Kateri Smith – Level II Dental Assistants Program

Kateri Smith is from Eel River Bar First Nation and graduated in June 2009 in as a Dental Assistant… her story below.

I would first like to introduce myself. My name is Kateri Smith and I’m a Mig’maq from Eel River Bar First Nation, in New Brunswick. I attended school at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario where I was enrolled in the Level II Dental Assistants Program. This is a 10 month course, but it did take me two years to complete as I first had to take Preparatory Health Sciences as I did not have my Chemistry course from High School. I began this course in the Fall of 2007 and Graduated in June of 2009.

Being 17, and fresh out of High School in 2003 I wanted to become a Teacher. So I did what most any other teen would do, I enrolled at Atlantic Baptist University in Moncton, New Brunswick. In my first year I majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. Unfortunately for me at that age, University was horrendous. I came from a small High School with maybe only 23 people in a class, to classes of approximately 300 students with auditorium seating. This was extremely overwhelming for me, so I decided to finish up the year, all the while struggling to obtain that “grade.” I was quite happy with myself that I did not “quit” I had never been a quitter but it was extremely tempting. I have always been told to “finish what you start.” So I am very glad that I finished up the year and moved on. I did come back home for 6 months to work and figure out what I wanted to do.

The following year in January 2005, I decided to enrol at Celebration Bible College, coming from a Christian family and home I felt that is what I needed to do. That was all the way in St. Catharines, Ontario, so I packed my bags and my Father and I travelled the 18 hours to get there. I was very excited, but also very nervous, because I had never lived more than 3 hours from my family and friends. I went all the way there knowing absolutely no one, but knew that it was a phenomenal School so I took a sacrifice. I loved it there I met so many people from all different ethnic backgrounds, the Teachers truly cared for you and your studies, and I even had my dream of becoming part of a band come true, as a singer. I spent two and a half years at that school. I obtained a Christian Leadership Diploma and a Ministerial Diploma in Spring 2007, which means I can become a Christian Counsellor, or even a Minister as well as many other avenues. I also had the opportunity to do an Internship and work with Missions and Youth and did that for about 6 months. After I was done at this School, I still felt that something in my life was missing. I still had that “I want to learn more feeling.” I had met someone, and fell in love so I decided to move and relocate to another part or Ontario to pursue the rest of my dreams.

In Fall of 2007 I enrolled into the Preparatory Health Sciences Program at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario. One of the downs of enrolling this year was the unfortunate circumstance of there being “No Funding” available for me through the North Shore Micmac District Council, or through my own Band’s education fund. I had to obtain a Student Loan. Still I thought, that’s no big deal because I really wanted to move on into my actual career. I had to take all my sciences, even though I had done extremely well in Biology in High School, it was part of this course. I dreaded Chemistry, because in High School we had to take it and I did horrible. Not to mention, that Math is definitely not my forte and there’s a lot of Math in Chemistry. I listened to the Professor, I stayed after class, I got extra work sheets, I went to every tutorial possible. I thought “I can do this, I actually like it!” Every test that I wrote I had nothing less that a 90%, I was so happy and amazed with myself. Hard work and studying really does pay off! I did graduate from my Preparatory Health Sciences course with Honors in Chemistry. This course I would recommend to anyone who is deciding to go into the medical field because it gives you opportunity to look into other avenues, like Nursing, Dental, Respiratory Therapist and many others. At the end of the year, that is when I decided, I have to go into Dental.

So the following year Fall 2008, I contacted Hazel Francis at the North Shore Micmac District Council, about enrolling into Level II Dental Assisting. She sent me all the necessary paperwork and I was accepted and on my way. I was very, very excited to start learning everything about the Dental Field. I never gave much thought into Dentistry growing up but knew that I loved my teeth, I had braces for 4 years and was always interested in my appointments when I went to them. I definitely have to say that this course is intense. And there were many times that I wanted to throw my arms in the air and give up. But I would call Mom and Dad and they would encourage me to move on, that today was a “bad day” but tomorrow will be better. There are so many text books, terms, exercises, instruments, and techniques to learn. They do squish a lot of learning into those 10 months but is definitely worth it. I can be honest and say that I basically did not have much of a social life that year. I always had my nose it large text books, studying techniques, instruments and terminology. From that course I had the opportunity to work on my peers, friends and family members; it is very hands on and there is lots of socializing. I learned medical terminology, how to do lab work like making bleaching trays, dentures, mouth guards, etc. I also can take X-Rays of people’s teeth for there appointments. I loved this career path, the Prof’s we’re very, very strict, but now I know why. I graduated with my Level II Dental Assisting Diploma in May 2009. It was such a relief! I finally had a diploma in something that I was extremely interested in. But that was definitely not the end. Because, just like any other medical degree, you have to write a very expensive, and large Board Exam. So after Graduation, I had 2 months to prepare for a 4 hour long Exam. I was so nervous, because it didn’t matter how good you did in school, if you did not pass this Board Exam you could not practice as a Dental Assistant. So June came, and I got to see all my fellow peers who decided to write the National Dental Assisting Board Exam, on the same day. So after a few months, we receive our results in the mail. I was so nervous, because to me this was my fate. They gave us a breakdown of each section, on how we did and I passed the Exam, above average of the rest!! I was so happy! I called everyone I knew and they were excited for me as well. A few months later, I ran into one of my Dental Assisting professors and told her I passed the exam above average. She already knew and was happy for me because the majority of the ladies did not succeed and had to repay another amount in order to retake the Exam.

If your wondering what I am currently doing. I am working in Dalhousie, New Brunswick at the Dalhousie Dental Clinic with Dr. Isabelle Bujold. She is the most amazing Dentist because she is only 27 and she is just starting out too. We help each other out, and she teaches me procedures and techniques as we go. She is very patient and understanding. I absolutely love my position as a Level II Dental Assistant there. I assist with surgeries, filings, cleanings, root canals, and denture appointments and consultations. I also do tons of lab work, take panoramic and normal X-rays. I am in charge of all the ordering as well, I make sure everyone has there supplies and that we always have lots of extra stock. Every now and then I get the opportunity to have my own patients that are only about 3 or 4 years old. It is exciting because I love children and it’s there first time at the Dentist, so I take every chance I get to make sure it’s the most pleasant and friendly visit. Many people are afraid of the Dentist and we want to make sure they love to keep coming back. I can do the polishing of their teeth, flossing and fluoride applications, as well as, their X-rays. I get to write up my own charts on the patient and it’s a great experience.

I want to encourage you to go forth with your dreams and aspirations. And as you can see from my story, it may take awhile