By Susan Richards
This year's choice as Dentist of the Year for the 15th Annual Safe Sedation Week is on a literal and figurative mission. From starting at a young age as an unofficial dental assistant in a family friend's practice to co-founding a worldwide non-profit, Rasheeda Johnson, DDS, MBA, has always been determined to be where she can make the most difference.
After receiving technical training in a high school program, Dr. Johnson majored in Health Science at Hofstra University and then pursued her dental education at Howard University College of Dentistry. She completed a one-year General Practice Residency at Nassau University Medical Center and earned an MBA with a Marketing Specialization from Louisiana State University Shreveport.
Dr. Johnson's desire to learn has expanded into orthodontics, implant surgery, BOTOX® for TMJ symptoms, and more. She was introduced to the DOCS Education programs early in her career, learning oral conscious sedation in 2015 and adding IV sedation in 2021. Dr. Johnson found that implementing sedation allowed her to close more cases of anxious patients and those who were difficult to treat otherwise.
Dental Helping Hands
While in dental school, Dr. Johnson and two fellow students took several mission trips to Africa to provide oral healthcare to underserved communities. With encouragement from a member of the embassy in Sudan, she launched Dental Helping Hands in 2016 with her classmates.
Since then, the non-profit group has been offering free dental care and education to rural villages in several countries, including Ghana, Jamaica, Tanzania, and Nigeria, as well as here at home in Virginia. In addition, two of the six board members are oral surgeons, allowing them to provide cleft lip and palate surgeries.
Access to a medical facility may be hours away for many villagers who can barely afford where they're living, much less own a car, so being able to bring care to them has been fulfilling, explained Dr. Johnson.
"Even though it's a small thing I'm doing – it might be an extraction or a filling … this person, they really need it." She added, "It's instant gratification because you know the people you're treating don't have access to care in the way you do."
"I Want to Go Where People Aren't Going."
Dr. Johnson's unique perspective on instant gratification has defined her career even between international missions. She had been providing dental care in several U.S. locations, including a clinic in Maryland for special needs children and adults. Furthermore, when Floyd Lee Locums, a healthcare staffing company, offered her more opportunity to travel domestically, she accepted. It wasn't until later that Dr. Johnson discovered she'd provide much-needed oral healthcare to prison facilities nationwide. Yet again, she enjoyed helping all of her patients with inadequate dental access, and they were grateful for her care. "It was the most organized place I've ever worked," she laughed.
Eventually, this work showed her how much she could accomplish here at home, and Dr. Johnson's 'why' became entirely centered around helping people who may not have easy access to care. "I want to go where people aren't going, where people aren't being serviced," she said.
This lack of access included patients needing care outside the typical 9-5 schedule. In response to this issue, Dr. Johnson and Dominique Bonner, DDS, opened Dentcare Now in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2019. In addition to urgent services, the practice also offers a wide spectrum of dental and surgical care, including:
- Digital technology
- One-visit crowns and restorations with CEREC®
The office also provides a "Comfort Menu" with Wi-Fi, headphones, VR technology, stress balls, and spa offerings to relax nervous patients further.
One would think Rasheeda Johnson's plate would be full now, but she's always looking for other communities to help – including nursing homes and the senior population.
"I haven't really touched that yet," she said, adding that she hopes to add mobile services as an extension of the surgical center as well.
Additionally, her goal is to take four mission trips annually, incorporating personal travel with the non-profit's work.
Dr. Johnson is currently the only one at Dentcare Now who provides sedation. Still, she was inspired after a recertification program to train her team further to serve more patients. She also plans to take a Master Series program this year to help a broader range of medical cases and patient populations.
In her limited free time, Dr. Johnson enjoys being active, working out, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. However, she admitted a hope to achieve more balance in her life and slow down slightly. When asked about her future plans she laughed, "Take a nap!" That sounds like well-deserved instant gratification.
If you're not yet subscribed to receive the Incisor newsletter, filled with cutting-edge dental news sent directly to your inbox twice a month, you can do so here.
Author: Susan Richards is a staff writer at DOCS Education. With over 20 years of experience in local journalism and business marketing, Susan's career includes award-winning feature writing, as well as creating content with context for a wide variety of industries.