Kristin Minihan-Anderson, RDH, MSDH, is the public health coordinator and assistant professor at the University of Bridgeport, Fones School of Dental Hygiene, in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Her responsibilities include teaching foundational courses, as well as overseeing dental public health rotations.
Prior to becoming the public health coordinator at Fones, Minihan-Anderson supervised the Fones Dental Hygiene Health Center (FDHHC) school-based clinic at the Jettie S. Tisdale Elementary School in Bridgeport. She reimagined how care was delivered within this setting, resulting in a dramatic increase in services provided to the children of Tisdale, particularly dental sealants. There was an eightfold increase in sealant placement, resulting in more than 2,100 teeth being sealed annually. Kristin has co-written and managed grants that have provided funding for expanded services and technology at the Tisdale clinic and the purchase of portable equipment for use during outreach rotations.
As public health coordinator, Minihan-Anderson’s vision was to take the outreach program established within the greater Bridgeport area and provide the opportunity for her students to function as public health dental hygienists. She implemented a data collection program, teaching students to perform oral screenings to assess diverse populations, record, and analyze data. This integration of biostatistics and epidemiology into the daily provision of services to the community has enabled students to use these data to engage in community program planning and to advocate for improved access to care for the populations they serve. Currently, through dental public health rotations, more than 6,500 members of the greater Bridgeport community receive services from Fones students and faculty annually.
Passionate about the profession, Minihan-Anderson is vice president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA)–Connecticut. In 2019, she was honored with the ADHA Connecticut’s Mabel C. McCarthy Award for the promotion of dental hygiene in an outstanding manner. She is also a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Bridgeport chapter, which recognizes and encourages superior scholarship.
What advice would you give to dental hygienists who are interested in a career in public health?
Don’t fear the unknown, jump in, and be open to all public health has to offer. I never imagined in 1994 when I started working at a federally qualified health center that I would be doing what I am right now. Be open to learning and expanding your knowledge of dental hygiene by going back to where it all began—public health. You will never be bored because you have the opportunity to use all of your skills as a dental hygienist, in addition to those of a clinician. The ADHA provides fantastic courses related to public health. I have found working in public health to be incredibly fulfilling and gratifying. It is empowering to have a positive impact within the community you serve.
You serve as the public health coordinator at your university. What does this position entail and what sparked your interest in this pathway?
As dental public health coordinator, I oversee the delivery of public health curriculum through lecture and outreach rotations. Additionally, I create and manage a schedule of community rotation sites, supervise students on outreach rotations, coordinate public health faculty, attend meetings with community partners, attend legislative hearings to provide written and/or oral testimony as needed, and provide reports regarding services provided and populations served via dental public health rotations. That being said, my primary goal is to help develop future public health dental hygienists by providing students with the skills required to succeed in alternative practice settings. I feel tremendous pride as I watch my students meet with their state legislators at the Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut. to advocate for the populations they serve. They truly understand the importance of not just assessing the needs of a community but also analyzing the data and planning programs to meet those needs.
My public health interest was sparked in 1994, 2 years after graduating from Fones, when I accepted a position as a clinical dental hygienist in a federally qualified health center (FQHC). This setting allowed me to learn how FQHCs function and made me aware of the need to improve access to care.
It was my experience as supervisor of the school-based clinic at Tisdale that truly solidified my passion for public health though. This work immersed me in the Tisdale community and the lives of the children served at this clinic. This position allowed me to use my teaching, clinical, and administrative skills to create a system that ensured these deserving children received the care and oral health education they desperately needed and deserved.