I Am a Primary Care Champion

This is an article being republished here from the October issue of the PCC's Executive Member newsletter. Each month in the newsletter, the PCC provides a short profile of an individual who works in primary care. It is a way of recognizing the dedication and passion that clinicians, advocates, and others have for primary care and connecting people in the PCC community to people like them.

In October we featured the head of an organization - the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement - that it is funding a PCC project to advance oral health and primary care integration.

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA
President and CEO of the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst, Inc.

Why are you passionate about primary care?
As a primary care physician, CEO and advocate for health equity, I believe that health care is a human right. I also know that person-centered primary care that is accessible and equitable leads to measurably healthier communities. The current state of our healthcare system and the resulting poor health outcomes across our country highlight the fact that comprehensive primary care is not a given for far too many people in this country.

The pandemic has laid bare inequities that existed well before today and underscored how critical it is for us to address the root cause of healthcare access gaps. And we are finally calling one significant root cause by name – systemic racism.

Lack of economic opportunity, access to health insurance and quality affordable care, representation in the medical field as well as implicit bias, and stereotyping all contribute to a system that does not adequately value Black, Brown and Native lives. We see this in the data and through the lived experiences of people of color.  

Community-focused primary care that integrates oral health, behavioral health, and addresses social determinants of health can help eliminate these disparities.

The work of organizations like the PCC and its members is vital to ensuring that we leverage data and best practices to support public policies that redirect resources to primary care for people and communities most in need.

If you had a magic wand that you could wave to change one thing in primary care, what would it be?
As someone who’s been on the front lines of health care as a physician and CEO of a Federally-Qualified Health Center, I know that primary care works best when it is collaborative across health teams and focused on the whole person. That means identifying and addressing needs that go beyond medical care but that too often are left unmet.
If I had that magic wand, I would transform our country’s siloed healthcare system into an integrated, accessible, and equitable one that accounts for physical, oral, behavioral and social health.
For too long our approach to primary care has separated the mouth from the body. Today, the data shows us that this needs to change. From interprofessional practice and medical-dental integration to value-based care models, ensuring that oral health is integrated into primary care is a vital step in creating a more equitable and effective health system.
What one thing about your work do you want people working outside primary care to know or understand?
As a primary care physician, I want to reinforce the critical connection between oral health and our overall health. Poor oral health is linked with serious health and social issues including heart disease, diabetes, lost work productivity and poor performance in school. Yet millions of Americans don’t have dental insurance and lack adequate access to preventive oral health care.
Understanding this connection and the gaps that exist is step one. Step two is taking action to better integrate medical and dental care.

Thankfully, taking action does not require reinventing the wheel. For example, the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement is working with partners across the health sector to create learning communities and develop best practices on how to integrate oral health into primary care practice. These are resources available to everyone.

Action also means making our voices heard and advocating for policy change at the federal, state and local levels in support of things like teledentistry, Medicaid adult dental coverage and dental benefits in Medicare. 

Looking back on your career, what’s the most significant contribution to primary care that you or your team have made?

Before joining the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, I led the transformation of the second-largest health center in Boston, the Dimock Center, into a leader in comprehensive health and human services within the community. We did this by implementing a holistic approach to care driven by data and innovation.

One of the core components of my work involved the coordination between Dimock’s dental clinic and primary care services, which led to the more than 150-year-old health center becoming a national model for the delivery of comprehensive care and services. Now as head of the DentaQuest Partnership, I can further champion efforts to integrate oral health into our fragmented healthcare system. I am proud to be a part of the important work that the DentaQuest Partnership teams are leading including critical research and data analytics, medical-dental integration pilots and disseminating replicable best practices for care improvement. Together, I know we can build a more equitable, prevention-focused system for us all.

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