– The Branch Health Clinic (BHC) Atsugi in collaboration with the American Red Cross Dental Assistant Apprenticeship Program held their third graduation May 2.
The American Red Cross Dental Assistant
Apprenticeship Program is a free program offered to DoD-sponsored
personnel age 18 and older.
The program began in June 2006 at the David Grant United States Air
Force (USAF) Medical Center’s Arthur J. Satchel Dental Clinic and
was brought to Atsugi in 2010.
“It is a skill building program,” said Kenneth Romero, Red Cross
Manager. “They receive a Certificate of Completion and it gives them
the works skills they need to put on a resume.”
The students go through 80 hours of classroom instruction; daily
quizzes and a final written examination as part of the lecture based
portion of the program. The class is then followed by 200 hours of
on-the-job training alongside the dentists and dental hygienists.
“Students initially learn by observing a licensed dentist and dental
assistant at work before progressing into dental assistant duties
under the supervision of the dentist,” said Lt. Chad Cuca, Director
of BHC Atsugi's Dental Assistant Apprenticeship Program.
“Everything about the learning process was really interesting there
really wasn’t a dull day,” said Mary Solano, a graduating student of
the program. “You really had to learn to think on your feet because
someone could be coming in with one thing and could end up having to
have another thing done.”
“My favorite part was seeing the students develop,” said Cuca. “From
apprehensive observers on their first day in the clinic to
full-fledged chair side dental assistants over the course of just a
The program allows the students to learn a job skill that they can
take with them no matter where they go. Programs in the U.S. that
teach the same skills can cost as much as $10,000. The American Red
Cross provides this training for free.
“The Dental Assistance Apprenticeship Program is an opportunity for
family members to gain mobile work skills they can take with them
when they leave here,” said Romero.
“The number one thing looked at when hiring a dental assistant is
experience,” said Cuca. “Our volunteers received both training and
several months of experience at no cost.”
The BHC Atsugi dentists play a key role in the program by rotating
each day as instructors for the classroom portion as well as
supervising the students for their on-the-job training.
“The dental clinic takes the lead on the [lecture] portion of the
training and of course they are the ones who provide the students
all their on-the-job training,” said Romero. “They spend a lot of
man hours doing on-the-job training with each of the participants of
“It was a true team effort, with all of the dentists, dental techs,
and MLCs (Master Labor Contract) contributing to the development of
the volunteers,” said Cuca.
Class dates are still pending for next year but will be advertised
in the Atsugi Community Update and the Base Information Channel (BIC).
“The students developed into very competent assistants and made
major contributions towards the outstanding dental readiness of the
sailors stationed in Atsugi,” said Cuca.