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Bringing Something New to the Table

It pays big dividends

Toni Erickson is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Dentistry Division of Dental Hygiene, and she is an entrepreneur who started HealthStaff Dental Staffing Solutions placing dental care professionals in temporary and permanent positions all over the Kansas City metro area. Both careers nurture her desire to educate and help improve the health of others.

Erickson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene in 1993 and decided she wanted to teach after observing her professors.

“When I was in school I watched my instructors and how they shared their knowledge,” said Erickson. “Each one of them was bringing something new to the table. I felt I had something to share as well.”

Erickson is being honored by the UMKC alumni Association and the campus as the 2015 Dental Hygiene Alumni Award recipient. Her award is among the 17 UMKC alumni awards which will be recognized at the annual Alumni Awards luncheon on Thursday, April 23, at Swinney Recreation Center.

Erickson came to UMKC as a non-traditional student after getting married and having two children. Returning to school might have been a difficult venture, but she was up to the challenge.

“I was so aware of how fortunate I was. The Alumni Association was generous in the scholarships and support they gave me as a student. It was important to me to give back in money and in time. These organizations cannot be successful without that kind of commitment from their alums,” said Erickson.

She was committed to make a difference. Not only did Erickson become an instructor to help students and patients improve their oral health, but like her professors before her, she brought something new to the table when she started HealthStaff.

“The idea for HealthStaff came from a get together with friends. One of the guests was an investor, who was telling me about starting a company for medical professionals,” said Erickson. “I suggested the same for dentistry and from that HealthStaff Dental Staffing Solutions was born.

“I honestly had no experience in staffing, human resources or running a business other than what I had learned in the dental office. I drew from those experiences and taught myself. I enjoy organizing and developing functional systems, whether in my personal life or in my work,” said Erickson. “I think life experiences, previous management experience and a strong work ethic, the support of family, friends and most certainly the relationships I had built over the years at UMKC School of Dentistry and the Alumni Association are all a reason for the success of my company.”

When asked to share the things that excite her, Erickson listed two things – one from each position.

If wearing the professor’s hat, Erickson said she’s excited when students grasp a concept or skill for the first time when she’s working with them. “To see the ‘ah-ha’ look on their faces is a great sense of accomplishment for both – the student and me,” said Erickson.

“If I am talking about HealthStaff, I get the most satisfaction out of making a successful employment placement. It is difficult in the employment market to find a perfect fit, to find an office or an employee that fits like a glove. Building successful relationships with both employees and practices is our number one goal,” said Erickson.

She said her biggest personal accomplishment is to have raised two daughters who know the value of their education. “They watched as I went through it and, while it wasn’t easy for any of us, they learned the art of studying and the importance of doing well. They are the greatest joy and accomplishment in my life.”

UMKC’s Alumni Awards luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted nearly 600 attendees and garnered more than $117,000 in student scholarships.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

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