Since opening its doors in 1961, the School of Dental Hygiene at Dalhousie University has provided students with a solid education in oral health care — students like Marlene Arron, a member of its first graduating class.
Ms. Arron began her venture under the direction of Janet Burnham, the program’s inaugural director and the recipient of an honorary degree from Dalhousie in 1983.
“Mrs. Burnham was a very dedicated woman,” explains Ms. Arron. “She ensured that although we were the first class to go through the program that we received a very valuable education.”
Only four students were a part of the inaugural class, which graduated from the program in 1963. Although she left the profession two years later to start a family, Ms. Arron thinks fondly of her time at Dalhousie, and is proud of a rather unique distinction.
“It’s sort of fun,” she chuckled. “My surname begins with the letter 'A,' so I was technically the very first person to graduate from the program!”
Celebrating the success of a growing program
Today, the class size has increased nearly tenfold, and more than 1,400 students have graduated from the School of Dental Hygiene in its history. They join a field that the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association has ranked as the sixth largest health profession in Canada.
“It is amazing how this profession has grown over the years,” said Nancy Neish, a 1974 graduate and current director of the program. “It’s really exciting that Dalhousie has helped educate many Canadian and international oral hygiene professionals. I’m happy that I can say I played a role in this!”
Professor Neish is part of a committee that has been working hard on a special celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class. On April 26-27, the School of Dental Hygiene will host a weekend filled with social and educational events for alumni and friends from throughout its storied history.
“We hope to see everyone there,” said Neish. “It will be a great celebration to look back upon the years, reconnect with classmates and learn some new things as well!”
For more information on the Dalhousie “DH50” Celebrations, visit daldh50.ca. The deadline for registration is April 15.
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