What if you could provide dental
care to the underserved community on a grander scale? Kelli C. Johnson, RDH,
B.A.S., does just that as a dental program manager for AmeriHealth Caritas
District of Columbia. Working together with corporate dental teams, Ms. Johnson
is able to establish fresh initiatives geared towards providing dental care to
an increasing number of children and adults with Medicaid insurance. Ms.
Johnson recently sat down with the ADEA GoDental team to enlighten us about the
multifaceted world of dental insurance and how her career path began in dental
GoDental (GD): What initially led you to a
career in dental hygiene?
Kelli C. Johnson (KJ):
I always knew that I wanted to work in the medical professions and help people.
During my freshman year of undergrad college I worked as a front desk
coordinator in a dental office and the dental hygienist mentored me into that
area of the dental professions.
(GD): How did
you first learn about your current position as an option within the dental
(KJ): I found my position on
LinkedIn.com—or you could say the position found me—while I was working as a
program manager for a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). For five years,
I managed a mobile dental program which provided preventive dental care to
approximately 2,500 children per year. One day, I was looking around on
LinkedIn and came across the job posting for AmeriHealth. The next day, I
applied for the position and now here I am.
(GD): What does
a typical day in your current position entail?
(KJ): There are over 325 dental
providers in the AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia network. These
amazing dental teams provide dental care for Medicaid participating children
and adults in the District of Columbia. I work on plan initiatives with the
corporate dental team aimed at increasing the number of members who receive
skills or personality traits would you say someone looking to obtain a similar
role should hold?
(KJ): Qualifying personality
traits include the desire to help others, commitment to getting the job done
right the first time, patience, being customer focused, introspective and
quality- oriented. Then again, these are the skills I believe one would expect
to find in most dental hygienists.
(GD): What is
your favorite part about being in your current role, and why?
(KJ): I love working with
people who have a passion for providing for the underserved!
motivated you to continue your education beyond the entry level?
(KJ): I had several brilliant
and tenacious mentors who encouraged me to complete my bachelor’s degree. One
of these mentors was my father, who never had the opportunities I did and
always wanted more for his daughter. I also knew early on that possessing an
advanced degree would allow for additional career opportunities.
(GD): How did
your dental hygiene education help you prepare for your career?
(KJ): My dental education taught me how to be a prevention specialist. In my opinion,
no one knows dental disease prevention better than a dental hygienist. I
learned case management, time management and communication skills that have been
carried on through my diverse path.
(GD): What is
one thing you wish you knew about your current position before starting out?
(KJ): How much I would love it! I left an amazing position at
Suncoast Community Health Centers (an FQHC in Tampa, Florida) to accept this
position. Although I felt it was the right move, I had no idea how much I would
enjoy my job and the amazing people I work with on a daily basis.
(GD): If you
could give one piece of advice to dental hygiene students considering a role
similar to yours, what would it be?
Never stop learning. I strive to learn something new
every day! I am like a sponge. When I hear something that inspires me, I write
it down. I also try and surround myself with people who are smart, kind and
encouraging, just as I strive to be the same type of influence for others.