All posts by Donna Smith

CTE Month Spotlight: Gina Wright

CTE Month Spotlight. Student pictured is Gina Wright.

This profile is part of a series celebrating Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month at St. Petersburg College. Be sure to check out the full story to read more about the experiences of SPC students. To explore all of our degrees and credentials, visit

Gina Wright was 59 years old and working for a cleaning service, when one of her clients suggested a program being offered at St. Petersburg College. When Wright responded that she may be getting too old to go back to school, her client reminded her that Colonel Sanders didn’t start his now multi-billion-dollar chicken franchise until he was 65. Wright reconsidered and enrolled in SPC’s 10-week Phlebotomy Technician program and began classes in November 2020.

“I was a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) before, and I love working in healthcare,” she said. “I wanted to get back in that profession to work with the elderly.”

It had been a while since Wright had been in school, but she was determined, and said she gained her strength from her faith.

“Sometimes I thought it might be too much, but I can’t stay stuck – I have to grab hold and go,” she said. “I just have to look at how God is blessing me, and this class is a gift from God.”

Wright credited her instructors for support, both academically and personally.

“They are awesome,” she said. They motivate you to do more and go out of their way to better the community and help people. I figure, if they can invest that much in me, I can, too.”

Wright said that she qualified for the Rapid Credentialing Scholarship, which provides full scholarships funded by $2.2 million in grant funding awarded to SPC through the Florida Department of Education’s Rapid Credentialing Economic Recovery and Prosperity Initiative.

“It paid for my tuition, books, uniform and even the exams and practice exams,” she said.

Just ten weeks after beginning, Wright will finish the program in February, just before her 60th birthday. She plans to find a job in her field, but she also has her eye on some other certifications.

“I’m interested in Radiology or a CCMA (Certified Clinical Medical Assistant) and maybe hone my skills some more,” she said. “I want to make sure I use this gift.”

Titans Grads Helping in Fight Against COVID

High definition model of a virus molecule

It’s been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and several St. Petersburg College alumni are currently at the center of it and doing their part to help those affected. Health care workers and first responders on the frontlines of the outbreak have been facing extreme circumstances, including longer shifts and the risk of becoming ill themself.

Dr. Eric Carver, Acting Provost at St. Petersburg College’s Health Education Center, said that, despite the challenges presented to them by COVID-19, SPC’s graduates are serving in many crucial roles ranging from clinical and paraprofessional.

“Our Titan health graduates are exemplifying what it means to remain resilient and compassionate during our community’s time of need,” Carver said. “We are so proud of their accomplishments and continued engagement in the fight against COVID-19.”

Carver noted that SPC faculty, staff and leadership remain committed to supporting students and alumni, no matter the obstacles presented.

“We have more graduates on the way to fill vacant positions within our community health systems,” Carver said. “We will remain Titan strong in our commitment to our students and community throughout COVID-19 and well beyond.”

Below are a sampling of stories of SPC grads who are dedicated to bringing the #TitanStrong spirit into their workplaces to ensure the very best care for all of their patients.

Andrew Portale Paramedic/Firefighter

A firefighter sitting in front of a fire engine holding a baby.

Andrew Portale is a St. Petersburg College triple threat: He attended the Fire Academy, EMT school, and earned a paramedic certification. Currently employed by the Safety Harbor Fire Department in Pinellas County, he works as a firefighter and paramedic. He believes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in health care workers, which can be seen throughout the ranks.

“People are selflessly coming together to serve a common mission and taking care of their own along the way,” he said.

The importance of mitigating the risk of contamination among the ranks has increased, and he and his co-workers have dedicated themselves to that cause.

“We’re no longer operationally effective if all of our firefighters are on quarantine,” he said.

Portale said he learned in his studies to be ready for anything, which has been a bonus in this unexpected time.

“We learned an important lesson about being flexible,” Portale said. “While our paramedic class dealt with adversity early in the outbreak, (SPC Emergency Medical Services faculty) Dr. Cedric Harrington and his team reminded us that being flexible and having a contingency plan will set us up for a more favorable outcome throughout our career.” 

Portale said that, despite the challenges, he has no regrets regarding his career choice.

“I believe in being a good steward and leaving this planet a better place than how I found it,” he said. “My hope is to make a difference when others need help the most.”

Linette Brodowski – Registered Nurse

A young woman with long dark hair wearing dark blue scrubs.

Since March 2020, Linette Brodowski has been working on a COVID unit at a Clearwater hospital. She began her studies at SPC directly out of high school, first earning an associate degree in nursing, then a bachelor’s degree in nursing, graduating in 2015. She says she has used what she learned at SPC to advance in her career.

“I have used my knowledge and experience to move up very quickly in my hospital,” Brodowski said. “I currently work as charge nurse on my floor, overseeing all aspects of care.”

Brodowski says COVID has been a testament to the capabilities of health care workers.

“I have seen patients leave and go home to their families, and I have seen people who do not survive this terrible virus, and it tears families apart,” she said. “It has been taxing on every single one of the amazing nurses I work alongside, as well as the great physicians, respiratory therapists and patient care technicians who endure the same struggle.”

She hopes her hard work will make a difference.

“I hope to make my family and friends proud as we go down in history for what we are accomplishing,” she said.

Danielle Kurutz Respiratory Therapist

A young woman with brown hair in dark grey scrubs.

Kurutz said she chose health care as a career path because she has always been fascinated with the human body and its workings. After graduating from SPC’s Respiratory Care program, she is employed as a Registered Respiratory Therapist at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

Having come into the respiratory therapy field shortly before the pandemic, Kurutz said it has made a tremendous impact on her career.

“Since this virus is a respiratory-related virus with an increasing demand in oxygen needs, it has propelled RRTs into the spotlight and put us in high demand,” she said. “Now is the time to be in this field and seek further advancement of respiratory therapy, as a whole.” 

Between lab simulations and real-life clinical experience of cardiac arrests, emergent intubations, critical thinking and troubleshooting, Kurutz said she felt prepared in her studies for the high-pressure work situations she has encountered.

“Nobody has seen or experienced anything like this, and it has humbled many and evened the playing field for those who are veterans to the field and those who are new,” she said. “Newer graduates are fresh and have the book knowledge that many veterans have forgotten about. Together, with their experience and the knowledge we gained at SPC, we have been able to unite in this difficult time.”

Kurutz, who is currently in SPC’s bachelor’s program in Health Services Administration with a subplan in Respiratory Care, said that, despite the challenges, she is very fulfilled by her work.

“I gain immense satisfaction from connecting with and helping my patients,” she said.  

 Monica Nicolas – Registered Nurse

A young woman with dark hair holding a stethoscope while wearing blue scrubs.

At a young age, Monica Nicolas was surrounded by people who worked in the health care field. She always looked up to them and knew she wanted to do the same thing one day. When, years later, her mother fell ill with cancer, she was grateful to have chosen that path.

“It allowed me the knowledge to care for my mother when she was diagnosed,” Nicolas said.

Amid a full-time job, starting a small business and caring for her mother, Nicolas graduated in 2020 from SPC’s BSN program. She is now working as a Registered Nurse in a cardiovascular intensive care unit. She says COVID has added new layers of stress to an already high-pressure job.

“As a frontline health care professional, I risk everything to care for patients,” she said. “I have been a nurse for 11 years, and I have never seen so many deaths and codes. There are times where I am physically and mentally exhausted from working long shifts, and every day when I go to work, I risk my own health and safety to care for others. I also fear that I will get the virus and pass it to my loved ones.” 

The pandemic has also sparked innovation, and Nicolas started her own business, Heart Buddies, LLC., where she teaches basic life support (BLS).

“While working during the pandemic as a health care professional, it has pushed me to help more people,” she said. “It’s my dream that everyone gets certified in BLS, which can save lives. I care for so many post-code patients. Most of the patients go into cardiac arrest in the home, and the ones who received CPR immediately are the ones who have better outcomes.”

Glenn LaPlanteParamedic/Firefighter

A young man in a blue shirt sitting in the front of an ambulance.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Glenn LaPlante first began taking classes at St. Petersburg Junior College in 1988. After a few career detours, he found himself back at SPC, finishing emergency medical technician paramedic certifications in November 2020. Not long after beginning his job, things took a wild turn as a global pandemic changed life and work for everyone.

“We had entire chapters and discussions on infectious diseases, but we weren’t truly expecting this to happen,” LaPlante said. “There was an awareness, but you never really think you’d need to use all that information.”

LaPlante, who recently accepted a position as a firefighter with St. Pete Beach, says COVID-19 has affected his job as a paramedic in many ways, from how calls are approached to hours worked to interaction with co-workers.

“COVID calls have increased call volume and hospital capacities, to the point where we sometimes have to go to other cities to find a rehab center or COVID facility with a bed. We’ve taken patients all over Florida.”

LaPlante says he works anywhere between 40 to 60 hours per week and wears a mask almost the entire time.

“The changed protocols mean that we have to stay masked, not just when we’re with patients, but also when we’re with co-workers. In a vehicle, in common areas, everyone must be masked. It adds up for a 12- to 15-hour shift.”

LaPlante says that the mask forces him to find new ways to find new ways to earn a patient’s trust.

“That comforting smile you’re giving them isn’t there any more,” he said. “I try and do it through a sense of humor. I make little jokes with my partner and the patient. Having some fun with the job and each other is very therapeutic for everyone.”

Sheri Evans – Respiratory Therapist

A woman in blue scrubs wearing glasses and a face mask.

After her grandmother was hospitalized and needed a Respiratory Therapist, Sherie Evans was so interested in what an RT does, she embarked upon a career change and enrolled at SPC, graduating last July with an Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy.

Evans, who is working at Tampa General Hospital as an RT while pursuing a Bachelor’s of Health Services Administration, said the emergence of COVID-19 motivated her to finish her classes quickly.

“Seeing the need for Respiratory Therapists all over the world made me want to finish my schooling and take my board exams as soon as I was able, so that I could start helping out in a hospital setting and taking care of patients at the bedside.”

Evans said she started hands-on training, even in the first week of the program, which set her up for success – even working in a pandemic.

“If there was something we wanted to observe, or participate with, the clinical preceptors made sure we were a part of those high-pressure situations, so that we knew how to handle them when we were working on our own,” she said. 

She sees the pandemic as a learning experience, in which the healthcare industry can provide better outcomes of survival moving forward. She has no regrets.

“Changing my career when I did was the best decision for me, as it allows me to help people,” Evans said. “I can help them to heal and get back to their loved ones.”  

JD TrentRegistered Nurse

A young man in blue scrubs wearing glasses and a face mask.

All through high school, JD Trent worked as a lifeguard. He loved the adrenaline rush of saving a life, so a career in nursing was an easy decision for him. He earned his associate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing from SPC, and is now a Clinical Coordinator in the intensive care unit at Palms of Pasadena Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Ten years into his career now, Trent says the pandemic has him working 60 hours a week – at double speed. With families not allowed in, he has to balance his time between talking to families on the phone and caring for patients. 

“Every day you get to work and it’s run, run, run,” he said. “Lately, it has been work harder not smarter, instead of the other way around.”

Trent, who is now looking for a master’s program in nursing, said the rigor he experienced in his studies, along with the personal attention he got from his instructors at SPC, prepared him for anything his career in health care might throw at him.

“I love that the classes at SPC are smaller, and I wasn’t just a number. I was taught to have confidence and trust in my abilities. They empowered me to be a better nurse and be an advocate for my patients.”

SPC Prof Says You Can’t Outrun Your Fork

you can't outrun your fork book cover

St. Petersburg College Adjunct Professor Dr. Anya Szigeti believes that one’s body is a temple, so it should be given only the best offerings, and no amount of exercise can overrule bad eating. In her new book, You Can’t Outrun Your Fork, Szigeti addresses proper dietary choices and why they are important.

Szigeti, who teaches Anatomy & Physiology I & II labs at SPC’s Seminole Campus, graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering and earned her MBA from Grantham University. Her doctorate is in Chiropractic Medicine with a certification in Acupuncture from the National University of Health Sciences. She has also completed the 300-hour coursework for two post-doctorate diplomate programs in Internal Medicine (DABCI) and Nutrition (DACBN).  She is the owner of Back to Health Functional Medicine and is the Program Coordinator for a nutrition education program, Healthy Eating for a Healthy Waistline.

All about the choices

In You Can’t Outrun Your Fork, Szigeti stresses that if people make smart, healthy decisions regarding food on a daily basis, they will empower themselves to live healthy lives. She hopes that people will use her book as a guide to clear up the confusion that surrounds nutrition and empower them to take control of their own health.

“As a result of my own health struggles I made significant adjustments to my diet,” she said. “I originally thought that as long as I exercised, I could eat and drink whatever my heart desired, but I found out the hard way that I was very wrong.”

Szigeti’s book offers recipes that focus on food as medicine. She says that there are many foods and herbs with medicinal qualities, including “superfoods”, which have a high nutrient content, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Our health affects every aspect of our life, and the food choices we make affect our health,” Szigeti said. “Therefore, making healthy food decisions positively impacts our health and poor dietary choices negatively impact our health.”

Baby steps

Szigeti believes the keys to making any lasting changes are to first understand why you need to make them, and then create a plan to make small changes every day that lead you towards your ultimate goal.  

“This strategy works across the board, from improving dietary choices to starting a new workout routine,” she said. “This can be applied to just about any new habit you would like to form. Clarify the “why”, have a game plan and focus on progress, not perfection.”

You Can’t Outrun Your Fork is available on Amazon on Friday, October 23 for one-day pre-sale special pricing, and the paperback will be available on Amazon in mid-November. For more information about Szigeti and her new book, you can visit her website, follow her on Instagram at @dr_anya_fm or @youcantoutrunyourfork, or email her at

Simulation Training Crosses Curriculum

simulation training

This week, St. Petersburg College’s College of Nursing partnered with the College of Health Sciences to provide a collaborative simulation training experience for students pursuing the Respiratory Care A.S. Degree and the Nursing A.S. Degree.

The two groups practiced a simulation of a respiratory emergency, in which a patient presents with symptoms that steadily get worse, resulting in the need for action. Students must follow proper protocols and make decisions, giving medications and treatments based on all the information and training that they have received. A student plays the scripted part of the patient, and treatments are administered to a state-of-the-art manikin.

Nursing Instructor Dr. Connie Lindmeier said that, though instructors were on hand to observe, students could only consult with each other.

“If they had questions, they had to talk to each other,” Lindmeier said. “We made ourselves very scarce, because the whole point is that the exercise is student-directed.”

Simulation allows students in health programs the opportunity to learn within a controlled environment and build clinical and critical thinking skills before moving on to real patients. Using inter-professional education scenarios during those simulations offers an understanding of other professional roles in patient care, as well as valuable practice in teamwork and collaboration.

“It’s easy to work and learn in discipline-specific silos,” said Dr. Eric Carver, Acting Provost at SPC’s Health Education Center. “However, partnering across disciplines encourages communication, promotes respect for diverse professions, and provides a unique learning experience for our students.”

This year, the simulation training was a little different, due to COVID restrictions that only allowed a small group of students in a room together, but those who couldn’t actually take part in the simulation watched with their clinical group and were given the same information and learning objectives, working their way through the exercise remotely. Lindmeier, who oversaw one of the remote clinical groups, said everyone got the same experience. She credits Nursing Chair Dr. Virginia Schneider and Respiratory Care Program Director Steven Hardt, along with the simulation equipment available at SPC, for the success of students.

simulation training

“We’re very lucky that the three of us and others see that this is evidence-based education,” she said. “And with clinical sites being down, we’re blessed with our simulation equipment that allows us to keep up with our clinical hours.”

SPC Nursing Professor Leads by Example

nurse volunteers

As the COVID-19 numbers spiked in Pinellas County, testing centers were in need of nurse volunteers to swab the long lines of people seeking tests. So when the Pinellas County Urban League reached out to St. Petersburg College’s Nursing program, Gina McCabe, a Level IV Clinical SPC Nursing Adjunct at, jumped on the chance to be a helper.

“The sweet lady at the Urban League was so excited, because they really needed someone,” McCabe said.

McCabe was swiftly trained, outfitted in protective gear and positioned in the drive-through testing site at the Ridgecrest YMCA in Largo. She swabbed 63 people that day.

“I just greeted people with a smile and tried to calm them,” she said.

The volunteer work was in addition to teaching her two senior-level classes at St. Petersburg College and her full-time position as a nursing supervisor at Mease-Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor. McCabe believes the desire to help people just comes with the profession.

“It sounds mundane, but it’s true,” she said. “There’s something about nursing – you just always want to help people and give back to your community.”

McCabe often volunteers locally, and sometimes even internationally, on mission trips to Haiti. As a clinical instructor, McCabe said she feels it is important to try to instill in her students the desire to give back to the community through volunteer work.

“Once they get their feet wet and figure out their jobs, I think it’s vital for them to volunteer in their own communities and abroad,” McCabe said. “It’s truly fulfilling personally, and it helps the community, as well.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Pinellas County Urban League at 727-327-2081. Would you like to pursue a nursing career or take your current certification to a higher level? Check out SPC’s flexible and affordable programs.

SPC Nursing Class of 2020 Celebrated

It’s not often that pets are invited to graduation celebrations, but St. Petersburg College School of Nursing’s Class of 2020 made history on May 6. Due to social gathering restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, they became the first class in the 64 years of the program to graduate via Zoom conference. College administration, instructors, graduates, their families and even some cats and dogs all logged on to celebrate 153 Nursing graduates. 

The unusual circumstances didn’t dampen the celebratory mood, but tears of gratitude, relief and pride certainly flowed. The Zoom graduation celebration began at 9:30 a.m. After the final strains of Pomp and Circumstance played, SPC College of Nursing Dean Louisana Louis welcomed everyone and introduced SPC President Dr. Tonjua Williams, who was calling in from home, all decked out in her full graduation regalia.

“I think you can tell that I’m so excited, proud and happy for you,” Williams said. “I know you’ve done the hard work and the long hours, and you are more than prepared for this profession. It is my honor and pleasure to say congratulations.”

Williams also noted her pride in the group’s perseverance through the past few months.

“You hear people say, ‘the tassel is worth the hassle,’ but you guys got a double dose at the end of your experience. I know sometimes you felt like quitting, but your family, spouses, and children became the passion behind your purpose.”

An emotional Louis told the grads that she was proud of the group for standing outside their comfort zones and meeting the challenge to finish their degrees.

“This was not just a regular semester,” Louis said. “It challenged each of you. Today we celebrate you, because you refused to give up. We know it was not easy transitioning online, and now you are all Titan nurses.”

Louis invited everyone to turn their mics off and give a cheer, which lasted well over a minute. Once everyone was muted again, Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs Susan Demers addressed the group. She noted that whenever she is being seen at a medical office, she always makes sure they know she’s from SPC.

“I always make sure my badge is displayed prominently, and it never fails, even when a nurse is not an SPC grad, they always speak with such respect for our program.”

Demers reminded them that what they’d accomplished was something that no one had ever asked of a group of nursing students before.

“After the grit and fortitude that you have shown this last semester, YOU are who I want to be my nurses.”

Next, College of Nursing Chair Virginia Schneider moderated select graduates, one from each clinical group, who spoke on behalf of their groups.

Like many others, Kevin Miles thanked faculty and staff for all their efforts to make sure his group was able to graduate.

“Words can’t even explain how happy and grateful we are,” Miles said. “We truly appreciate all the hard work the staff went through, all the last minute changes, the things you put together for us. It would have been devastating to not be able to graduate.”

During her turn, Brenda Geraldo showed everyone her grandmother’s nursing pin and congratulated her fellow graduates.

“We cried, yelled, screamed and got a couple of extra gray hairs, but we did it,” she said.

After the last student spoke, Schneider commended them again and wished them all well. Then, mics were again unmuted to allow for more celebratory cheers and applause. People called out names or just whooped and clapped. Pets were hugged, and two little voices rose in unison above the din.

“Mama’s number one! Mama’s number one!” they called, as their mother pulled them into her arms, beaming.

Nursing Program Graduate Shares Thanks


Every student within St. Petersburg College’s College of Nursing has a unique story, perspective and personal goal. Many share their hopes and allow their professors to contribute to applications to graduate programs. One of our biggest thrills has always been sharing in the celebration as their professional dreams continue to come true through further education. 

We’re pleased to share the story, in the form of the following letter, of our ADN and BSN program graduate, Adam Cortez, who is soon to be an exceptional advanced practice nurse and military officer.

Dear Professor Murphy:

I wanted to inform you of some great news. I have been accepted to the University of South Florida’s Family Nurse Practitioner program and will begin my course of study this fall 2019.

On behalf of my family, we thank you for believing in me as both a student and future nurse practitioner. Your letter of recommendation is what provided me with the best possible chance of acceptance. I simply cannot thank you enough, and I am so grateful and humbled.

I am currently in the “completing requirements prior to the first day of class” phase. This entails background checks, drug testing, immunization history, and a few more heavy details related to the school. I will have orientation this coming June, and I am very excited.

After I contacted you earlier on in 2018, I submitted my application on October 14, 2018; my interview occurred on January 31, 2019, and I heard back about my full acceptance to the university on March 8, 2019.

I was made aware by my interviewer, who is also a professor in the program, that many students who work full-time and attend classes full-time – or even part-time – have a higher tendency to fail. With this information in hand, I plan to attend part-time and work part-time to ensure my success within the program. Although this is going to be a very lengthy degree, the professor made a very clear comment to me, which truly opened my eyes: “What are you in a rush for? We are training our students here at the university to be successful and confident primary care providers so that when they enter the community independently, they will be able to provide the best care possible”. I appreciated this information and took it to heart. Slow and steady wins the race.

I am very excited to share this news with you and cannot wait to begin classes this fall. Being away from the classroom for a few months was a strange feeling for me, as I have only ever known school my whole life. Schooling and advanced education have pulled me and my family from the depths of poverty, as well as allowed me to save many lives. I ask that you keep me in your continual prayers as I journey on. I will keep you updated of my progress as I move through the semesters.

My ultimate goal is to complete the FNP-APRN program within the allotted three-year time frame and apply to the United States Air Force, which will allow me to commission as a Captain (O3).

Please send my warmest and deepest regards to All of the BSN faculty: Professor Lee, Professor Watts, Professor Briggs, Professor Louis, Professor Thielman and Professor McGill to name a few off memory. I apologize if I missed any, but know that my sincerest appreciation is with you, as well. My future as a nurse practitioner has been ensured ONLY because the ADN and BSN professors of SPC-Health take great measures to ensure the success of every student they teach through the demonstration of compassion, repetition and sacrifice. Professor Murphy, your instruction, as well as that of your fellow colleagues, has guided me onto a path of confidence and determination as I set out for my goals of one day independently practicing in my own clinic while serving this great nation as an Air Force Officer.

Thank you choosing to be a Professor, I couldn’t have imagined my BSN experience any other way.

God bless, and thank you again,

Adam Cortez, BSN
May 2018 SPC Graduate
2019 University of South Florida FNP Student

SPC Dental Hygiene BAS Program Celebrates 15 years

dental hygiene bas

Dr. Alwyn Leiba, current Chair of Miami Dade College’s School of Health Sciences, was a dental hygienist working full time in his field, but he knew he wanted to branch out in his career. 

“My ultimate goal was either education or consulting, and the stepping stone to both of those careers was a bachelor’s degree,” he said.

Leiba chose St. Petersburg College for the flexibility of the Dental Hygiene Bachelor of Applied Science, but says he found much more.

“Choosing SPC for the dental hygiene BAS was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Leiba said. “SPC was the first and only college in Florida that offers the bachelor’s degree 100 percent online, which allowed me to work 40 hours a week and still complete my studies. And the faculty at SPC were amazing – they really sparked my interest and moved me forward to completion.”

After graduating in 2009, Leiba went on to earn an MBA and PhD in Higher Education Leadership. He was recently elected president of the Florida Dental Hygiene Association, the first African-American (Jamaican) male dental hygienist in the 92-year history of the FDHA to be elected.

Though SPC has been training dental hygienists for their associate degrees since 1963, 2019 marks the 15th year of St. Petersburg College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (BASDH) program.

Why a bachelor’s degree?

2016 graduate and current SPC Dental Hygiene Advisory committee member Jessica Raymond-Albritten said in a recent article she published in RDH magazine that she chose to pursue her bachelor’s degree after finding that she wanted more out of her dental hygiene career.

“My reason was personal growth and the hopes that I may one day transcend clinical dental hygiene,” she wrote. “Pursuing an advanced degree is a significant investment in both your finances and your time. It’s important to be emotionally committed, identify your personal goals and choose the right program.”  

Dental Hygiene Program Director Joan Tonner said the bachelor’s degree offers a lot more flexibility in career choices for dental hygienists, outside of the usual clinical offices.

“We try to expose our students to many career options, and when you have a bachelor’s degree, there is a different set of job opportunities you can go into, like management or teaching,” Tonner said.

In addition to publishing journal articles, SPC BASDH graduates have found other honors, like 2017 graduate Sandra Arill, who claimed the Fall 2018 Florida Dental Hygiene Association’s Swann D. Knowles Achievement Award, which recognizes organization members who contributed to the profession through service and dedication. Arill said she sought a bachelor’s because she wanted to prepare for a second career after retirement from clinical practice.

“I had always thought about working in public health, and knew I needed a bachelor’s degree. I also wanted to advance my education and get more involved in my professional association,” Arill said.

Arill found as she started looking around for a program that many of her colleagues had graduated from SPC, and they highly recommended it. She was also attracted to the fact that she could do the program fully online from her home in Miami. In addition to the credentials she earned with her 2017 graduation, Arill said she had a professional awakening.

“My SPC experience strengthened the skills I needed to become more involved in my community,” she said. Dental public health is my passion, and so for my Capstone project I developed Project Rainbow Smiles, an oral health program for preschoolers. I’ve been able to enact and grow the program, and it’s still growing.”

For 15 years, SPC’s Dental Hygiene bachelor’s program has evolved and grown, and will continue to do so, considering that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for dental hygienists is expected to rise by 20 percent. Amy Krueger, chair of SPC’s Dental Hygiene associate degree program, said that eventually, the field may require a higher degree.

“The swing now is that all hygienists have a bachelor’s,” Krueger said. “If one person has a BA over and AS, they will definitely have an advantage for being hired.”

SPC Partners with Florida KidCare

florida kid care

In the spirit of our Community of Care, St. Petersburg College secured a grant from Florida KidCare that will help us disseminate information to staff, students and the public regarding an organization which assures that Florida children have access to affordable, quality health care from birth through the end of age 18. All Florida children are eligible, even if one or both parents is working or in school.

What KidCare Offers

More than 147,000 children in Florida are currently living without health insurance, but may be eligible for low-cost or completely free health insurance through Florida KidCare. With four unique Florida KidCare programs – Medicaid for children, MediKids, Florida Healthy Kids and the Children’s Medical Services Managed Care Plan – the simple and free application process is designed to identify the best fit for the family.

All four Florida KidCare coverage options include
• Doctor visits
• Check-ups
• Hospital stays
• Surgeries
• Immunizations
• Prescriptions
• Emergencies
• Vision and hearing
• Dental
• Mental health services and more

What KidCare Costs

Most families pay nothing at all, and many families pay as little as $15 or $20 a month. Families not eligible for subsidized coverage may purchase Florida KidCare at the full-pay monthly premium, which is competitively priced. A free online eligibility calculator is available to help Florida families interested in applying for Florida KidCare. This tool utilizes two key pieces of information — family size and annual household income — to estimate a family’s monthly premium payment for Florida KidCare coverage.

How to Apply

Applying is both easy and free, and with year-round enrollment, families can apply for Florida KidCare at any time. Just fill out one application and Florida KidCare will match you with the right option based on your children’s ages, household size and family income. Parents can apply online or call 1-888-540-KIDS (5437) to apply over the phone or have an application mailed directly to them. Types of documents needed may vary depending on the family; however, the following categories are listed as helpful examples of the types of documents an applicant should have available before starting an application:

• Tribal Membership
• Pay Stub
• Proof of Income
• Proof of Unearned Income

If you or someone you know has an uninsured child or faces struggles with high premiums, please take a moment to look at the free online eligibility calculator to estimate your monthly premium payment and see if KidCare might be a good fit.

SPC Helps Special Olympics

special olympics

St. Petersburg College was on hand at the 2018 Florida Special Olympics, with students and staff from the dental hygiene and physical therapy assistant programs performing health screenings.

SPC’s Amy Krueger, Academic Chair of the AS-Dental Hygiene Program, along with Katie Woods, Academic Chair of the AS-Health Sciences Program, assisted in setting up the Special Smiles section of Healthy Athletes at the Fall 2018 Special Olympics State Games in Orlando on Friday, November 9. The Florida Special Olympics Special Smiles program is one of the largest oral health screening activities for Special Olympians in the US.
Over the course of the weekend, hygienists from all over the state – including SPC alumni – screened people for oral conditions, provided fluoride treatments, fitted mouth guards, and gave referrals to a total of 506 athletes.

Concurrently, Alex Kerekes, Lab Facilitator in the Physical Therapist Assistant program, and current PTA student Nina Resic assisted in the Fun Fitness portion of Special Olympics by providing screenings, including those of flexibility, strength, and aerobic capacity, to assess the needs of the athletes, who compete in various events from flag football and cheerleading to power lifting.

This year, more than 3,000 athletes were screened over 12 hours between all of the disciplines at the Special Olympics State Games. Many PT and PTA Programs from around the state of Florida have students attend to perform the screenings. This is a wonderful opportunity for PT and PTA students to work together in providing care for the athletes while collecting useful data that Special Olympics will then use to make improvements in their athletic programs.

Kerekes said the opportunity for physical therapists and PTA students to work together is essential because they will work closely in their careers, and this relationship can be developed through the interaction.

“The PT/PTA relationship is essential in providing comprehensive care to those who are treated in the physical therapy setting,” Kerekes said. “Students don’t always get this interaction until they graduate and get jobs in the clinic. With this event, PT and PTA students have the opportunity to work together in screening each athlete while developing skills that each will use with each other in the clinic.”