A Career You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
JCCC alumna Pat Walters had wanted to go into dentistry virtually since, well, she was cutting baby teeth herself.
“I had a lifetime dream of becoming a dental hygienist after being mentored in my formative years by a neighbor that was a dental assistant,” she recalled.
“I was 12 years old when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the dental health field. I was in my 30s and a nontraditional student when I applied at JCCC. I was living in Kansas City at the time and got lucky when I inquired about dental hygiene programs in the area. JCCC was in my backyard.”
It turned out to be a fortuitous backyard choice.
“While at JCCC, I was mentored and encouraged by the faculty members to pursue a bachelor's degree at UMKC to become an instructor. They saw something in me, and I am extremely grateful for their gentle push.”
While taking all the prerequisite courses required (nutrition being a favorite) toward qualification to enter the program, Pat found herself drawn to the anatomy and physiology courses.
“I really enjoy learning about the body as a whole, by the pure excitement to see how it all works as one,” she said. “The mouth is a small but major part of the body that sometimes can be ignored by health professionals. Connecting the dots of how mouth health/disease contributes to overall health has always been a fascination for me since I attended JCCC's dental hygiene program.”
Pat credits her JCCC professors with encouraging her to take her next steps in her education and pursue the bachelor’s and master’s degree.
“I can honestly say, I would not be where I am today if I had not experienced such positive mentoring and support from JCCC dental hygiene faculty,” she said.
“The faculty at JCCC always had an open door and willingness to answer questions and help me in my learning process at all times. I was treated as a colleague as well as a student. I still consider them colleagues as well as friends. They instill in me a need for lifelong learning, and for that I am forever grateful.”
After her associate degree at JCCC, Pat earned her bachelor’s and not one but two master's degrees – one in dental hygiene education and research, and one in oral biology with a minor in gerontology. Then, having been a student for so long, she decided to try her hand at teaching.
“I taught at The University of Texas at San Antonio Dental Hygiene Program,” she said. “While teaching pharmacology, microbiology and many of the basic sciences I also helped design a degree completion program and master's program of dental hygiene education at the university. At this juncture I decided instead of teaching I wanted to get involved in Oral Care Research, so I joined Procter & Gamble in August 1994.”
In her initial role with P&G, Pat was a clinical research associate, clinical trial manager as well as project manager.
“I worked extensively on Crest Whitestrips research and several toothpaste projects, such as Crest Whitening Toothpaste, which were both successfully launched based on the research I managed and the teams I served with,” she said. “Later in my career I moved out of R&D and became a professional and scientific relations manager.”
Pat retired from P&G in June 2012 to pursue a career as a medical writer, speaker and genealogy researcher.“I applaud faculty members that take the time to mentor students and to help them recognize their strengths while in the midst of establishing a new career field. JCCC Dental Hygiene faculty did exactly that for me, and I am eternally grateful.”