Professional Journal JOOMSA Fills Niche by Offering Education – and Sense of Identity

“The idea first began to take shape during Cynthia Sambataro’s nine years of teaching and lecturing to orthodontic assistants. She sensed that dental and orthodontic assistants were in need of a more standardized education, and a sense of themselves as professionals.A niche was born.I was educated in nursing, said Sambataro, CEO and editor in chief for JOOMSA – The Journal for Orthodontic & Oral Maxillofacial Surgery Assisting. I took that education and walked into the dental assisting profession. I was shocked by the lack of formal education.Sambataro wasn’t interested in putting down the assistants though. Instead, she decided to do something to help. Her company, Clinical Concepts, Inc. became a vehicle for professional change.Initially Sambataro lectured and taught National Board Exam preparation courses – with a 98 percent pass rate – leading to her authorship of a preparation book for the Orthodontic Assistants’ Certification Exam.Then came the idea to create a professional journal, incorporating the capability for subscribers to take continuing education tests pertaining to feature articles and receive credit for what they study in the journal. An Internet web site component would allow for tests to be taken on-line, and continuing education unit – or CEU – certificates necessary for maintaining certification could be available directly from the web site after a test is successfully passed.Funding to begin publication of the journal came from family, friends, and a microloan through the Tacoma Empowerment Consortium. Obtaining TEC funding, Sambataro said was necessary to put out a high quality professional publication. The journal began publication in January, and publishes six times annually, while the Internet site offers on-line testing and will soon provide printable certificates for CEUs earned through the tests. The Dental Assisting National Board, a nationally recognized certification and credentialing agency pre-approves the JOOMSA tests for CEUs.The ability to take continuing education tests directly from the journal or its web site means orthodontic assistants don’t have to travel to meetings or workshops to obtain CEU credits.Many assistants cannot afford to take time off of work to attend meetings and get the CEUs, Sambataro said. Often, assistants would have to pay the costs associated with travel and the meeting themselves; something Sambataro said wasn’t conducive to their education. With on-line or journal testing capability, there are no travel or workshop costs and no lost time from work, she said. Non-subscribers may also take the tests for a fee.Having a professional journal and practical continuing education possibilities dedicated to orthodontic assistants provides more than an easy means for obtaining CEUs, Sambataro said. It provides identity and even pride.We want to empower assistants to grow as professionals, Sambataro said. This can improve clinical standards and give them a more rounded image of themselves. They need to realize they offer some very tangible in-patient care.JOOMSA doesn’t just help assistants either, Sambataro said. With an average of four to six assistants per dentist, rising education and professionalism in the assistant field helps raise the level of quality care in a dental office, she said. And it reduces the possibilities of risk too.The doctor depends on them for his interests, Sambataro said. This brings the doctor up in his risk management. An assistant who is better educated protects the doctor more and is more valuable.Sambataro said many doctors subscribe to JOOMSA and are very supportive of its mission. Doctors are our gauge, Sambataro said.The journal reaches 20,000 orthodontic and oral surgery clinics, universities and vocational/technical schools, according to Bill Daum, Clinical Concepts president. There is even interest internationally in expanding the journal into Europe and Latin America, Daum said.We have been approached by publishers in France and South America, Daum said. There is a need for quality and educational content.JOOMSA has subscribers on U.S. military bases overseas too, Daum said.Daum said the company is at a break-even point and is seeking sustainable, manageable growth, while expanding offerings. A variety of training materials are now available, and the JOOMSA web site is undergoing an upgrade.Monthly we market and target different states, Daum said. There’s lots of opportunities out there for us. We’ve got our hands full right now.Daum said he expects JOOMSA to eventually grow to the level where it may attract the attention of large publishing companies. Whether the journal would remain independent or be available for acquisition is unsure at this point. For now, the company is independent, and will remain based in Tacoma.We had the option of being in downtown Seattle, Sambataro said. We couldn’t be happier here.The latest copy of JOOMSA features an article, and CEU test, on Medical Emergencies in the Dental Clinic, an article on cephalometrics, and regular features on handling patients, industry news, risk management and health updates. With women comprising the vast majority of assistants, women’s health and professional issues also feature prominently in the journal.”