Sarah Wood-Mangelson learned a lot when she attended Concorde Career College's Kansas City campus to earn her associate's degree in the Dental Hygiene program.
She adeptly learned the tools and techniques to become an effective dental hygienist.
She gained valuable experience treating patients who had difficult dental issues.
She learned much about herself as she endured four hours of driving each day going to and from her rural hometown to the campus and all the while caring for her five children as a single mom.
"I'm glad I did it," she said. "It was a really good decision. I'm very religious and there was a lot of faith involved. Prayers helped keep me going."
Pursuing dental studies
While working as a phlebotomist and assistant lab technician at a hospital in the Clinton, Missouri area, Sarah was looking for a career she could really enjoy that could support her family, knowing full well she would have to go back to school.
She learned about dentistry options from a friend in dental hygiene and a dentist she knew from her church.
"They let me shadow them for a few days at their practice and I really liked it," she said. "It sparked my interest. I hadn't really thought of a dental career before."
Dentistry, specifically dental hygiene, really resonated with Sarah because some of her children had teeth-related issues when they were babies and she realized those could have been prevented.
"I wanted to go back to school, and I thought I could help educate other parents as well," she said.
Concorde's program appealed to her because it was accelerated, allowing her to start in July 2017 and finish by early 2019. Sarah tried to continue her hospital job part-time on weekends, but soon went to school full-time. Thanks to her family, who helped care for her preschool, elementary, and middle school children, she was able to achieve everything.
"It was really hard," she said. "I didn't get a lot of sleep. Some nights I got three hours of sleep."
At Concorde, "the faculty was great. I was new to dental. A lot of other students had been dental assistants. I struggled a little bit at first, but the faculty was really patient and helpful. I had tons of questions."
She finished with a 4.0 GPA, earning an outstanding Academic Achievement Award and the Colgate STAR Award, which is a faculty-chosen recognition given to the student who exemplifies several characteristics such as dedication, compassion, enthusiasm and outstanding patient education.
Focusing on public health
While Sarah was at Concorde, she learned quite a bit about her patients while working at Concorde's dental clinic, many of whom were dependent on public health assistance. Some patients had difficult dental issues that helped her learn valuable skills, making it easier for her to pass her board exams.
The clinic work also sparked her interest in public health. Right after she passed her boards in early 2019, she took a job at a company led by a Concorde alumnus in the Clinton area.
"I worked in the public health clinic where we saw almost all Medicaid patients," Sarah said. "I also was able to treat and educate a lot of people in our drug rehabilitation program who had never been to a dentist in their whole life."
Sarah married in late 2020, moved to Oklahoma in early 2021 and has started a new job with a small private practice dentist.
"There weren't any openings in public health," she said. "But I like that the office treats a lot of people who are on Medicaid because not every office does that. They are definitely focused on helping the community."