LACC Training Future Dental Laboratory Leaders
LACC Training Future Dental Laboratory Leaders
The Los Angeles City College dental technology program is one of the largest and most advanced in the United States, with its emphasis on technology, implants and dental materials in addition to the five specialities of dental technology. Recently, department chair Dana B. Cohen, CDT, TE, sat down with JDT to discuss his students, his program and the importance of education.
What draws students to your program?
The student today often does their homework by researching dental technology on the internet. LACC’s visibility draws them to inquire about our program. Prerequisite dental technology courses are often offered at times when the rest of the college in not in session (Friday afternoons). Students looking for classes to take will sign up for these courses.
Can you describe your typical student and explain how your program helps to transform him or her into a skilled dental technician?
Los Angeles City College has students from over 145 different countries. LACC is located between Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles where new immigrants are often located. However, our students vary greatly in age and background. Whatever their background, the challenge of completing the curriculum in Dental Technology teaches them not only how to fabricate a variety of dental prostheses but also the discipline and focus to be a productive dental technician.
What benefits are there for technicians in attending a formal dental technology education program?
A dental laboratory is a place where the profession of dental technology takes place. It is not a teaching institution and although a person can start on the job training and become a competent and productive employee, the laboratory only trains a person on what they need to know to do that specific job there is no comprehensive educational process involved. The on the job trained employee does not receive a comprehensive view of how everything fits together. It is this comprehensive view of the relationship between anatomy, the science of dental materials and fixed and removable prostheses that can only be accomplished in a formal educational setting.
What are the benefits for a dental laboratory owner to hire graduates from a formal dental technology education program?
Graduates of formal educational program especially CODA accredited ones have not only the specific knowledge and skills that will enhance the laboratory they are employed but they will also most likely become Certified Dental Technologists as well. There is simply no down side to having a more knowledgeable and skilled employees, they can only be an asset.
What are the three things that you most enjoy about teaching dental technicians?
I personally enjoy the look in a student’s eyes when they finally understand something. The light switches on and you can see it. From that moment on, they own it, it becomes part of them. I also enjoy working with people from as many cultures as possible. It is a challenge but enjoyable. Going to professional trade shows both locally and across the country I meet graduates from The LACC Dental Technology Program. If they graduated in the last 35 years, they have had me as an instructor. When they come up to me and ask if I remember them and they tell me what they have been doing since I last had contact with them. It is very gratifying to know that something you did, no matter how little, enhanced or changed another person’s life for the better.
Can you share an example of a student you taught who went on to be a success? How has that experience helped to motivate you to teach others?
Back in 2005 a couple Joe and Isabel came to the dental technology department at LACC to take classes. They entered the program together and unknown to our faculty members; they were homeless and living out of their car. They persisted and graduated and within 2 years of graduation, they opened their own dental laboratory and bought a home. If that is not a success story then nothing is.
What do you think are the three biggest myths about formal dental technology education programs and how are they wrong?
Formal education has taken hits from dental technicians that started their careers by on the job training. It is extremely rare that anyone with a formal education will devalue that education. Dental laboratory owners, managers and workers have a misconception of what formal education can accomplish in the timeframe that we must work within. Formal education has to conform to the local dental laboratory needs, CODA requirements, NBC certifications, student needs and the college system that we are a part of. Most of the time, these requirements, conflict with each other. For example, the industry needs employees competent in CAD/CAM technology, but the CODA and NBC still require techniques to be taught that are rarely done in the contemporary dental laboratory. Formal education programs have just so much time to educate students and we constantly have new techniques and materials to add but nothing ever gets removed. We often just run out of time. Formal education is often criticized for not producing instantaneously productive employees, but realistically that is not our charge or mission. Formal education programs have been tasked with the obligation to keep the “knowledge the proper Prosthodontic fabrication processes and techniques” viable. Dental schools, across the country, when removing prosthetic fabrication techniques from their general dentistry programs, shifted the responsibility to the remaining dental technology formal educational programs. We for the most part do not train employees for the dental laboratories; we educate the future leaders of the dental laboratory industry.
What keeps you coming back to teach a fresh crop of future dental technicians?
It is my chosen career and calling. I was born to do this.
If you could change anything about your program, what would you change?
I would have loved to expand the program and make it the Professional School that Dental Technology deserves. Dental technology should be a four year professional school with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree earned. I was wish and hoping that the LACC/UCLA model of two years basic education and two years specific advanced education would be accepted by some university system.