance a life of work, studying, and of course, enjoying the Alaska outdoors. Brook spends her limited free time skiing in the mountains during winter, or hiking and racing in the summer.
In the end, there’s no way around it: school is hard.
“Just so many hours studying. The unpredictability of an exam. Of course, I always remember at the end of this you’re going to be tested on your board exams on any single thing that you learned over two and a half years and that just, you’re like ‘How?’ “
But it is also immensely rewarding.
“It’s so satisfying to give someone a clean mouth. It’s amazing.”
Brook Evingson has worked as a hygiene assistant at The Libby Group in Anchorage, Akaska, and is now a student in UAA’s first class of the Dental Hygienist program.