Dr. Ashley Popejoy has committed her career to removing barriers to accessing health care. At Jordan Valley Community Health Center, where she’s the director of pediatric dentistry, she says poverty, lack of transportation and mental and behavioral disorders affect her patients.
“The children of southwest Missouri deserve to have access to the most innovative and comprehensive health care possible, regardless of their ability to pay,” she says. “To address the logistic barriers our patients face, creativity is crucial.”
That creativity involves using public transportation and Uber Health transports to get patients to appointments and allows for walk-in access to medical services so families can address multiple health needs with just one visit to the federally qualified health center. She also has helped divert patients with dental pain from local emergency rooms to Jordan Valley for affordable care, and supervises a team of some of the only providers in the area that treat patients using Medicaid.
Popejoy says this approach to care helps boost the number of patients the health system can serve, which in 2018 was 66,300 patients.
“Working to ensure that patients and their families are able to find providers for all their health care needs in one building as conveniently as possible is a key to ensuring that patients are able to overcome barriers to care,” she says.
Dr. Shannon White of White Smiles Family Dental says Popejoy was a driving force to increase integration of care between medical and dental services at Jordan Valley. White went to school with Popejoy, and is now learning from her through the Advanced Education Program in Pediatric Dentistry at NYU Langone Health, where Popejoy is the associate director of pediatric dentistry.
“Her dedication to serve the needs of southwest Missouri’s most vulnerable patient population is unsurpassed,” she says.
Popejoy earned a doctor of dental surgery at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a certificate in pediatric dentistry and a master’s in oral sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While she works full-time as a pediatric dentist at Jordan Valley, she also serves as a board member of the Greater Springfield Dental Society and a delegate in the Missouri Dental Association.
She also joined Special Olympics Missouri Inc. as its clinical director in 2015 after seeing a gap in services for adults with mental and physical disabilities.
“This honor has allowed me to impact the special needs patient population throughout Missouri by providing screenings, fluoride application and referral resources to the athletes,” she says, adding it has helped “families through the confusing and difficult-to-navigate process of finding health care providers and services tailored to their needs.”
At Jordan Valley, Popejoy leads a team of eight residents, which she says has expanded her influence beyond southwest Missouri.
“One of the things that motivates me professionally is knowing that not only are children of southwest Missouri impacted by the efforts put forth by the pediatric dental department at Jordan Valley,” she says, “but children all over the United States are impacted by the residents I train.”
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