WCU Dental Hygiene Instructor and MPH Alum Matches Love of Learning to Career Goals

At graduation, most people wonder what they will do after school. Jila Torabi was more curious about what she would do next in school.

“I love academia and I love learning so after I graduated I told a lot of my instructors, ‘You know what? I may need to re-enroll,’” Torabi said with a laugh. “That’s when I realized that education is my anchor.”

An instructor with West Coast University’s dental hygiene program since 2016, Torabi said being a teacher wasn’t originally her plan but people kept telling her she was a natural at it. While still a student, Torabi said she always found herself leading study sessions with classmates and even her instructors said she should consider it. But teaching still wasn’t on her radar — yet.

“I was just trying to learn stuff,” she said. “How could I be a teacher?”

Even as a dental hygienist, Torabi said, she found herself instructing her clients while going over homecare information like proper brushing and flossing.

“You are kind of always educating them, teaching them and telling them how to improve their oral health,” she said. “And then I would hear from my patients, ‘Do you teach?’”

And that, Torabi said, is when she decided to become an educator.

“Now I don’t see myself anywhere else, besides teaching. I feel like this was my calling,” she said. “There’s something new all the time and that’s what’s so intriguing about it to me.”

After more than 10 years of being a registered dental hygienist, Torabi is still as passionate about the subject as ever but now her focus is on sharing what she has learned to her students.

“Dental hygienists are the only healthcare professionals that render preventative services,” she said. “I hope to ignite a passion for dental public health and dental hygiene science in the next generation of dental hygienists.”

As a strong believer in lifelong learning, Torabi decided to go back to school in 2017 and enrolled in WCU’s Master of Public Health program — a decision she said “helped advance my career and education.” Soon after graduating from the MPH program, Torabi was named the director for the Dental Public Health and Introduction to Periodontology courses. In 2020, she was promoted to senior coordinator at WCU’s Dental Hygiene clinic.

“As an adjunct faculty at WCU, I had been looking into different online programs that would focus on preventative practice while enhancing interprofessional education and collaboration,” she said. “I looked at the curriculum of WCU’s Master of Public Health program and I was very impressed with its rich academic content and flexibility.”

While Torabi admitted there were moments where balancing family or work obligations during the 12-month program got stressful, she never thought of giving up. In fact, she added, she’s actually recommended the online program to several people who were looking to take their career to the next level.

“This program is designed for working professionals,” she said. “A few former students and two of the faculty that currently teach at WCU are in the MPH program — and chose the program at WCU — per my recommendation. And they have shared how impressed they are with it.”

Torabi is as passionate about public health as she is with about dental health.

“Public health is a field where you are selfless and you thrive on knowing your efforts not only impact the health of an individual, but a community and a nation. The unique aspect of the public health profession is that one does not necessarily need to have a health education or health profession background,” she said.

Torabi said with her MPH degree, she is now armed with the tools needed to fulfill her commitment to the community, while also being in a role that can help ensure health services are available to anyone who needs them.

“It takes a village to deliver care — especially to the ones in need, the ones from low socio-economic status, the ones that fall under the radar. I am happy to be a citizen of that village, which I owe to my education at WCU,” she said.

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.