Filling the public health-care gap

Alumna’s agent-of-change dream takes hold deep in the heart of Texas
December 19th, 2019

Dr. Yashashri Urankar (center) and colleagues accept an award from DentaQuest’s Dr. Shawn Boyne (left).

After graduation, Dr. Yashashri Urankar ’12, ’14 went where she was needed most. Now her selfless aspirations are reaping recognition, but she says her work is just beginning.

Urankar oversees seven dental clinics in five South Central Texas counties as dental director at Community Health Centers of South Central Texas. She and her colleagues recently accepted the 2019 John Rossetti Memorial Center of Excellence award. Each year, DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement selects three public health dental programs dedicated to the oral health needs of the underserved.

“This award underscores my belief that I chose the right career path,” she says. “This is a stepping stone to continue developing the public health field. In my opinion, awards encourage you to take the next steps.”

Urankar credits teamwork from her dedicated staff as the biggest qualifier for the award. The center was recognized for improving access, which she says was achieved by working on important metrics. They decreased canceled appointments and improved production and the treatment completion rate, she says, as well as developed an integrated health care model—“some baby steps toward developing an ER diversion program.”

“I have managed to take the oral health program to a new level in the past five years,” she says. “I take pride in my job,” which includes providing patient care to “the most vulnerable, underprivileged and uninsured community.”

Urankar’s time at Texas A&M College of Dentistry brought a new understanding of public health dentistry‘s core principles, she says, which instilled a passion that guides her career trajectory every day. She completed the Dental Public Health Graduate Residency Program in 2012 and a Certificate in Education for Health Care Professionals in 2014. She then accepted a staff dentist position with CHC of South Central Texas, a Federally Qualified Health Center. She was promoted to director the next year.

“This was my chance to be a change agent to optimize my skills and put them into appropriate practice,” she says.

Urankar’s job includes developing policies, procedures and clinical protocols, she says, as well as budget balancing, grant writing and building partnerships. She also serves as adjunct faculty at Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health – A.T. Still University. In addition, Urankar mentors future dentists who attend clinical training. The CHC of South Central Texas offers all primary health care services, including dental, medical and behavioral health.

“The community health centers are considered a blessing in disguise to the communities we serve,” she says. “My former CEO, Mr. Henry Salas, always said, ‘We all are doing God’s work.’”


— Kathleen Green Pothier