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My Journey to Fellowship and Beyond

Author: Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, FADAA/Tuesday, December 2, 2014/Categories: 24/7 Articles

I like to describe the road through the ADAA Fellowship/Mastership program as education excellence. Having been a dental assistant for 32 years, I am always learning something new. This world of dentistry is ever changing, and if you want to be the best you can be, you’ve got to keep up. I believe that every assistant that takes their career seriously needs to go through the program. It shows you are dedicated and determined, it makes you stand out as a true professional. As an educator, what better way to lead than by example?

Now I’ve heard many assistants say things like; “I’m not a CDA, I don’t need all that continuing education” or “I’m not going to get paid more, so why do it?” For me it’s more about being the best I can be for my patients and myself. I need to understand all I can about the procedure and my patients, including knowing alternative treatment and being ready for any medical office emergency. So all those extra classes I take are not only for me, but for my patients as well. They make me feel more confident and prepare me to do my best every day.

I began my journey to Fellowship simply by checking out the American Dental Assistant’s Association web site at; www.dentalassistant.org and seeing what all it had to offer. When I read the requirements for Fellowship, I thought, “I can do that”. There are 300 hours needed to complete the Fellowship. Already being a CDA (Certified Dental Assistant through the Dental Assistant National Board), counted for 150 credits, so I only needed 150 more hours of CE.

I enrolled in the program and then dove into taking CE courses. Now take it from me, as it helps to actually read the instructions before you begin. Some of those first courses I took did not apply to Fellowship. There are categories or subjects you need “X” amount of credits in, so be sure to keep track of your credit hours on your Tracking Forms (those are amazing little forms that will keep you organized, do not overlook this valuable tool!).

The next thing that was a little confusing was the Credit Report Forms. This is the form that you need to fill out with your information (name, address, ADAA#, etc.) and submit with every CE course you take. On this form you list who offered the course, the speaker’s name, what subject code the course falls into, how many hours it counted as, declare if it was home study or lecture, and write up a paragraph about the course. The paragraph about the course maybe something you learned from the course, was it one you would recommend, etc. This is the form that I make two copies of; one I submit to the ADAA with the proof of CE course stapled to it and the other I keep for my records also with a proof of CE stapled to it.

This is a must in case you forget to write it in your Tracking Forms, you can always go back and double check. I made the mistake in the beginning to collect several CE credits before I filled out my Credit Report Form. Wrong, on two counts. 1) When I put off filling out that form, I sometimes forget the specifics of what I’ve learned in the course, making it harder to write it up and 2) If you let them accumulate, it takes a lot of time to sit and fill them all out. Fill them out and turn them in as you go, it makes it that much easier!

I want to provide you with some resources for webinars. Live webinars can be used for lectures (one where you can interact with the speaker and ask questions), here are a few sites to find some good webinars:


The ADAA web site has many great CE courses. As an ADAA member you have free access online to all courses 24/7. If you are not a CDA but want to take the test, the ADAA offers CE courses that will help prepare you for the DANB CDA, or other DANB certifications. One of my team mates has been an assistant for 37 years. She recently took her DANB certification to become a CDA and passed! It’s never too late to better yourself.

State, local and national ADAA; Check to see if you have a local or State component of the ADAA in your area, they usually offer courses throughout the year.

www.dentalcare.com has several good courses but please be careful, some of these are also on the ADAA web site and you don’t want to repeat them.

Many sales reps will have lunch and learns for certain products, be sure to ask if they offer CE credit, many of them do.

Contact your local dental supplier (i.e.; Patterson Dental, Schein, Benco) they offer continuing education courses and if they know you are interested, they can put you on their mailing list.

Another resource I like to use is our local specialists (Orthodontists, Periodontists, Oral Surgeons), who hold study clubs several times a year and offer CE credit.

Dental laboratories will also offer CE courses to help improve communication between the lab and office.

In the beginning, looking at all those hours in all those different subject categories, I got discouraged. It’s more than a little overwhelming at first. It’s nothing you can’t handle, so don’t give up! I finished my Fellowship in 14 months and I’m currently working towards my Mastership.

I can honestly say now having been through Fellowship, Mastership is a natural progression. You just understand the process better and having accomplished Fellowship, you know you can take on Mastership. I’ve almost become addicted to CE, I have truly enjoyed my journey!

Please know that you are never alone in the Fellowship/Mastership program. There are many of us who have now been through it and are more than willing to help anyone who needs it. Mentors are available to help you along the way. I had support from friends and of course ADAA staff is always willing to answer questions for you. We are all here to help support you through your journey! Take the next step in your career; get on the road to education excellence through the ADAA Fellowship/Mastership program.

For more information visit www.dentalassistant.org or contact Laurie Simpson, Fellowship/Mastership Chair.


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