Kelly Tanner Williams, ’17 (School of Business & Leadership), has always sought to be a leader in the field of dental hygiene. She has innovated, pioneered, earned an education and created opportunities for development. She’s been molded by mentors and made it a goal to pass on her experience through educating, service, mentoring and advocacy.
In recognition of her service to the industry, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) recently presented Williams with its Award for Excellence in Dental Hygiene. She was one of three recipients to receive the award at a national conference.
“I attend the award ceremonies every year, and I’m always looking up there thinking, ‘Wow, they’re so awesome! Look at what they contributed,’ and they’re people who are really embedded in our profession,” said Williams. “They’re household names. To be up there was an honor. It was humbling. What I do every day is my passion. The people who support me are the heroes of it all, because for me, it’s just doing what I love. My family and my friends and my colleagues really supported me.”
The award is given to ADHA members who exhibit leadership in the advancement of dental hygiene and whose outstanding accomplishments have made a significant impact on the profession. Williams became a dental hygienist in 1996. To make a greater impact, she earned a masters degree in management and administration with the goal of becoming a dental hygiene program director. Her drive and determination led her to develop leadership skills by serving as president of the Virginia Dental Hygienist Association, advocating for legislative changes, authoring a book chapter about teledentistry and forensic ontology, teaching at the college level and developing tele-health care technology classes, owning a business, and consulting with a group consultant to establish teledentistry in Virginia.
“There’s not a lot of research in dental hygiene how we develop ourselves as leaders,” said Williams. “We kind of know normally how we do it, but I knew I needed to broaden my life a little bit to think more outside of oral health, to see how I could help on a larger scale.”
Being part of a leadership institute at Thomas Nelson Community College in Newport News, Virginia, inspired Williams to begin working toward a doctorate in organizational leadership at Regent University’s School of Business & Leadership (SBL) in 2013. She desires to gain an even greater perspective on leadership and says her professors and assignments have changed the way she thinks.
“I now question every assumption that I make and that others say,” said Williams. “I knew that Ph. D. people were different. They question the underlying assumptions of everything because that is what education makes you do. Especially when you relate it to the Bible, you redevelop your foundational programming. My line of questioning has changed. The way I solve problems has changed, and the way I see people has changed. I’m really able to back out and look at things as a whole, and it aligns with my current job doing reaffirmation of accreditation at my college.”
Williams has been tasked with leading accreditation efforts at Thomas Nelson Community College. She says her professors at Regent remind her to keep faith and family first while she works toward her degree, anticipating to graduate in 2017. She thanks her family for its tremendous support. She’s considering using her doctorate to develop a leadership institute for dental hygienists.
“You teach people what you know so they can find their passion,” said Williams. “It’s about serving others, and that’s why Regent’s program resonated with me because it’s about servant leadership and mentoring and coaching that is so important. At the end of the day, it’s about the legacy you leave behind.”