President's Message: Taking the Lead

President's Message: Taking the Lead

Lee D. Jess, D.D.S.*:

The following address was given by incoming MDA president Lee Jess at the Association's House of Delegates September 19 and 20, 2008.

This is not the Mile High Stadium in Colorado or the Excel Center in Saint Paul, but for the Minnesota Dental Association, this is the most important meeting of the year, during which major decisions will be made for our association. I want to thank you and our membership for your continued dedication of time in the field of dentistry for the state of Minnesota.

As the new president of the MDA, I will ask for your continued involvement and support for the Association's leadership and staff in order to accomplish our goals and win the challenges ahead of us. Our Executive Director Dick Diercks and MDA staff are all to be commended for their flexibility and hard work in serving our membership.

My involvement in organized dentistry started with the Northeastern District Dental Society and the ADA some 40 years ago. I am possibly the oldest MDA president, but certainly not lacking in enthusiasm for our association. It all began in the 70's and 80's, serving with Willis Irons and Arnie Hill on the Dental Education Committee. That committee developed the first major expanded duties for dental assistants, which included polishing of coronal surfaces of teeth, taking X-rays, removing cement, and taking impressions. We ran into some opposition at times because change is not easily accepted. But where would we be without those monumental additions that today are all part of our professional service to the public? Now we face new changes and challenges such as O.H.P. (mid-level practitioner), and we must research aand be at the table to give our information.

My involvement with the Northeastern District continued, to include serving on and chairing various committees. In 1999, I was asked by the District to serve as its MDA trustee. Six years later I was honored again, being asked to start in the four-year process to become president of this great association. I am excited and proud to serve the MDA. The reason this is a great association is due to all of you and the members who either chair or serve on our many committees. In all the 50 states, Minnesota has one of the best dental associations.

We have one common thread that weaves through our profession and association: take care of our patients properly, take care of our dental profession, and take care of one another. Taking care of one another ... Reminds me of a story. A little girl came home late from playing. Her mother was quite upset and asked her why she was so late. She said her friend had fallen and broken her bicycle and that she had stopped to help her. "But you don't know anything about fixing bicycles," her mother responded." "I know," the little girl replied. "I just stopped to help her cry."

Part of our job as both members and as leaders is to help our colleagues. Life is not a spectator sport, it's a contact sport. We must keep in contact and in touch with our members, our patients, the public, and our legislators in order to keep our organization strong.

The MDA will be facing some real challenges this year and in the future. We have endured some difficult times this past year, and under the leadership of Jamie Sledd and our MDA staff were determined to do well. "The race," we are told, "is not always to the swift, but to the one who keeps running," and "Hard times don't last, but tough people do." We are all ambassadors of dentistry, and as leaders in the field, we must be persistent, positive, and enthusiastic in order to demonstrate how much we believe in our profession and our organization. Together we can accomplish goals such as better access to care, better reimbursement under the Medical Assistance program, and finding a resolution to the Mid-Level Practitioner situation.

There is a song about a little boy who went out to play baseball. He would throw the ball in the air, swing as hard as he could, and the ball would fall to the ground. He did this a second, then a third time, whereupon he picked up the ball, threw the bat over his shoulder, and started to walk back to the house. His positive statement to himself was, "I didn't know I could pitch like that!"

We must keep positive about the direction and the challenges facing the MDA. We can accomplish our goals and win the game. But as we plan for the future, we must be ever mindful of the past, and keep learning from it. I like country music. One of the best is "She Thinks My Tractor is Sexy". When was the last time someone came into your office and said, "I think your handpiece is sexy"? Dentistry may not be sexy, but is is important as we properly take care of our patients' oral health. We must constantly educate our patients, the public, our legislators about dentistry and how important and good it is for the entire health of an individual. We need to be positive and enthusiastic about our profession. And we need to keep pushing for proper reimbursement. If the government can bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, auto companies, there must be millions to help needy people.

My wife, Mary Jo, and I live in Grand Rapids on Pokegama Lake. We are also very fortunate to have our daughter, Susie Stauffer, her husband Joe, and our grandchildren, Jessica (7) and Will (3) live across the lake from us. The rest of our family lives in Colorado. Julie Jostad, her husband Mark, and grandchildren Jake (5), and Brook (3) live in Denver. Our son David is a dental lab technician living in Littleton. I want thank them all for their support throughout these years.

I want to thank the staff of the MDA, its trustees and Executive Committee, and Jamie Sledd for her leadership this past year. I also want to thank all of you for your time and effort. You all deserve a hand.

In the 10 years I have been traveling between the Twin Cities and Grand Rapids, I have put approximately 85,000 miles on my old Chevy Suburban. While on the road, I pass a lot of the time listening to music. A most interesting song is called, "Life Is A Dance": "Life is a dance. You learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, and sometimes you follow. Don't worry about what you don't know. You'll learn as you go. Life is a dance."

Now we can go out and dance through this year, and as we waltz or boogie, or as we lead or follow, together we can accomplish our goals. Thank you, and Let's go boogie.


*Dr. Jess is the president of the Minnesota Dental Association for 2008-2009. He is a general dentist in private practice in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. E-mail is