Success Story: Workforce prep program notches trio of achievements

January 25, 2024

Dental Assistant program director Beckie Wooters and a student review dental x-raysDental Assistant Program Director Beckie Wooters and student Cassidy GrayNMC’s Dental Assistant program has plenty to smile about in 2024.

From its best performance on the state Registered Dental Assistant exam in five years to renewed program accreditation to an award for director Beckie Wooters (right), the program that trains key patient care providers is looking at a bright future.

“Results like these demonstrate what we as faculty and staff already know — our students are outstanding,” Wooters said. “Dental patients all over northern Michigan can feel great about the care our graduates are providing.”

RDA pass rates

All 13 of the NMC program’s 2023 graduates passed both the written and clinical portions of Michigan’s Registered Dental Assistant examination. That easily topped the statewide pass rate (83% passed written, 93% passed clinical).

In fact, for the last five years, NMC dental assistant graduates have performed above the state average. 2023’s 100-percent pass rate exceeded their past best performance (93% written, 95% clinical) in 2020.

Dental Assistant program student Judy O'DonnellOne of those graduates is Judy O’Donnell (right). The Kalkaska resident, 39, completed the program in just a year while working and raising her kids. Her new career offers a family-friendly schedule and the hands-on work she enjoys.

“I would recommend the program to anyone,” said O’Donnell, who also paid for her education through Michigan Reconnect, a scholarship offering free tuition to adults over 21 who don’t already have a college degree. NMC’s friendly, helpful instructors and being close and convenient to her home were the best parts of the program.

“The instructors were really, really good. They really helped us with everything and if we were struggling with something, they made time to help us,” she said.


O’Donnell isn’t the only one who thinks highly of the program. Following a December site visit by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, NMC’s program accreditation for the next seven years is expected to be finalized in February. The site team’s verdict of “no recommendations” means NMC is performing at the highest level.

MDA award

In addition, earlier this month Wooters was selected as the 2024 Allied Dental Professional Educator by the Michigan Dental Association. She was selected for NMC’s partnership with Bay Mills Community College, which seeks to enroll students from the tribal college in the U.P. at NMC in order to increase access to dental care.

Ability to earn RDA licensure is a key advantage of NMC’s program, the furthest north among six accredited dental assistant programs in Michigan.

“With a registered dental assistant, a dentist can see about 60 percent more patients. They can do more clinical procedures under the dentist’s supervision,” said Dr. Jessica Rickert, a now-retired Traverse City area dentist who hired NMC graduates in her practice.

Rickert is also the first female Native American dentist in the United States, and remains the only one in Michigan. She now consults with insurer Delta Dental of Michigan and leads Anishinaabe Dental Outreach, whose goal is to improve dental health in Native communities. She saw an opportunity to connect NMC and Bay Mills to better serve the Upper Peninsula, where the shortage of dental professionals is especially acute.

“The scarcity of timely dental care is causing serious hardship,” Rickert said of the U.P. “They have a wonderful program at NMC.”

Find out more about the program at

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