In the spirit of 2011 resolutions, please take a moment and ask yourself, Who can I encourage today? Who can I build up? How can I improve somebody else’s life? As dentists and leaders in your respective communities, you have something to offer that very few people can give.
A little anecdote that illustrates how a small act of encouragement can change someone’s self-image comes to mind as I have reflected on these thoughts. When I was in junior high school, I was one of the smaller players on the football team. In our first game of the season, we were scheduled to play an excellent team, and I was intimidated by them due to the giant stature of the nearly all of the players. I was intimidated by our opponents because I didn’t feel as though I could compete with them. On game day, I was walking between classes when my football coach called me over to where he was standing in front of several of my friends. He was a big, strong, tough coach with a booming voice. He said, “Tim you’re not that tall and do not weigh much, but let me tell you what counts.” He pointed to my chest, and continued, “You’ve got a big heart, and you are going to do great this year.” When I heard the coach’s words spoken in front of my friends, I stood up taller, threw my shoulders back, and smiled. My confidence soared to a completely new level, and I played better that year than I had ever done before.
I challenge each member of the Minnesota Dental Association to incorporate this attitude into daily life. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we know somebody believes in us. That coach took a little time to make a make a big difference; he took time to instill confidence in me. If we‘re going to bring out the best in people, we too need to sow seeds of encouragement.
With that, I would like to reflect on the many MDA member accomplishments from the past year, as well as some suggestions for member involvement for the upcoming year.
Accomplishments and Goals
• Active oversight of the Board of Dentistry’s implementation of the Dental Therapist law, involving ongoing meetings among MDA leaders, the School of Dentistry, dental organizations, safety net representatives, and members of the Board of Dentistry.
• Reframing and successfully changing MDA and ADA policy on Access to Care discussions to focus on Barriers to Care.
• Improving care for underserved, special needs, and vulnerable populations, through
o Legislative efforts
Worked to mitigate restricted dental benefits
Produced a video to highlight for legislators the impact of benefit cuts on patients and dental offices
Prevented the closing of five State Operated Services (SOS) clinics
Worked to restore critical access funding
Saved the Donated Dental Services program
Developed a major 2011 legislative initiative, the “Special Care Dentistry” bill, to provide comprehensive care to vulnerable adults (the aged, blind, and disabled) just as oral health care for children is mandated
o MDA initiatives
• MDA members/staff provided $1.7 million free care to more than 6,000 low income children through Give Kids A Smile 2010
• A special loan forgiveness program for new dental school graduates agreeing to practice on the Iron Range will be funded by the state and implemented by the MDA’s Minnesota Dental Foundation.
• A state level Mission of Mercy Committee was created and is beginning planning for its first Mission of Mercy.
• Hundreds of dentists and thousands of volunteers signed up again to participate in Give Kids A Smile 2011 (February 4 and 5). GKAS ads featured Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire speaking to children at Target Field.
• MDA members worked to reverse the DHS rejection of oral screening by dental hygienists for Minnesota Head Start programs.
• With the assistance of a small grant from the Minnesota Dental Foundation, the MDA’s Children’s Health Committee is seeking to make sure Head Start children in two geographic areas of the state receive an exam. The MDA is applying for a grant from AAPD to expand the effort to more areas of the state next year.
• MDA focuses on the unique needs through the new MDA Children’s Health Care, Rural Health Care, Urban Safety Net, and Elderly and Special Needs Adult Health Committees
• Helping us to better serve our patients
o An educational effort to encourage infant oral exams is proceeding. The MDA web site has an instructional video, and committee members are speaking to dental groups about the importance of infant oral exams.
o An informational program to publicize tools and ways to deal with potential prescribing abuse is being developed.
o A renewed smoking cessation program is being developed.
o A public information program to highlight the oral systemic connection is being developed.
o Focus continues to develop on Evidenced-Based Dentistry, including holding an EBD Symposium in October of 2010
• Efforts directed to improving the dental marketplace
Seeking due process for dentists who are targeted for third-party audits
Seeking legislation to require pre-authorization
Meeting with Delta Dental regarding third-party audit issues
Seeking a prohibition on capping of non-covered services
o Reviewing and notifying members of changes to the Delta Policies and Procedures Manual.
o Approving an ambitious program to take Midwest Dental Benefits to a higher capability level, equipped to meet its five-year plan goals
o Hosting an MDA Hazardous Waste educational seminar for 170 attendees; videotaped and available to MDA members
• Enhanced member communication and participation
o Using social media to foster dental community
o Strengthening MDA/District relations
o Online and in-person leadership conferences bring MDA, district, and specialty association leaders together
o Using technology to enhance member participation in Board and committee meetings and leadership conferences
o Retooling MDA Legislative Advocacy Program develops legislative advocates and key contacts, whereby specially designated member dentists will make critical contacts with key legislators
o Encouraging all dentists and student dentists to take part in MDA Dental Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 2, 2011
o Print and electronic mechanisms bring widespread and timely release of information to members
o Star of the North Meeting 2011 (April 28-30) offers tremendous educational and social opportunities for dentists and dental teams. The Minnesota Dental Association’s Star of the North Meeting is the premier state dental meeting of the Upper Midwest. With 70 continuing education seminars and an exhibit floor featuring more than 270 innovative companies, it provides current clinical and practice management information to the dental community. And it is right here in our own backyard – a perfect way to “Make Connections and Gain Experience”.
If you want your life in dentistry to increase, if you want your life in dentistry to get better, I compel you to first improve somebody else’s life. We should make every effort to encourage our fellow dentists, build them up, and challenge them to reach new heights. Please take time to make a difference, to reflect upon how you may best contribute to improving your peers’ and patients’ lives, and consequently, improving your own.
There are a variety of opportunities for MDA members to contribute to their community and make a difference in the lives of others. Members may volunteer their talents in a number of ways, such as:
• Participate as a local district Executive Officer and committee participation
• Get involved in the new Children’s Oral Health Initiative
•Participation in seminars, such as the 2011 Women Dentists Seminar
• Seek membership on an MDA standing committee
• Serve as a district delegate to the annual MDA House of Delegates
• Volunteer for “Give Kids A Smile”
• Volunteer for non-profit clinics throughout Minnesota
• Participate in the grassroots legislative program
• Attend Dental Day at the Capitol
• Volunteer at the Star of the North Meeting
• Promote Minnesota Dental Benefits (MDB) statewide
Let us resolve to increase our participation this year. Our collective impact on the lives of others will likewise increase. “Be the change you would like to see in the world,” and use your unique skills, knowledge, and abilities to do so.
*Dr. Flor is the president of the Minnesota Dental Association for 2010-2011. He is a general dentist in private practice in Waseca, Minnesota. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.