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Online DH Graduate Wins Top National Award

   Standing in front of her award winning poster, Tiffany Mendryga holds the First Place award she received for her study that assessed WIC providers' perceptions of oral health care...

Ann Arbor, MI — April 22, 2013 — A graduate of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry’s Dental Hygiene Degree Completion E-Learning program has received top honors from the American Association of Public Health Dentistry for her efforts to improve the oral health of low-income families in Michigan.

Tiffany Mendryga, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene last summer, won AAPHD’s Dental Hygiene Student Merit Award for Outstanding Achievement in Community Health Dentistry.  She received the award today during the organization’s National Oral Health Conference in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Working with Michigan Department of Community Oral Health Programs (MDCH OHP) and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Mendryga developed a survey during the final year of her dental hygiene education designed to assess WIC providers’ perceptions of oral health care counseling and the availability of associated educational resources.  Her questionnaire was e-mailed to all 56 WIC coordinators in Michigan.

“More than 85 percent of those who responded revealed that most of them did not receive any type of oral health counseling training,” Mendryga said.  “That, in turn, affected how comfortable they felt providing accurate information to educate their clients.” 

The results of the survey also revealed that WIC providers are interested in obtaining additional oral health training, preferably online.  Also requested were a list of dental providers, fluoride recommendation referral sheets, and dental brochures, printed in other languages, about the importance of oral health.

The Michigan Department of Community Oral Health Programs focuses on improving the oral health of all Michigan residents by increasing collaboration with community programs like WIC, a health and nutrition program designed to address the nutritional needs of at-risk low-income women and their children.

Mendryga was mentored by Anne Gwozdek, a clinical assistant professor of dentistry and director of the School’s Degree Completion E-Learning program which offers dental hygienists an opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree though online courses and activities while remaining employed or maintaining family commitments.