All in an Extra Day's Work

All in an Extra Day's Work

Edward J. Vigna, D.D.S.*:

At our February board meeting and retreat we spent a great deal of time assessing the American Dental Association as it is today. We identified major areas that must be addressed if we hope to remain “America’s leading advocate for oral health”. As we know, others are working very hard to seize that position. After careful consideration, the four areas the board will be focusing on this year include:

Barriers to Care

The first in a series of articles, “Breaking Down Barriers to Oral Health for All Americans … The Role of Workforce”, was released in late February. This document clearly states the ADA policy with regard to the dental team and related workforce issues. This paper should be helpful in educating legislators and regulators on certain aspects of the access issue. The Board has added an additional day to our meetings in April, August, and December to address barriers to care. Although workforce and mid-level practitioners are part of the debate, our plan is to move beyond the workforce and truly investigate the many, many other barriers — among them financial, demographic, and oral health literacy, to mention but a few. We will then release more position papers as we develop opinions and strategies to deal with these barriers to access.

Membership

Membership is the lifeblood of any organization. To remain the leader in science, advocacy, and education, and to provide the vast array of member services, the ADA must retain its strong market share. In the past two years, although we have increased our overall membership numbers, we have dropped slightly in market share. Realizing the changing demographics and new demands of prospective members is one step; doing something with that information is critical. The Council on Membership will actively address these issues by developing a strategy and the appropriate tactics. The ADA will expand and target certain market segments and locations with the greatest potential for membership increases. An aggressive strategy should have a positive impact. However, the very best way to grow an organization is to ask someone to join or rejoin. Valuing our component, constituent, and national membership as we do, please reach out to a prospective new member and invite him or her to join. Our July Board meeting will be devoted to membership issues, with the chair of the Council on Membership in attendance. All elements and individuals within the ADA must always remember that members are the purpose of our work.

Education

Dental education presents varied challenges and opportunities for the ADA. The list of issues is long, and some are troubling. New schools opening with new educational models, faculty shortages, possible new methods of testing and evaluating student performance, and new technologies are emerging and continuing issues. Perhaps the greatest challenge for prospective new members is the rapidly escalating cost of education. At the April BOT meeting, we will hear from two dental school deans, and in June we will meet with representatives from the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Our goal will be to work collaboratively with all parties to address the needs of education.

Governance

Over the past few months, the Board has been working to update our Board rules. That project nears completion and hopefully will have positive outcomes. It is important that we review and possibly streamline how we function as an association. This does NOT mean changing roles and responsibilities of various groups or agencies within the ADA (i.e., House of Delegates and Board of Trustees). It does mean developing strategies to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies of working relationships of the BOT and our committees, the HOD, Councils and Commissions, and the staff. Some elements are in place or in the works and will have the added value of decreasing costs of doing business.

Conclusions

As you can see, the Board of Trustees has taken on some ambitious initiatives, in addition to our continuing responsibilities. We will take aggressive action to meet our goals and your expectations. The first step in doing so was to lengthen our Board meetings by one day.

On another topic, at the time of writing this message 15 states in addition to the 12-15 that passed some form of legislation last year have a non-covered services bill pending in their state legislatures. Good luck to those efforts.

As always, please contact me if you have any questions, concerns, or comments: vignae@ada.org, or (402) 770-7070.

*Dr. Vigna is the Trustee to the Tenth District of the American Dental Association, representing Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.