Is it just me or did anyone else’s parents want them to pursue a traditional career? You know the ones: doctor, lawyer, nurse, secretary.… It seems those were the most sought-after occupations, given the favorable salaries and access to education.
Years ago, African-Americans’ educational path often included going to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to prepare to enter those traditional career fields. This was, of course, before we were allowed admission into predominantly white institutions (PWIs).
However, even today, HBCUs remain a strong and popular choice for many African-American students.
According to the United Negro College Fund, 25 percent of all African-American graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field matriculate from HBCUs. This series segment features one of them.
Brent C. Johnson, DDS, attended Hampton University for his undergraduate studies and Howard University’s College of Dentistry. As this year’s African-American History Month theme is “Black Health and Wellness,” he wants to encourage us all to not only prioritize yearly physicals and check-ups, but to make routine dental visits a priority, too!
Here is Dr. Johnson’s story.
TSD: What type of business do you own?
Dr. Brent C. Johnson: Dental Practice
TSD: How long have you been in business for yourself?
Dr. Johnson: I started the Aspen Dental practice 8 months ago, but I’ve been a dentist for 18 years.
TSD: How many employees do you have?
Dr. Johnson: 20
TSD: How did your past (HBCUs, training, etc.) shape and prepare you for where you are today?
Dr. Johnson: I had the privilege of attending two of the best HBCUs, and for that matter best universities PERIOD, in the country, in Hampton University and Howard University College of Dentistry. They provided me with a foundation and the knowledge I needed to strive in my field. They also helped me fortify my responsibility to be of service. As a Black, dentist I represent a very small minority of the dental profession, but we are responsible for a large proportion of care for patients of color.
TSD: What was your motivation for starting your business?
Dr. Johnson: My motivation for starting my own business was truly my family. I have always worked to provide care for those that needed it most, whether it was care for those who had limited access to dental care, were afraid of the dentist or just haven’t been to the dentist in a while.
When the pandemic hit, I found myself not working for a while and during that time I was home spending time with my family and honestly realized how much time I was missing with them because of work. I wanted to have a better personal and work life balance and Aspen provided that opportunity for me.
I had also watched my wife (to whom TSD will speak next month) strike out and start her own business. She has truly been an inspiration and support for me.
TSD: What impact does your business have or do you hope your business will have in the future? On your family, community, etc.
Dr. Johnson: I would hope that our practice will serve to help people learn and understand the importance of maintaining their oral health and the impact of their oral health on their overall health. One thing that I say a lot, to my family and to my staff, is that we have a responsibility to be of service to our community and our patients. We have been blessed to have the ability to help our fellow man and that responsibility is not to be taken lightly.
TSD: What advice do you have for someone who might be interested in entering your field?
Dr. Johnson: 1. Be of service! If you start with this mantra every day, you will be successful.
- If you are interested in any particular field, find a mentor who can help guide you.
- Work hard in school and dedicate yourself to learning your craft to the best of your ability.
TSD: What advice do you have for other Black business owner hopefuls?
Dr. Johnson: Invest in your family, invest in your community. True wealth will come out of those two things.
TSD: If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing?
Dr. Johnson: I most likely would have been in education and coaching sports. I have had the privilege of coaching my kids in basketball for the last 15 years.
TSD: What do think is the most important aspect of the product/service you provide?
Dr. Johnson: The most important thing we do is educate our patients on the importance of oral health. We have been able to prevent thousands of people from having to deal with tooth or mouth pain just by educating them. Ultimately, we help prevent them from having serious and painful problems with their mouths.
TSD: What professional accomplishment or major milestone are you most proud of?
Dr. Johnson: I am extremely proud of being a healthcare provider but the things I am most proud of are being a husband and a father. Those are the two accomplishments I am most proud of and the ones that fuel my drive to serve patients and grow my dental practice every day.
TSD: Anything else you’d like to add?
Dr. Johnson: Thank you for taking the time and considering me for this article. It is truly humbling. We hope our community gleans how much we CARE from this piece, because we truly do. We would love to see everyone at Aspen Dental in Cordova (901-410-3090) and Wolfchase (901-248-4732) one day soon.
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH: Black Men in Business – Part 1
African American History Month: Black Men in Business – Part 2