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Date: Tue, Aug 11th, 2020

Facilities worker Ben McKinley’s ingenuity helped keep Great Falls College’s dental students on track

All of the second-year hygiene students were able to finish on time and the first-year students were able to stay on track to graduate with minimal disruption thanks in large part to McKinley’s ingenuity.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Ben McKinley likes to put smiles on people's faces.

Perhaps that is why the facilities worker at Great Falls College MSU was champing at the bit to figure out a way to fully open the college's dental facility.

It was closed from mid-March through May because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Great Falls College dental hygiene and dental assisting students were behind in their clinical hours.

At first, it looked as though the dental facility would not be able to open more than half of its 18 operatories since they are in such close proximity to one another, ensuring the students would remain behind.

"This would have extended the clinic operations to 11 hours a day four days a week and most of the didactic coursework would have occurred on Friday," said Julie Barnwell, dental hygiene program director.

Gary Smart, director of facilities services at Great Falls College, said he and McKinley put their heads together and looked at the regulations and tried to figure out a solution that would keep the clinic and students on track.

"I'll leave it to you on how it's going to go up and all of the intricacies that are involved," Smart recalled telling McKinley. "He took it and ran with it. Ben is a go-getter and has no problem taking the initiative in any area."

McKinley started doing research into military field operatories and came up with a plan that eventually allowed all 18 operatories to be safely opened at the same time. He sealed each operatory off individually. It took him almost a full workweek to make it happen.

"It totally closes off the pod, so you don't have aerosols go through the rest of the clinic," he said. "Our students were very happy to be able to get back to their clinicals."

It was a huge relief to the students and faculty.

"In the end, this allowed us to accommodate 18 students, 16 patients and four faculty members," Barnwell said.
"Because of this solution our students are now back on track to graduate next spring on time. No one ever complains about the inconvenience. We are just so happy to be working in a safe environment doing what we love."

All of the second-year hygiene students were able to finish on time and the first-year students were able to stay on track to graduate with minimal disruption thanks in large part to McKinley's ingenuity.

"That's why I really like my job," McKinley said. "You can see what it is when you start, and you can see what it is when you finish. It's good to be able to put a smile on someone's face."

That should be no surprise since McKinley is known for his kind smile and positive attitude.

"Ben's demeanor is one of let's get the job done and smile our way through it," Smart said.

McKinley enjoys the compliments, but mostly he is thankful that the students could remain on track, he said.

"It's too bad for this mask, because you can't see my smile," he said about the face coverings as a result of the pandemic.

His eyes gave the smile away, though.

Contact:

Scott Thompson | Director of communications and marketing
Scott.thompson@gfcmsu.edu
O: 406-771-4314
C: 406-750-0982


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Record Number: 698


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