If one were to read the bylaws of the American Dental Association, one would discover that the Annual Session is the mandatory yearly meeting of the House of Delegates, the “supreme authoritative body of [the] Association”. However formal that may sound, Annual Session also offers all members a chance to travel, attend CE, peruse the endless aisles of the World Marketplace, and participate in many of the ancillary activities that occur prior to the House of Delegates. Luckily for the Minnesota attendees, it was also an excuse to travel to the Hawaiian Islands just in time to dodge a cold snap bustling in from the north to bring some early autumn snow. I was one of those lucky people. It was my lot, or my turn, not to experience our early winter. Rather, I spent time with my husband visiting Oahu, Lanai, and Maui for the American Dental Association’s Annual Session. Having no involvement in the House of Delegates meant that my husband and I were there only as tourists — free to explore the bounty of our fiftieth state (and learn a little dentistry).
I looked into the immensity of hosting such an event and the financial impact that it can have on a community, especially given Hawaii’s slow tourism as of late. Nearly 25,000 people were registered, and more than 8,000 dentists from 70 countries attended this year’s event, which was headquartered at the Hawaii Convention Center. Attendees were housed in more than 30 hotels scattered around Waikiki Beach. Honolulu was decked out for the arrival of the ADA, and there were an impressive number of banners and street signs welcoming the dental community to Honolulu. The convention center said the dentists had booked nearly 193,000 room nights, by far the biggest professional group to meet in Hawaii since the last time the dentists came in 1999. The Pacific Business News reported that Hawaii saw a 7.2% increase in visitor arrivals this past September, compared to the same time last year. The increase was “clearly attributed to the enormous number of dental professionals visiting,” and the first time that the number of mainland arrivals has increased since February 2008. The Pacific Business News also reported that Annual Session was expected to generate more than $113 million in direct spending and tax revenue of nearly $11 million. As a new dentist, I tried (my husband and I tried) to keep a budget in mind, but with the upcoming prospect of starting a family and the recent acquisition of a new home, we knew this would likely be the last big trip for a couple of years.
We arrived in Honolulu several days early in order to experience the sights, sounds, and traffic of Oahu. We toured around in a cheap rental car and drove the North Shore, visited Kailua and Lanikai beaches, Hanauma bay, and made an early morning trip to Pearl Harbor. We pumped plenty of money into the local eating establishments, stopping at roadside shave ice stands, sushi restaurants, Leonard’s bakery for malasadas, and topped it off with an all-out gastronomic frenzy at Roy’s Original in Hawaii Kai.
The logistics and coordination of the conference were impressively orchestrated. Never once did we wait in line for a shuttle to the convention center. The transportation and routing were efficient, despite schizophrenic Honolulu roads. Hotel staff all wore ADA buttons and were knowledgeable about getting attendees to and from the meeting site. Green blazers were poised around the convention center lobby to pass out the daily news and direct traffic. A huge reservations desk was set up to aid with the planning of activities. And despite the fact that the convention center itself was an absolute zoo when CE courses let out (have you ever seen the inside of a beehive?), the entire event was well managed and had to impress even the most persnickety of dentists.
I attended an operative update course taught by the eloquent and informative Dr. Bruce Small. One of his take-away messages was a stout reminder that despite dentistry’s advancement in chemistry, materials science, and esthetics, our greatest longevity is still found in gold. He actually made me sad that I had never done a gold foil. I also attended a hands-on technique workshop on oral surgery. We practiced extractions using some of the new luxators, elevators, and forceps available on the market today. And while it could have been an excellent course, there was one doctor who hadn’t done an extraction in twenty years who personally commandeered the speaker and made him unavailable for most of the course time.
The World Marketplace can be a bit overwhelming if you do not have a targeted strategy. We set a time limit and knew of several booths that we wanted to visit for a specific product. I am a little wary of sales in general, so I will only listen to so many representatives tell me about their new low-shrinkage composite, the Session product du jour, before I start avoiding eye contact. This year I focused more on products to help my severely medically compromised patients, and came away with some new items and strategies that I may try with them. I also stumbled upon and was entranced by the Isolite booth, and I’m wondering if the community clinic that employs me might be willing to plunk down a large chunk of change for a couple of them...
This year, the ADA also offered post-session CE on the islands of Kauai, Hawaii, and Maui. As an interlude between the Annual Session and the post-session, we took off on a small prop plane and flew to the island of Lanai. Everything Hawaiian that Honolulu wasn’t, Lanai most certainly was! We spent three days exploring quaint and wonderful Lanai City and being pampered at the Four Seasons at Manele Bay. Initially, such attentive service was a little awkward, but it only takes about a day before you have no problem saying, “Why, yes, I would like some icy cold cucumber slices for my puffy eyes, and I will have another glass of lemonade too!” Though there was no dental component to our Lanai retreat, I certainly picked up some customer service pearls. Such gracious staff and personalized attention can always translate to our patient care settings.
On the boat between Lanai and Maui, we discussed the upcoming CE on Maui. After soaking up sun for three days straight, I was ready again to learn. We attended Gordon Christensen’s two-morning course on incorporation and utilization of mini-type implants in general dentistry. He did a nice job giving a non-biased review of the products available. Now if I only had that iCAT machine in my office, then I’d be ready to start today! Even with standard radiography, it appears that use of mini implants can not only be a boon for the office, but provide more stable and functional prostheses for those who may not be able to afford a standard implant-supported denture.
And with that, we left the islands after two weeks of both leisure and education. Upon returning to MSP, the pilot reminded passengers to use caution on the jetway, as snow had accumulated and was slippery. Ah, Minnesota ... land of the provider tax, of mid-level dental practitioners, and of our beloved homes and practices. Despite our unending struggles with the weather and the reality of dentistry’s changing nature here in Minnesota, I’ll still take a little ice underfoot to sand in my eyes ... After all, that’s what vacations are for.