Meet Sarah Youssef: Dental Hygienist and Double Buckeye

Student Sarah Youssef smiles during interview

When Sarah Youssef decided to return to school, she went all in.  

Never one to do things halfway, the hygienist turned dental hygiene education administrator enrolled in one of the top online dental hygiene bachelor's program in the country at Ohio State. Youssef soon graduated, and then transitioned right into a master's in dental hygiene – all within three years. She calls this her "rip the Band-Aid off" approach. 

"When I decide to do something, I want to fully commit to it," Youssef explained. "I am a working adult with a mortgage, so dropping down from full-time classes wasn't an optionWithin two semesters of enrolling, I had earned my bachelor's."  

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As a first-generation college student, Youssef has always seen education as a way of moving forward in life. Completing her bachelor's degree has always been a goal – ever since she left the University of Pittsburgh after a few semesters when her real estate business took off.

After weathering the housing market crash and a stint in property management, Youssef decided to make a change. She tallied up her college credits, started researching a career that combined her love of science and people, and found her way to dental hygiene. 

Two days after a job shadowing experience at a family friend's dental practice, Youssef enrolled in an associate degree program to become a dental hygienist. She was then able to complete her bachelor's online with Ohio State, while starting her career as a hygienist at the same time. 

From bachelor's to master's 

After completing her undergraduate coursework, Youssef found she wasn't ready to say goodbye to Ohio State. 

"I went back for my master's degree in dental hygiene immediately after earning my bachelor's. It's been quite a journey," Youssef said. "My instructors in the bachelor's degree-completion program encouraged me to consider the master's program, and sometimes that little bit of encouragement is all it takes."  

Youssef's decision to earn her graduate degree was born out of a passion for her profession – and a desire to make it better.  

"Like all things you love, you find things that you want to change and improve. I started to find that my hands were tied because I didn’t have that next level of education," Youssef explained. "I had great clinical skills, but I didn't have some of the other skills that were necessary to be able to enact the kind of change I wanted to see." 

"Like all things you love, you find things that you want to change and improve. I started to find that my hands were tied because I didn’t have that next level of education," Youssef explained. 

Youssef cites her passionate and engaged classmates with making her graduate experience successful and meaningful. Small class sizes meant she got to know her peers well, as they logged into class sessions from around the country. Their involvement, plus the hands-on role of the professor as the facilitator, meant that Youssef's classes were full of thoughtful conversations and spirited debates. 

"We had a lot of in-depth discussions, both during synchronous sessions and asynchronous coursework. These discussion sessions helped us to really get down to the crux of an issue and thoroughly dissect it," Youssef said."I was fortunate to have discussions with classmates that had very different views than I did, so it really added a lot to the conversation." 

Next steps

A true Buckeye, Youssef jumped at the chance to attend commencement after earning her bachelor's degree in 2018. Since she'd only been on campus a few times, she had to ask for directions to the 'Shoe – probably the only graduate who needed to ask, she joked. But when her name was called, Youssef was right where she needed to be, receiving her diploma alongside thousands of her classmates from both online and campus-based programs. 

For dental hygienists who are considering embarking on the same journey, Youssef has a word of advice: “If you’re already thinking about it, stop wasting the time and just do it. If it’s been one year since you’ve been out of school or 10 years, it’s never too late to go back in. There's always ways to make it happen." 

If it’s been one year since you’ve been out of school or 10 years, it’s never too late to go back in. There's always ways to make it happen."  


 Interview by Marketing and Communications Intern Jared Hegyi '20