Donna Aker Dehn earned her certificate as a Graduate Dental Hygienist (G.D.H.) from the University of Minnesota in 1953. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in art from the University. She became a dental hygiene instructor in 1954 and served from 1954 to 1955 as the director of the Dental Assisting Program that same year. Though she stopped teaching in 1960, Mrs. Dehn returned to the Dental School in 1967 to serve as director of the Dental Hygiene Program. She became an associate professor in 1973. She served as professor and program director until her retirement in 1985.
Donna Aker Dehn begins her interview by briefly describing where she was born and raised and her early education. She then describes her move to the University of Minnesota, teaching in the Dental Hygiene program, and what the Dental School was like in the 1950s and 1960s. Mrs. Dehn continues her interview with a discussion of the following topics: manpower shortages in dentistry and dental hygiene; continuing education programs; changes in professional skills and responsibilities among dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dentists; gender issues in dentistry; curriculum changes and the class tracking system; and the creation of a bachelor’s degree program in dental hygiene. She then reflects on larger topics related to dental hygiene and the University’s program, including: changes in the state law regarding dental hygiene; her time in private practice; grants she pursued for the program; relations between Dental Hygiene and the Chemistry Department; retrenchment; her work with the legislature; Helen Tuckner’s leadership style; fears that arose with water fluoridation; the emergence of team dentistry; work with the School of Public Health; Dr. Oliver’s tenure as dean; her work in initiating the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Educators Association; human relations programs in dentistry; and student behavior in the dental school. She concludes by discussing relations within the Academic Health Center and with the basic sciences.
Donna Aker Dehn was born in International Falls, MN. After graduating from high school, Mrs. Dehn worked as a dental assistant in International Falls from 1948 to 1949. Originally interested in art, she attended Hamline University for two years (1949-1951), working toward a degree in studio art. She ultimately transferred to the dental hygiene program at the University of Minnesota and graduated in 1953 with her Graduate Dental Hygienist certificate. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in art at the University. After graduating, Mrs. Dehn became a full-time dental hygienist and instructed some courses for the Dental Hygiene Program until 1960. She became director of the Program in Dental Assisting from 1954 to 1955. She was a member Dr. Arnold Larson’s practice from 1955 to 1959, and then Dr. Erwin Shaeffer (dean of the Dental School from 1964 to 1977) and Dr. Norman Korn’s practice from 1960 to 1967. In 1967, she returned to the University as an assistant professor and as director of the Program in Dental Hygiene. Mrs. Aker Dehn was promoted to associate professor in 1973. She served as professor and program director until her retirement in 1985.