Dental assistant teacher Sharon K. Dickinson, CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA, CDPMA, of El Paso, Texas, has one big piece of advice for dental assistants who are entering the field: Stay motivated.

“Never sit back on what you’ve accomplished,” Sharon says. “Always try to go a step further. Learn more. Do more. Look at what you can do not only for yourselves, but for your patients.”

Recently retired from El Paso Community College as a professor in the dental assisting program, Sharon shared this message during the graduation address she gave to recent dental assisting graduates. Typically, convocation is a time when graduates are encouraged to be whatever they want to be. Sharon used her time at the podium to urge them to become DANB certified.

“I wanted them to understand that to be a professional means that you’re going to attain everything that you can through continuing education, through certification, through licensure, to be the best,” Sharon continues. “In my opinion, having DANB certification is that attainment.”


Gaining Knowledge along the Career Path

In her career, Sharon has followed her own advice. As a novice dental assistant, she never once considered not becoming DANB certified. “It was the thing to do,” she recalls. After earning a certificate in dental assisting in 1969 from the Medical Institute of Colorado, Sharon earned DANB’s CDA certification in 1979.

“Without DANB, I would not have accomplished what I have in my career,” Sharon says. She also earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in dental assisting from El Paso Community College in 1990 and is a registered dental assistant in Texas.

Sharon spent the first 13 years of her career working in a general dentistry practice, as a chairside
assistant, the lead chairside assistant and an office manager. From early on, she has always been curious about the “why” behind each procedure. “I wanted to know why things were done,” Sharon says. “I was on a quest for knowledge for myself, which I wanted to continue, and I did — as I earned CDA certification — but I wanted to share that with others.”

It was a natural step, then, when Sharon ultimately transitioned to dental assisting education in 1981. For 35 years, she worked at El Paso Community College as a professor and program director with the dental assisting program. After retiring in August 2014, she became an adjunct dental assisting professor for the El Paso Community College Continuing Education for Health.


Advocating for Infection Control Compliance

Additionally, Sharon has been an outreach trainer to promote Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards since 2002. She also has been a longtime consultant, lecturer and published author of articles on a variety of dental topics, including infection control.

Sharon says she recommends DANB exams and certifications and DALE Foundation products to everyone she encounters within the dental community — even the dentists.

“There’s no reason a doctor can’t take DANB’s Infection Control (ICE) exam,” she says. “There’s no reason the whole office can’t take the ICE exam. It shows that they understand infection control more, and I recommend it. I always talk about DANB certification. I tell everyone they should become DANB certified.”


Learn more about becoming DANB certified!