Scholarship connects two generations of women in dental hygiene

Amanda Abbott’s first day of college came with a lot of change.

The BSDH ’21 candidate’s start at the University of Minnesota was her first day in a big city, her first day of in-person education, and her first time away from her family for an extended amount of time. But she made the leap, moving away from her small town and her 11 siblings with whom she’d been homeschooled because she knew her education would be worth it—and she was ready.

“If I learned anything from growing up in a household of 14, I learned that determination and hard work can get you places,” she said. And in Abbott’s case, that was true.

Abbott is the recipient of the Gordon and Marie Hackborn Dental Hygiene Scholarship, instituted by Richard Hackborn and Joan Hoover, BSDH ‘59, in honor of their parents who fully funded Hoover’s dental hygiene degree at a time when a young woman’s college education wasn’t guaranteed.

“Our parents were fantastic,” Hoover recalled, explaining why she and her brother set up the scholarship fund. “They totally funded my education, so this is in honor of them.”

For Abbott, the scholarship meant more time focused on her studies and the ability to pursue her dreams of making her community better. She chose dentistry so that she can “make a positive impact on a community, helping one person at a time.” She saw the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry as “a place of opportunity and potential to reach my personal and professional goals.”

She hopes that as a dental hygienist, she can focus on making people smile. “A smile might seem like a simple gesture, but behind each one, there’s a person with a unique story,” she explained. “Through my time at the School of Dentistry, I’ve realized that dentistry is capable of changing smiles, and the lives of people physically and mentally.”

Abbott hopes to impact those smiles by working in a family dental office and providing culturally competent care to a diverse group of patients. “A dental hygienist has an important role in underserved and diverse communities,” she explained. “I’m committed to providing care that works to reduce social, cultural, and language barriers. Embedding cultural competence into my work ethic will make me a better provider.”

That commitment to just and equitable care is something that Abbot has experienced during her time at the School of Dentistry. “We’re taught to be aware of and understand racial, cultural, and ethnic differences in a non-judgmental way,” she said. “The patient care experience working with a variety of people is one aspect of school that will forever stay with me.”

The experiences Abbott embraced, including working in an outreach clinic in Wilmar and learning in the classroom and the clinic, weren’t without their challenges. “But it was all worth it,” she says. “The experiences I had, the people I met, and the difference I’ll be able to make are beyond incredible.”

Those experiences were made possible in great part thanks to Hoover and Hackborn’s generosity. “Their investment in my future will not only impact me, but the profession and the communities I serve,” Abbott reflected.

Hoover is grateful for the connection that giving to the school provides her. “My time in the Dental Hygiene program was incredible,” she said. “And I’m so happy when I hear from students in the program now” who receive her and her brother’s scholarship funds. “I’ve saved all the letters they wrote me.”

“It’s so expensive for our young people to get a college education, and anything we can do to help somebody is wonderful.”

She also hopes her scholarship gift can encourage the next generation of Dental Hygiene students through the intensive program. “It’s a really wonderful career. I loved being a dental hygienist,” she said. “So to all the young people going through it now: hang in there, work hard, and know that it’s a wonderful career.”

Amanda Abbott
Amanda Abbott