From left to right: Rowan College of South Jersey Board of Trustee members Kenneth Mecouch and Ruby Love, RCSJ Dental Program Director Judith Zirkle, New Jersey Dental Association Director of Governmental & Public Affairs James Schulz, Cumberland County Board of County Commissioners Director Douglas Albrecht, Cumberland County Technical Education Center Superintendent Dr. Dina Rossi, RCSJ President Dr. Frederick Keating, RCSJ Vice President Dr. James Piccone, RCSJ Provost/Vice President of Academic Services Dr. Brenden Rickards.
Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), together with the Cumberland County Board of County Commissioners, and the Cumberland County Board of Vocational Education (CCTEC), celebrated the installment of Judith Zirkle, the College's first-ever Dental Program director. The event was held at CCTEC on Thursday, May 4, at 3 p.m.
Local government officials, administrators, educators, and business leaders joined College faculty and staff for this momentous event.
Zirkle, who began her new position as director on May 1, will lead the process for CODA accreditation, and is excited to work with the College's administration, faculty, and staff in an effort to grow and strengthen the program.
“For me, being the director of Dental Programs at RCSJ–Cumberland Campus is about collaborating with the surrounding dental community as to how we can work together in fulfilling the needs of the dental offices by graduating quality dental assistants for employment …," Zirkle said.
The anticipated start date for the program is Fall 2024, pending CODA accreditation. The program will be included in RCSJ's Career & Technical Education (CTE) Division. RCSJ also plans to offer non-credit dental programming that will lead to employment with industry-valued credentials.
“This is a great day," said Douglas Albrecht, director, Cumberland County Board of County Commissioners. Albrecht acknowledged the length of time it took to make this vision come to fruition and the positive impact the program will have on the community.
“The greatest winners are the students [who] will learn this valuable profession [and] the residents of Cumberland County [who will receive] better dental care … now and in the future."
"This is an exciting day," said James Schulz, director, Governmental & Public Affairs, New Jersey Dental Association. “I remember when we were placing this [program] in Cumberland County many years ago. It is great to see the lights come on."
“There are more than 8,000 licensed dentists in this state yet there are only 3,500 registered dental assistants," he revealed. “The Association is excited to work with [RCSJ] and continue to build this out and grow this for the future. This RCSJ program will help address the significant dental workforce shortage facing the state."
The initial cohort is anticipated to be filled by 15 students. Those students will have the choice to take classes during day or evening sessions.
“The students will be provided with the most up-to-date Radiology Technology, using digital sensors," Zirkle said. “In addition, the dental lab offers 10 state-of-the-art, treatment rooms, lab, and sterilization area."
Several of the courses in the Dental Program include Dental Anatomy, Pharmacology, Oral Pathology, and more. Additionally, students will have the ability to take various state and national exams to obtain credentials as a Certified Dental Assistant, Registered Dental Assistant, Limited Dental Radiologic Technologist, plus more.
According to Zirkle, the dental programs will be beneficial to students and RCSJ. “The Dental Assisting Program will benefit the students by providing an education consisting of formal learning and hands-on learning through an accredited program in less than a year. The students will make professional relationships with the dental community in providing oral healthcare to the South Jersey area."
“Rowan College of South Jersey will benefit," she continued, “… by implementing a program that is in high demand and fulfilling the surrounding dental community's needs. Developing this program at RCSJ will afford [the College an opportunity] to implement other dental related programs/courses."
Housing the classes at CCTEC ensures the high school will play a meaningful role in the program's success.
“As long-standing partners in providing CTE Adult Education, it is exciting to expand program offerings to residents of the county," said Dr. Dina Rossi, superintendent, CCTEC.
Dr. Frederick Keating, president, RCSJ, who has championed the importance of creating an Eds & Meds corridor on Route 55, sees this program as another step in fulfilling that vision.
“We are now a college that's moving in the direction of what I'll describe as life science where we're going to take care of all aspects of health," said Keating.
“Today is a great day. Usually when you walk in and look at one of these chairs, you get a little nervous," he said, with a chuckle. “Now when you walk into a dentist office, you can recall this space and connect RCSJ with preparing the dental workforce to serve the South Jersey community."
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