Melody Longino serves as manager of ambulatory operations at the UMMC School of Dentistry.
Melody Longino serves as manager of ambulatory operations at the UMMC School of Dentistry.
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People of the U: Melody Longino

Published on Wednesday, April 7, 2021

By: Ruth Cummins

Editor's Note: Front and Center is part of an ongoing series featuring UMMC's faculty, staff and students. See more Front and Center features.

What do Melody Longino, manager of the School of Dentistry’s clinics, and Scandal’s Olivia Pope have in common?

They’re both fixers. “I try to turn over every resource I can to get a problem solved,” Longino said, much like Pope, who starred in the television series as the invisible hand that dealt with predicaments at the White House.

A University of Mississippi Medical Center employee for 14 years, Longino is a familiar face to most who work in the School of Dentistry. More importantly, though, she’s a smiling face – albeit through her mask – to patients who come to the SOD for dental work that often is complicated.

“There’s a lot of interaction with the general public and with patients, and also with people outside the institution that require our services,” Longino said. “I’m not restricted to a desk. This position gives me the best of both worlds.”

Longino began her tenure at UMMC as a respiratory therapist, then worked in physician recruitment and retention for underserved areas, performance improvement and patient experience before coming to the SOD as a project manager.

“My main project was Dental Mission Week, and making sure that our denture patients were handled in the fall and Dental Mission Week was coordinated in the spring,” she said.

She saw opportunities to improve the process – and she fixed it. “I saw that we had a problem with how we were navigating patients through the week. The care during Dental Mission Week is free, but it’s while supplies last, and you don’t want to create frustration and more problems for patients.

“So, I introduced the application process,” she said. “I made it more structured so that you can get the patients in, get them seen, and get them out. This year, we did pre-screening of patients because of COVID-19. It made it more productive and more efficient.”

As manager of clinical operations, Longino’s duties include supervision of dental assistants who perform tasks assigned by dentists at chairside. “There is a lot of patient interaction and communication with outside facilities,” she said. “I get a lot of calls from social workers, trying to get different services for patients who may not be able to afford them, or who need them at a discounted price.”

“Melody takes a personal interest in finding solutions to provide dental care to Mississippi’s underserved population,” said Steven Moseley, director of dental ambulatory operations. “She treats our neediest patients with the utmost respect, like she would treat her own family.

“She is a strong advocate for caring for SOD patients, educating our students, and developing our clinical staff.”

Longino describes the School of Dentistry as “a beautiful place to be.

“I’ve been all over the hospital, and the atmosphere here is completely different. It’s like another world,” she said. “I’m in a place where they value what I have to bring and appreciate it.”

What she brings also is what she likes most about her job. “I want to expose the public to the world of dentistry and our School of Dentistry,” Longino said. “We can do pretty much everything here. Being able to get that in the forefront and showcase what we have to offer … that’s what I love. So many patients say they didn’t know about us until someone told them.

“We are under-recognized. The work here, and the new technologies we have, are a force to be reckoned with.”

Married for 20 years to husband Randy, the couple together have six children, 10 grandchildren and “one on the way,” she said. Just two of the children live in state, so Longino and her husband try to visit as often as they can.

Outside of her day job, “I like working in the yard, and I love to decorate and shop,” Longino said. “I really enjoy working in the flower bed, and I love music.”

Longino is grateful for the opportunity to join with SOD faculty, staff and students in making a difference in patients’ lives.

“Your teeth are part of your appearance,” she said. “To take away the embarrassment, and to provide a service to patients at a price they can afford, to get them in and taken care of – that’s the most satisfying thing to me,” Longino said.

“I want people to know that what we do here matters, and that we do excellent work.”

Longino’s “passion for helping people exemplifies the spirit of what makes the SOD a great place to work,” Moseley said.

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