Dr. Denise Terese-Koch (BS, DDS, FADG, MBA) will never forget the first time she shadowed a dentist. She was there for a class project in her undergraduate biology program, and she was immediately drawn in.
“I can remember it like yesterday,” she recalls. Watching the dentist who owned the practice prepare for the day ahead, Dr. Terese-Koch began wondering what owning a business and being your own boss would be like. Then, after a morning staff meeting, the patient care began.
“I watched the dentist’s every move,” she says. Still, she wanted to be closer and eventually the dental assistant showed her how to pass instruments and suction. Finally, after the project interview with the dentist, she was hooked. For the next six years, Dr. Terese-Koch worked as a dental assistant throughout undergraduate and dental school.
“Dentistry is one of the best professions,” she says. “We are a healthcare provider, scientist, and an artist creating a masterpiece restoring our patients to optimal oral health and function.”
Today, Dr. Terese-Koch is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Dental Education at South College in Nashville, TN. Here, she has led the design and development of the new initial CODA accredited Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs, with courses starting in April 2019.
After over 23 years as a practice owner and comprehensive general dentist, Dr. Terese-Koch has much experience to draw on as an educator. In Illinois, she built a practice from the ground-up, growing it into a thriving business and tripling the space of her original location. In Texas, she developed and managed a self-contained mobile dental practice to treat geriatric patients, homebound adults, and children who could not otherwise receive or afford dental treatment.
Throughout her practicing care, her family gave back to her community by owning and operating an animal sanctuary in Princeton, Illinois, which, when at capacity, housed 70 horses, 24 dogs, 15 cats, and a pot belly pig.
Such community service and outreach is something she’s pursued throughout her roles. It’s a focus she’s continuing at South College with the creation a state-of-the-art dental clinic that will not only serve the community but also offer Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting students the opportunity to work with patients and develop the skills needed to become a competent, entry-level dental health care provider.
Education has long been among Dr. Terese-Koch’s passions. She recalls being struck by one particular instructor’s drive and teaching style in dental school. “I knew from that moment on, I would have two careers in dentistry, one as a dentist and healthcare provider and one as an educator teaching our future generations of dental care providers,” she states.
Her teaching experience includes both training her own dental staff in clinical settings and educating students in the classroom. Most recently, she served as Developer and Director of an Advanced Education in General Dentistry program at a VA Center in Wisconsin. Prior to that, she worked at The University of Tennessee as an Assistant Professor, Group Leader of the Department of General Practice Dentistry, and Director of the University Dental Faculty Practice.
As an instructor, she acts as equal parts educator, mentor, and guide as she teaches students how to apply dental sciences theory to clinical practice, helping them develop both critical thinking and problem-solving skills. “I encourage students to self-evaluate and learn from their successes and failures, and I enjoy watching the students develop into competent entry-level oral healthcare providers,” she says.
Preparing You for a Career in the Dental Field
As she awaits her first class of South College students, Dr. Terese-Koch is excited for everyone entering the dental programs.
“You are joining an elite group of individuals in the healthcare profession,” she says. “Dental Hygienists and Dental Assistants use a variety of clinical skills to educate and meet the oral health needs of many different patients each day. There are opportunities to help children, adults, the elderly, and the disabled. With rigorous instruction in the Biomedical and Dental Sciences, preclinic and clinic, South College offers students an outstanding educational opportunity to prepare for their careers.”