In the past month, I have spent many moments reflecting on my final MDA President’s Message. My ongoing experience with this and past years’ activities has provided me with a unique perspective on the need for our leadership to engage in more active listening and to solicit member participation at every level. This is most accurately stated by some introductory remarks I gave to MDA award recipients at the Star of the North Presidential Gala. These words are a sum of my feelings with respect to membership in the Minnesota Dental Association.
Leadership is action, not position. This means that good leaders do not dominate because they hold a certain position. Instead, they use their position to instigate action, to grasp opportunities, to facilitate process, and to lead their peers and association to greater success. Of course, you cannot recognize leaders just by looking at them. What distinguishes them is their belief in their own abilities and the fact that they are never afraid to ask questions. If necessary, they are always willing to adapt their position for the greater good. With these concepts in mind, we recognize that each one of us has his or her own leadership style. One may rally people along, while others may use administrative strategies that help develop systems within our association.
Whatever an individual’s particular style, our member leaders all have some characteristics in common. First among these is the belief that their peers and association can benefit from certain actions. Secondly, they are willing to take reasonable risks. Thirdly, they have an insight into certain dental practices that helps them make their decisions wisely. They understand that the best way to get support and initiate certain actions is to involve other members in the decision making process. This also means that they never take credit for someone else’s ideas and are humble when expressing their own. As leaders in organized dentistry, we all have to take on great responsibility. Our success or failure affects so many others. So leadership is a balancing act between the positive and probable, and good leaders make a difference for our membership and association.
My tenure as a leader within the MDA is best measured by what MDA member dentists have accomplished in the past year. I would like to highlight just a few of the member actions that have been achieved this past year by member leaders at all levels within the Minnesota Dental Association.
Early last fall, the MDA partnered with the Minnesota Twins for the 2011 “Give Kids a Smile” program. This was truly a team effort, as more than a dozen people contributed time, talent, and enthusiasm to make this partnership a reality, including Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire. The Twins and our member dentists concluded GKAS with outstanding participation statewide, and provided generous support for low income and underserved children of Minnesota. Another noteworthy action for our association involved an outgrowth of the MDA House of Delegates resolution which reframed “access to care” needed by the underserved as “barriers to dental care”. The MDA delegation proposed an immediate change to ADA policy in how we talk about this issue by mentioning barriers to care rather than access to care. Our delegation convinced the ADA House of Delegates to adopt the MDA Barriers to Dental Care language in all future communications regarding dental access issues.
Also in early fall, a reorganized MDA Legislative Advocacy Program was initiated by our Legislative Committee, MDA Government Relations Director, MINDENPAC, our lobbyist team, and MDA-friendly legislators. This program included a newly improved Grassroots network of member dentists from nearly all state House/Senate districts. Members were identified, educated, and motivated to pursue our MDA legislative agenda. To further augment our legislative efforts was a very well attended “Dental Day at the Capital” event which summoned support from a record number of MDA member dentists and U of M dental students. This empowered group canvassed the entire Minnesota capital to promote our agenda, which embraced one of the most broad-based efforts in several years. The most recognized success from this session was the Fair Contracting legislation, which provided further protection for member dentists from the insurance industry.
Other prominent actions within MDA legislative policy included the Special Care Dentistry and Statewide Barrier Reduction Acts.
Our organization went on record supporting our state’s most vulnerable populations with dental benefits and providing groundbreaking legislation which fully addressed the greatest barrier to care for Minnesota’s underserved populations, which is providing reasonable reimbursement rates for a more broad-based dentist provider group. It is important to recognize that MDA member leaders have created a paradigm shift, and have refocused the debate concerning barriers to care for the underserved away from the dental profession and placed it squarely on the shoulders of the Minnesota legislature.
Early in 2011, several legislative mandates were recognized by MDA member dentists with special interest in “Safe Patient Handling” and all aspects of “Electronic Dental Records”. These member dentists utilized their own personal initiative, knowledge, and special skills to develop specific MDA responses to these pressing issues. Their assertiveness and actions will provide further education and guidance for MDA members now and in the near future.
Another recognized ongoing achievement for member leaders is the “Star of the North” dental meeting, with its national reputation for providing excellent dental education coursework, dental supply and product information, professional development, and the opportunity to foster personal relationships. Finally, MDA member leaders’ dedication and actions provide us with outstanding communications through the Northwest Dentistry journal and various electronic media available through our website and social networking operations. Northwest Dentistry recently received another national journalism award, a Golden Pen Award from the International College of Dentists for an article penned on the Infant Oral Health Exam.
The previous activities represent only a few of the actions and outcomes achieved by our member leaders in the previous year. We quickly realize that the MDA is an organization of and for its members, just as its members have a role and a reciprocal responsibility for the success of the association. Our association is member driven, which means that the members must provide input to shape the direction of the association. Member leaders have the opportunity and responsibility to help the association achieve its strategic goals. Remember that only active, engaged members will ensure the we move forward effectively.
I would sincerely like to thank the other MDA officers, the Board of Trustees, District officers, and Committee chairs and members for their support and hard work this past year. Also, I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of Executive Director Dick Diercks and the entire MDA Staff. Their dedication to MDA members was evident daily, and facilitated my association duties and allowed me to continue my dental practice with few interruptions.
I would like to conclude my message with a sincere “thank you” to the entire membership of the Minnesota Dental Association. It has been an honor and privilege to serve as your president. I am honored by those who have made a difference and to those who succeeded in what they set out to do.