Representation in dentistry is imperative. As society makes substantial changes to institutionalized blockades, dentists such as Dr. Kristina Staples make a positive impact nationally, regionally, and locally.
Kristina Staples, DDS, of Blackstone Family Dentistry, in Blackstone, Virginia, has taken a community-driven approach at her new practice, and with her participation as a vendor at the town’s first Juneteenth celebration. On June 26 at the Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration, she will offer oral health education and immerse herself, and her new dental practice in the Blackstone community.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with the news that the Civil War had ended and all slaves were free. The news arrived two years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
Dr. Staples believes it is important to highlight events like Juneteenth because it is crucial for people to have a sense of where they came from.
“I think it keeps you grounded to have a history, to know where you came from, and to know what your ancestors went through,” Dr. Staples said.
“Honestly, it’s not that long ago that slavery ended. It didn’t happen hundreds and hundreds of years ago; not even 200 years ago slavery ended. It’s not something that happened in the distant past, but in 2021 there are people who don’t know about Juneteenth. There are people who don’t understand that the freedoms that we have are very recent.”
Dr. Staples is driven to be a community leader and a provider who patients can trust to care for them in vulnerable times. She served as Director of Dental Services for Central Virginia Health Services (CVHS), in Charlotte, Virginia, from 2011 to 2018, dedicating her time to improving her patient’s lives with proper education. She spent nearly a decade helping her patients understand the importance of dental hygiene while giving them a safety net they could rely upon.
DR. KRISTINA STAPLES’ PATH TO DENTISTRY FROM VIRGINIA TO NORTH CAROLINA AND BACK
Early in her college career at North Carolina State University, an interest in the dental profession led her to shadowing her childhood dentist in Blackstone. This confirmed her passion for dentistry, however, she realized the importance of practical experience after earning her undergraduate degree. She spent the next two years working, and in 2005, returned to college and received a Master of Science degree in Biology from Virginia State University. She quickly decided to bring her passion to life and applied for dental school. In 2009, Dr. Staples received a Doctorate in Dental Surgery from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry.
Dr. Staples’ time at the CVHS was eye-opening; she provided affordable dental care to her patients and educated them about proper dental hygiene. After a decade in dentistry, she realized it was time to head closer to home. Her goal: Expand into her own practice and build on a decade of professional experience doing what she loves. In 2018, Dr. Staples purchased a practice from a retiring doctor and rebranded as Blackstone Family Dentistry.
She recalls her time providing oral health care at CVHS .
“I had a lot of patients tell me they were so happy I was there because it’s the only place that takes their insurance or their child’s insurance,” Dr. Staples said.
“Especially if you’re in Southside Virginia, you’re probably going to have a drive an hour, minimum, to find someone who is going to see you. You shouldn’t have to drive that far; you shouldn’t have to drive outside of your community to be treated. But there are a lot of people who still must do that.”
She added, “You help someone who is in so much pain and when you take their tooth out, they cry. You ask, ‘You OK?’ and they say, ‘I’m crying because … I’m not going to hurt anymore.’ When you go home at night you know for sure you helped someone out who would not have been helped today.”
MAKING AN IMPACT THROUGH INVOLVEMENT AT BLACKSTONE FAMILY DENTISTRY
Dr. Staples believes Blackstone Family Dentistry can meet more of their community and be more impactful through her presence at the Juneteenth event.
“A big part of my career thus far, is education and that would help me inform people about the importance of basic everyday oral hygiene,” Dr. Staples said.
Dr. Staples hopes her practice’s presence at the event showcases the importance of representation in dentistry and beyond.
“One thing I hope is that by participating in Juneteenth, little Black kids, little boys and girls, will see someone who looks like them sitting at the table,” Dr. Staples said.
“They will see someone with a doctorate degree, they will see someone who owns a business. They can see that this isn’t some pie-in-the-sky kind of dream. It’s completely reachable. You can do this, but you have to do the work. There will be ups and downs. (In the future) I don’t have to be the only one sitting in here as a vendor — you can be here, too. Just don’t give up.”
Dr. Staples hopes to share a message through her practice’s participation on June 26: Events like the Juneteenth celebration are designed for inclusion. It is important to have celebrations for the African American community, as well as other diverse communities within Blackstone, because all are citizens of the United States.
She believes history is important and that accurate representation matters. Dr. Staples highlighted that we cannot exclude events of historical importance because they are inconvenient, violent, or scary.
“Our histories are part of who we are, and it is important to shed light on the past since it is the foundation for the present.”