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News & Press: CSPD Bulletin

Executive Director’s Message - Fall 2017

Thursday, January 4, 2018  
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Over the last three decades, I’ve attended over one hundred installations. Rubber chicken or over cooked, flavorless beef was to be expected but occasionally the meal would be outstanding. There were similar expectations for the speeches. To be completely honest, more often than not, I’d find my mind wandering and not particularly engaged in the presentation. Every now or then, there would be a speaker who’s words would grab my attention. That’s what happened in Atlanta during the installation of Dr. Joe Crowley as the 154th President of the American Dental Association. Dr. Crowley is a general dentist from Cincinnati, Ohio and it was a privilege to serve under his and now Past President, Dr. Gary Roberts, leadership.

The byline in the ADA News introducing Dr. Crowley to the membership prior to his installation was “Treat people as you would want to be treated.” That is one of his core values. This ancient saying with roots in many cultures and religions is one I also try to follow in my practice. Dr. Crowley and I both practice in the community where we were raised and are active participants in the community. Perhaps these parallelisms create a bias for my appreciation of his comments but I hope you’ll share my perspective.

In his message to the House of Delegates, Dr. Crowley challenged us to “work together to elevate dentistry to new heights.” He stated that as dentists, we have a responsibility to our patients, to our communities and the responsibility to improve our world. How does he propose we, as dentists, do this?

“We have to claim our place in our larger society as a major player in health – not just dental health but overall health. We have to disrupt the patterns that aren’t working. We have to pull up a seat at the tables of our local governments, with editorial boards of our hometown newspapers, with anyone who will listen. We have to step up in new ways to advocate for our higher goals that contribute to this big world in which we live – not just our dental world.

We need to look at our role in society differently. There’s a bigger piece of the puzzle that we as an organization have probably not given all the attention it deserves. It’s about being part of bigger conversations about health. It’s about making sure people who need care get care.”

The world of healthcare is changing. Value in medicine is evolving rapidly to a system based on outcomes not procedures. In the past, it would be 15-20 years before similar changes made their way into dentistry. That time frame has shortened which makes this the time for the ADA to “lead that change rather than chase it.” To read Dr. Crowley’s entire message follow this link: https://www.ada.org/en/~/media/ADA/Member%20Center/Members/HOD%20Speech-Incoming%20President.

So where do pediatric dentist and pediatric dentistry fit into Dr. Crowley’s vision.

First – Membership - more specifically membership across all levels of organized dentistry (local, state and national). CSPD has tremendously loyal members and our membership numbers continue to grow each year. Representing a large majority of the pediatric dentists in California allows CSPD to be a significant player on issues related to the practice of pediatric dentistry. But for your voice to be heard in Chicago or Washington DC, you also need to be a member of the ADA or AAPD (ideally both) as they are the organizations that carry our message at the national level. Their voices are made louder by growing their memberships. Growing membership proportionate to their market share has been a challenge for the ADA for nearly a decade which is alarming. These national organizations are the ones that focus on the big picture and advocate for the policy changes where dentistry, as Dr. Crowley opined, is “leading the change not chasing it.” The value of membership is more than just the “membership benefits” we personally receive. It’s also about moving our profession forward creating a better profession for those who follow us.

Second – Prevention – Pediatric dentists are the prevention experts. We get it, we apply the techniques more than any other discipline of dentistry and we see the results in the positive outcomes for our patients. In access to care discussions, I heard it stated countless times that “we can’t drill and fill our way out of this problem” implying the need for an increased emphasis on prevention. The value conversation for dentistry is still in its infancy but seems to clearly be pointing towards increasing the perceived value of prevention. That course will require cultural change within the profession where prevention has a greater value than restoration. For this change to happen, there will have to be a restructuring of the reimbursement system. Again, this is a conversation that must occur at the national level and as the prevention specialists’, pediatric dentistry should have a prominent seat at the table.

Third – Leadership – Pediatric dentists only comprise 1-2% of the entire number of dentists yet during my volunteer experience they hold 5-10% of volunteer positions in organized dentistry. I’ve found this to be the situation across all three levels of the tripartite structure. CSPD has two tremendous leadership programs that provide our young dentists the experience they’ll need to become our future leaders. The Warren Brandli Intern program is a yearlong program where the interns participate in all the activities of the Board of Directors giving them experience in organizational governance and child advocacy. The Santos Cortez Graduate Student Leadership Advocacy program provides our dental residents the opportunity to experience and see our State legislative process firsthand while advocating on pediatric issues in Sacramento and Washington, DC. It is your membership that provides the support for these valuable programs.

Legislative and regulatory advocacy are not the glamorous membership benefits we all clamor for. To me, they are the most important. Yes, I’m probably biased by my many years of volunteer leadership. These behind the scene activities provide the foundation for us to practice dentistry in an environment that allows us to optimally provide care for our patients with reasonable compensation. It’s your membership dues that assure that all these organizations have the resources necessary to be the professions’ advocate. I hope you’ll join me in my continued support of organized dentistry to assure a bright future for our profession.

Respectfully submitted,
Andy Soderstrom, DDS
Executive Director, CSPD


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