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    USU Dental and Allied Health Graduates Reflect on Their Experiences



    Story by Hadiyah Brendel 

    Uniformed Services University

    Two schools from the Uniformed Services University (USU) held their commencement ceremonies June 9, 2023. The College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) and Postgraduate Dental College (PDC) conferred degrees to more than 700 graduates and just over 70 graduates, respectively.

    Chartered in 2016, the CAHS offers undergraduate degrees to students pursuing technical training specialties such as nuclear medicine, neurodiagnostics, radiology, respiratory therapy, medical laboratory, and several other offerings. Established in 2010, the PDC offers a Master of Science in Oral Biology degree to residents completing training in one of seven dental disciplines across six locations, attending the Army, Navy and Air Force postgraduate schools.

    As three graduates prepared for commencement, they reflected on their time in the programs.


    Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Janeiquea Bass, U.S. Navy
    Medical Education and Training Campus
    Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas
    Associate of Science In Health Sciences

    Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Janeiquea Bass says she joined the Navy because her dream was to travel the world and be promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer. She achieved the first part of her dream, and for about 10 years she served as a corpsman stationed in several Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Commands. Her assignments took her to Pensacola, Florida; Yokosuka, Japan; Meridian, Mississippi.

    She then decided to pursue specialty training as a respiratory therapist (RT) at the Defense Health Agency’s Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, because she wanted to challenge herself and develop new skills to help expand her military career. Students enrolled in the RT program are also simultaneously enrolled in USU’s College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS) and successful completion of the RT program results in the awarding of an Associate of Science in Health Sciences degree from CAHS. After successfully completing the RT program – and her degree – Bass took on her current assignment in respiratory therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

    Though Bass said the program was “challenging,” she says the CAHS and METC faculty, staff and her peers were very supportive. She had been out of the military school setting for a few years and found reentering an academic program fast paced and demanding. And though there were a few times when she doubted her ability to complete the program, she always found the help and the answers to the questions she needed.

    One of her fondest memories while in school was preparing to take the therapist multiple choice exam. Although she stayed up long nights and woke up early in preparation for the exam, she recalls the whole process as rewarding. And her work paid off – Bass received a “high cut”, or high ranking, as well as certification as a respiratory therapist..

    Bass now plans to pursue a bachelor’s in health sciences through CAHS. She is also preparing to take the Registered Respiratory Therapist exam.


    Captain Jonathan Dismuke, DC, U.S. Army
    Army Postgraduate Dental School, Fort Gordon, Georgia
    Endodontic Program
    Master of Science in Oral Biology

    Before commissioning in the Army, Capt. Jonathan Dismuke was a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Coast Guard. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2003 and spent just shy of 10 years serving. He was an Electronics Technician stationed on two boats doing search and rescue, and drug interdiction.

    Dismuke separated from the Coast Guard in 2012. As he started his family, he knew he wanted to make a career-field change to do something in healthcare – specifically dentistry. He took a leap of faith when separating because he had not yet received acceptance into dental school.

    “That was the most organized and motivated I’ve been,” Dismuke says. And though there was a two-year period of uncertainty after his separation, his focus paid off. Midwestern University in Arizona accepted Dismuke into their dental program in 2014.

    As for his decision to go into dental school, Dismuke says “it just started to make sense over time.” Both of his parents worked in the dental field, his mother as a dental assistant and his father as a dental lab technician.

    After receiving his bachelor’s from Midwestern University, he applied for the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). Once accepted, he returned to military service, this time commissioning into the Army. Part of the requirements for the HPSP entailed applying for an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) program. Applicants aren’t required to accept the program if selected, but Dismuke took the opportunity. He completed the one-year AEGD program at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There, he gained exposure to different dental specialties and started to gravitate toward endodontics.

    Dismuke knew that he wanted to continue his career in military medicine, so he entered the endodontics residency program at the Army’s Postgraduate Dental School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Dental residents are also enrolled in USU’s Postgraduate Dental College and earn the Master of Science degree in Oral Biology upon successful completion.

    He describes his time in the program as “challenging but rewarding.” He credits his family for being a big support throughout his training. One of his mentors in the AEGD program, Dr. Josh Todd, also played a key role in taking him under his wing when things got tough.

    One of his favorite parts of the program, says Dismuke, was going to conferences with his co-residents. He says the conferences helped him to see his specialty in a different light. Meeting other people in the specialty also reinvigorated him in terms of networking and seeing his goals in action.

    After graduation, Dismuke and his family will move to South Korea. He says an overseas experience was high on their list for his next assignment before he eventually retires from military service.

    Dismuke is also now on track towards board certification. He has already completed the written portion of the exam, and he will travel back to Missouri in October to complete the oral portion. Once the oral portion is complete, the last step is submitting a portfolio of five cases. The portfolio requirement can take between one-two years to complete.

    Lieutenant Commander Meredith Swisher, DC, U.S. Navy

    Naval Postgraduate Dental School
    Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Maryland
    Periodontics Program
    Masters of Science in Oral Biology

    Lieutenant Commander Meredith Swisher says she always knew she wanted to do something in medicine. She grew up in a family that held various roles serving the community. Her sister is a professional firefighter, her father is a volunteer firefighter, and her grandparents served in WWII.

    So while a student at Muhlenberg College, Pennsylvania, Swisher pursued an internship at the local hospital. There, she says, her interest spiked for dentistry and the more surgical side of dentistry. During her junior year, she applied for the military HPSP along with applications to dental school.

    She was accepted in the University of Maryland’s dental program, and the Navy HPSP. She graduated with a bachelor’s in 2016 and commissioned as a Navy lieutenant.

    After dental school, she undertook a one-year postdoctoral training opportunity at the Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. She then served on the USS Whidbey Island for three years as a dental officer. Swisher says one of her mentors in the periodontics program, Commander Caitlin Darcy, did a really great job in providing guidance, which encouraged her decision to apply to the Navy Postgraduate Dental School’s periodontics residency program, with simultaneous enrollment in USU’s Postgraduate Dental College Master of Science degree program in Oral Biology.

    Swisher describes her time in Bethesda as “inspiring.” NPDS is co-located within the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. One experience there during her residency coincided with the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    “So we saw a lot of the victims from the airport bombing come through for essentially life-saving surgery. So that was something that as a dentist, we don’t usually get to see. It was very inspiring to have the opportunity at a time like that,” Swisher says.

    Those experiences contrast Swisher’s initial experiences in 2020, which happened right at the start of the COVID-19 restrictions. She says the day they were no longer shut down and were “able to really hit the ground running” and dive back into the “full resident experience” was one of her greatest memories of the program. And though every day wasn’t always as uplifting as those memories, Swisher credits the phenomenal USU and NPDS faculty and staff for helping her through the more challenging experiences.

    And arguably the most memorable experience of all for Swisher?

    “They very humbly asked me to join them on staff,” Swisher says, smiling. A senior faculty member had said, “We think you’re ready. We’re very, very confident in your skills and your ability.”

    So after a few weeks of deserved vacation with her family, Swisher will be returning as staff in the Naval Postgraduate Dental School’s Periodontics department for about a year.

    After that, Swisher plans to settle into her practice philosophy and find a niche where she can both practice and teach.

    At the graduation ceremony on June 9, Swisher was awarded the Chief of the Corps Award. The award recognizes a military officer and dental health care professional who has excelled during their time in their residency training. As part of her award, Swisher also received a Navy Commendation Medal.


    Date Taken: 06.27.2023
    Date Posted: 07.12.2023 12:01
    Story ID: 448997
    Location: US

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