President's Message: Anticipating What's Next

President's Message: Anticipating What's Next

Jamie L. Sledd, D.D.S.*:

Mission Statement of the Minnesota Dental Association

“The MDA is the authoritative resource for oral health, and is committed to serving the profession, and by doing so, the public.”

Summer is often the season we anticipate the most in Minnesota. We see this as an opportunity for rejuvenation, a time to restore energy, and to continue our forward momentum. This will be the final President’s Message I will write, and I am proud of the positive direction in which the MDA is moving.

Many things have occurred these past few months. As you know, the Oral Health Practitioner bill passed requiring the Department of Health to form a 13-member work group to develop recommendations and proposed legislation for the education and regulation of oral health practitioners. The two members appointed by the Board of Trustees to represent the MDA are Dr. Michael Flynn and Dr. Michael Perpich. Drs. Flynn and Perpich will respond to the questions and tasks that have been assigned to the Department of Health’s OHP Work Group. Among the 10 issues to be studied are scope of practice, supervision, and education. The group will also produce an implementation schedule that would allow for enrollment of students in an OHP educational program by the fall of 2009. This process must be completed by December 15, 2008. An MDA task force on the Oral Health Practitioner has been formed to meet regularly with Drs. Flynn and Perpich. The task force will provide guidance by gathering and reviewing information to assist the Board of Trustees and our two work group members. Throughout this process, we continue to receive support from the ADA and Tunheim Partners.

On May 28, a contingent from the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and Minnesota Dental Association traveled to Saskatchewan to learn about the Canadian Dental Therapist model. This program is similar to what is being proposed legislatively in Minnesota. The group visited the National School of Dental Therapists and was given the opportunity to witness lectures and clinical course work. The information on the educational process and implementation of the Canadian model helped us gain a perspective about the strengths and weaknesses of the Canadian model and will help us provide input to the Department of Health Work Group process. Throughout the visit, we examined, discussed, and debated the assumptions we held. We built new professional relationships in the larger dental community and envisioned ways to bring back ideas used in Canada to fit the values and mission of the Minnesota dental community. At the time of this printing we are evaluating the New Zealand model of the dental therapist. This program differs from the Canadian model in regard to scope of practice and education.

Tunheim Partners began consulting with the MDA last winter as a part of the ADA public affairs program. The Board of Trustees has recommended the MDA develop a strategic plan which will be developed with the guidance of Tunheim Partners. The process will begin by utilizing a survey to the membership as well as establishing listening groups.  As information is gathered, it will help formulate the direction of our plan, the foundation on which the MDA will implement our intentions and move forward. The Board will then track implementation of the plan as well as measure the success of our plan. Tunheim’s mission is “Anticipating What’s Next...Capitalizing on Opportunities.” I feel this speaks well to the intentions of our association.

Our House of Delegates meeting has a new format this year to provide improvements to the schedule and to the resolution process. The first session of the House will begin Friday, September 19 at 9:00 a.m. Please be in touch with your districts so you will be informed of your caucus schedule. It is important that all member voices are heard.

As you can see, the Board of Trustees has been very busy with the influx of activities at the MDA. We continue to provide the most up-to-date information to you via MDA News and Views, Legislative updates, letters, the MDA website, and the MDA newsletter. If you are not receiving the electronic information, please let us know, as it is critical that you receive the most current information available.

My term as president comes to an end at the close of our House of Delegates meeting in September. I want to thank you for your support and the hard work you have given this year. I especially want to recognize the Executive Committee, Board of Trustees, and MDA staff members. Our organization would not move forward without their tremendous contributions. As I complete my role as president, it has become increasingly clear that managing the enormous volumes of information and directing the intense issues before the association is a huge challenge. Making informed decisions with the appropriate guiding principles is not for the faint of heart. It is a responsibility that none of the officers, past or present, has taken lightly. MDA leadership takes personal ownership and responsibility with the issues before them, and their intent should not be questioned. One of their responsibilities is also to disseminate appropriate, timely, and accurate information to the membership. No matter how much information is shared, in what format it is communicated, or in what time frame it is sent, it is still a challenge to keep everyone informed. You may not all agree on the process or the outcome, but rest assured, those in the MDA leadership positions have the most current and accurate information to guide them.

As your summer unfolds I encourage you to reflect on your skills and how you may use them to move the MDA forward in our vision. We have an extraordinary community of members that I encourage to answer the call to action.

*Dr. Sledd is the president of the Minnesota Dental Association for 2007-2008. She is a general dentist in private practice in Maple Grove, Minnesota. E-mail is