Dr. Laquanis Hooker and her husband had traveled the world before setting their sights on Augusta.
“We were in the Air Force and lived all over the place,” says Hooker, who served nine years of active duty after earning her dental degree from Meharry Medical College. “One of our favorites was Okinawa, Japan.”
Yet when it was time to retire from the military, there was no place like home — or at least nearby.
“We have family in Atlanta and wanted to be closer to them,” says Hooker, the mother of a three-year-old daughter.
Her husband had found a good job in the community, and Hooker’s dental degree offered optimal flexibility. So in 2014, they made the move.
“The pace is a little slower here than we were used to, but it turned out to be the perfect place,” says Hooker. “My last duty station had been in the D.C. area, so the stress level immediately dropped.”
She promptly found her dental home as well. Hooker signed on as the dental director of Medical Associates Plus in Augusta, a health center that, in addition to serving insured patients, receives federal funding to treat the under-insured or uninsured. “When I first arrived, the dental department was operating only one and a half days a week,” says Hooker. “We increased it to full time.”
She relished the challenge of applying not only her dental expertise, but her leadership skills as well. And she felt privileged to serve a population that might otherwise lack access to care. “I always knew I wanted to help people,” she says. “I love the diversity of our patient base. I feel like I have a purpose.”
Hooker has expanded that purpose by joining the adjunct faculty of The Dental College of Georgia and mentoring students who rotate through the clinic. “I truly enjoy the opportunity to train the students and being able to help them and teach them different techniques,” she says. “I supervise them with lots of opportunities for hands-on experience. The students get to discover what it will really be like in private practice and we have a lot of fun.
“The 15 two-week rotation slots,” she notes, “are virtually always filled. We’re pretty popular here.”