With 41 years under her belt, Barbara Jones is the longest-serving staff member ever at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic — as well as at JF&CS. If there’s anything you need to know about the clinic, Barbara is your go-to person; there is nothing she doesn’t know, doesn’t remember or can’t figure out. A graduate of Atlanta Technical College, Barbara has a wealth of knowledge about dentistry and has served in many capacities at BMDC. As dental operations manager, she oversees the training of hundreds of dental students, dental assistants and pre-dental students.
Barbara came through the doors of BMDC on June 1, 1975, as a dental assistant. It was her first job, and she never left.“I was very young when I started here. I matured here. And I got married since I’ve been here,” she said. Now, she has two grown sons and two grandsons.
They’re not the only ones who have grown. Back then, the clinic stood on 7th Street in midtown Atlanta. Constructed in the 1930s, its faucets had separate hot and cold water taps, and there were no computers to log appointments or anything else. When the clinic moved to the LEED Gold-certified, state-of-the-art facility on14th Street in late 2008, Barbara and the staff had to make the transition from writing everything down by hand to everything being on computers. “It was scary. For so long, we had done things the old fashioned way. It was a challenge, but looking back, I wonder how we ever made it.”
As technology has evolved, so too has the staff she supervises and the ability to get things done more efficiently for more patients. “We can reach so many more people and really make an impact. There was a time when we could see 25 patients in a day. Now we can see up to 75 in a day.” As well, the new facility has space for social services, which Barbara believes is a great addition. “So often patients would came in bogged down with other issues they needed addressed, but we didn’t have the staff there to help them. Having that has made a great impact.”
It isn’t often you find someone who starts her first job at a young age and flourishes there throughout an entire career. What makes it so special? Part of it, of course, is the people she works with each day. She also loves meeting with the dental students and the undergrads contemplating a life of dentistry who come to see the clinic. Most of all, though, it’s the daily difference the clinic makes in the community.
“It’s ongoing. It’s what I like doing. I like helping people and making positive changes in people’s lives. The patients are so happy and grateful when they come in. I love seeing the changes in their overall self-esteem. It’s so rewarding when people come up and show you how you have changed their looks or helped them find a job or when someone says ‘You all made the difference.’
“Sometimes people will say you made an impact just with the kindness you showed me, taking me from the waiting room back to the exam chair, by how warm and inviting you were and by making me feel like a real person. You’d be surprised how much you’re doing when you don’t think it’s a lot, because every day you’re doing the same thing. But then someone says ‘I couldn’t chew or I couldn’t smile, and you made me a person.’ That is what makes it worth getting up each day.”