Health care program looks to fill need for dentists in N.Y.

Sofia Glover, 15, has developed an interest in dentistry, and she recently wrapped up an internship at a dental office.

“Crowns, extractions, fillings. The hands-on experience was the most important thing that I learned because I get to see what they actually did instead of just reading about it or somebody telling me about it,” she said. “I got to do everything.”

Dr. Kelly Burch, who helped work with Glover, says there’s a growing need for dental professionals, as the shortage across the state and nation is greater than ever.

“At some point we have to draw the line in the sand. I’m only one person. I can only treat so many patients,” said Burch, who owns Burch Family Dental.

And in more rural areas, the pandemic forced dentists near retirement to close.

“Most providers in these rural areas are no longer accepting new patients,” said Burch. “So for people who do find themselves in the situation where they’re new to the area, or their previous dentist has retired, they’re left without access to care.”

To combat the shortage, high school students are taking part in a Step into Healthcare Academy, an eight-week program designed to introduce them to different medical careers, like dentistry.

“Getting at these kids when they’re younger and they’re trying to make a decision for the rest of their lives and what they’re going to do is important,” said Jordan Yaros, program coordinator, Southern Tier Healthcare System.

Students hear from guest speakers, do hands-on activities and go on field trips for a more interactive experience.

“An access point to explore all the different careers that health care has to offer and maybe some that they might not have been interested in before,” said Yaros.

Glover was a student of the academy, where Burch was a guest speaker.

“I never thought of being a dentist before Dr. Burch came in,” said Glover. “I want to be a dentist now.”

Some of those hard to fill health care spots not only include dentistry, but also clinical lab scientists, nurses and respiratory therapists.