President's Message: A Happening New Year

President's Message: A Happening New Year

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

As president of the Minnesota Dental Association, I wish you a happy New Year in 2009. With the legislative session now under way, I am looking back at accomplishments of the Association in 2008 while looking ahead to where we are going. We dramatically improved our presence with legislators as well as with our membership as we were forced to step up and fight for what our profession thinks is right at the State Capitol.

Much of our legislative success came with the presence of new and improved communications as well as the reemergence of our Grassroots Network. Also, success came from the donations that MINDENPAC made to individuals running for office. Nearly 90% of the individuals to whom we contributed were elected, giving us a slight edge going into the session.

Looking ahead, our Board of Directors and Executive Director, Dick Diercks, and his staff have a lot of things brewing for the upcoming months:

2009 Legislative Battles
We all know that the Oral Health Practitioner (OHP) is our hot topic for 2009. Every state in the nation and the ADA have their eyes on Minnesota and the outcome of this significant legislative issue. With leadership from our dental districts, Board of Trustees, MDA committees, and the U of M School of Dentistry, I truly believe that Minnesota will continue to be the progressive leader for the nation on this topic.

The MDA has worked very hard over the last six months to develop a sound position that is aggressively being lobbied at the State Capitol and that will maintain the high standard of care that Minnesotans have come to expect. Through all of the deliberations, we have come to understand that there can be a role within a dental team for an OHP if certain parameters are adhered to. First, a dentist must be in the building to supervise any surgical or irreversible procedures that might fall within an OHP’s scope of practice. Second, surgical procedures must be taught at a school that is geared to teach surgical procedures. The only place in the state capable of that is the School of Dentistry at the U of M. Finally, a dental exam and treatment plan must be done by the dentist prior to any irreversible procedures being conducted.

The OHP is not the only issue that we are working on. We are also actively proposing dental access legislation, the creation of a dental home, a single administrator carve-out, and keeping a close eye on what happens with the provider tax. Our big concern is the $5 billion budget deficit that the state is facing. This shortage will impact everything as legislators struggle to solve the problem.

Our lobbyists Tom Day, Dominic Sposeto, and Mary Dougherty will again be working for the MDA and representing dentistry’s position - combined they have almost 75 years of experience working at the State Capitol. You will be hearing more about this process on a monthly basis from the MDA.

More Smiles Every Year
February will bring the Give Kids a Smile program to clinics across the state on the 6th and 7th. This donation of time, materials, and efforts by dentists, staff, sponsors, and the University of Minnesota dental students has made a real difference to low-income children for seven years now, and truly exemplifies the concern that dentistry has for access to care in Minnesota.

Dental Day at the Capitol
Dental Day at the Capitol is February 25, and we need every dentist there to tell our story to legislators. Making the proper contacts via our membership and educating our legislators are extremely important for us to be successful with our legislative agenda. Our influence visiting with legislators on Dental Day at the Capitol in 2008 greatly changed the direction of the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner bill, which was defeated with the promotion of our compromise language.

Already this year, through the leadership of our members contacting Representative Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) and Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), a bill is being initiated in 2009 for loan forgiveness for graduating dentists to practice in northern Minnesota. This is why it is so important to have a strong representation by the dentists of Minnesota at Dental Day at the Capitol. If you haven’t already, fill out the registration form on page 23 and send it in. I sure hope to see you on February 25th in St. Paul.

Star of the North
Even though it seems like it just ended, the Star of the North will again be upon us in April. Registration materials have already gone out, and this year promises to be one of the best events ever. This is the fourth largest dental gathering in the nation and is something that we take great pride in.

Thank you for your continued support of the MDA. We appreciate it greatly. I invite you to get involved and take an active role in your district dental society and state committees. It takes all of us to make a winning team.

*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 lmjess@mchsi.com.