Meet One of Kool Smiles’ Newest Dentists, Dr. Leonard Johnson

As a recent dental school graduate and a participant in our new Kool Doctors Giving Back program, Dr. Johnson has a unique perspective on the opportunities available to new doctors at Kool Smiles. We sat down with him to ask him more about his experience at Kool Smiles.

When did you first become interested in dentistry and what was it that inspired you to get involved in this line of work?

My parents were my first major influences.  My father always wanted his two sons to become doctors.  He would call us “DoctorsJohnson and Johnson.”
When he passed away, I was still a young boy so my mother immediately started me out on my quest.  She inspired and encouraged me to attend different academic programs during the summer geared towards achieving careers in science and medicine. She also helped me shadow our family dentist during the school year and it was then that I realized dentistry was the career for me.  My parents will always and forever be my greatest supporters.  My second major influence was a unique source, Herbie the Elf from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  Herbie will always be my one of my greatest inspirations because it was from him that I even learned the word dentistry or even knew what it meant.  The fact that he could focus himself on one area completely different from the other elves sparked my interest.  From there, I questioned dentistry and what it was all about.  He is a childhood treasure that I will never forget.

As a newly graduated dentist, what kinds of opportunities was Kool Smiles able to offer you, both in terms of your career and in terms of your aspiration to make an impact?

johnsonAs a recently graduated dentist, Kool Smiles has been able to offer me the opportunity of not only working with kids, but with adults as well.  I have also been fortunate to experience working in different specialties like I did in school.  Being that we see patients with a variety of insurance, including Medicaid, I have been able to work with a diverse cultural and socioeconomic patient population.  I am also blessed with the ability to make an impact on patients at an early age to care for their oral health.  Kool Smiles not only offers short-term goals, but life-long dreams that carry from generation to generation.

How was your overall experience with the Peru trip? What were your biggest takeaways? Would you do it again?

My overall experience with the Peru trip was phenomenal and life-changing.  Peru is such an amazing country with a rich history, mountains galore, delicious food, and fantastic views that just take your breath away.  My biggest takeaway was that doing mission work is not only a blessing, but it is a responsibility we have as health professionals.  When we take our oaths as healthcare professionals to our patients, we don’t just do it for some, we do it for all.  That means that wherever we are needed, whenever we are able, we should educate and treat our patients as if they were members of our families.  This is something I hold true to my heart.  If I am fortunate enough to receive this opportunity again, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Was there a particular moment or anecdote from the trip that you’d like to share with us that really stood out to you?

Two particular moments stood out to me.  First, I was able to cut a brick with a machete to help build a stove in the village of Rangrayo. I felt like such a rock star when I accomplished this! Just the simplicity of it was the awe factor for me.  The second was the time I walked the Sun Dial Trail at Maccu Picchu.  It was tough and it tested my endurance like no other.  However, when I reached the top of that trail and saw the view, I was mesmerized by the mountains and the Inca Village below.  That was one experience I will never forget as long as I live.


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