Mobile Dental Assistant → Mobile Dental Clinic Manager → Regional Program Director
How, when & where did you start your career path?
I was a 19-year-old working two jobs, one of which was a retail job with no future. I had no idea about what I wanted to do about a career, and I didn’t have any particular direction. Then a friend told me about this dental assistant job. I didn’t know anything about the field, and she prepped me for my first day – how to set up the dental tray, how I would assist the dentist. Well, apparently I did so well, the doctor was impressed and soon I was getting called to cover more and more shifts.
I was from the community, and I really connected with the patients we were helping. I understood the lack of oral health understanding and the limited access to care. And I realized that this could be a good career. I’m young and I’m willing to learn. And I said to myself – I am going to learn everything I can and whatever I need to be successful. So in addition to taking on more shifts and trained as I went, I read all the books, learned all the instruments, and procedures. I used to fall asleep on the books.
What characteristics make someone successful on a similar path?
You have to be reliable and have a high degree of responsibility. You have to have self-discipline and take pride in your work. You have to have initiative and ambition but also be able to manage yourself. You have to be willing to learn and be outgoing because you are going to have clients who are nervous and reluctant. And it’s your job to make them comfortable and guide them through it. You have to be a good communicator – you will be explaining their condition and how to improve it. This is for goal-oriented people – because you have to recognize that this is an opportunity for a career not just a job.
How did you progress into leadership roles?
I was motivated to learn everything to a T and show the company what I was all about. I wanted to be ready to step into the Manager’s role if there was ever a time when there was no Manager for an assignment. So, I said I am going to observe and learn. I literally sat behind them and watched how to be a manager, from how to lead to how to do billing. I always put in the extra effort. Well, it paid off when there was a restructuring, and I was told that I needed to recruit and train additional assistants and that I would be the Manager. And then, I became Regional Director after I took the initiative to build out one of our specialized mobile dental programs for Institutional clients. And, again, the success there with the kids in that program, was because I was a familiar community type who they were comfortable with. Once they see how much you genuinely care, that’s how we get participation going. I have always had a high level of hustle – and I do a lot of work ahead of time to make sure all of our days are high volume and productive, so we are reaching as many people as possible. I think having that kind of operations mindset has been really important to my professional advancement.
What advice would you give a young person starting their professional life?
My advice is to remember that no matter what future you decide to pursue, always work like it’s your first day, every day, because if not, it may be your last. My parents always told me that and so far, it’s been working for me. Never give up on yourself.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career journey so far?
My patients. Seeing one of my patients crying in their chair because they are embarrassed of their mouth and our ability to help them. They literally hug us and say they can smile again; they can go on interviews. It changes their lives. It brings such joy to my heart that it makes me want to cry. I’ve seen it so many times throughout the years. I can understand the impact on their self-esteem. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Taking the shame away that they have about themselves. To be part of that, for us to bring that experience to them – it touches my heart every time.