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Delegates have 'important role in shaping' future

Dr. Gary L. Roberts installed as ADA president

October 31, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin


New leader: Dr. Gary Roberts addresses the House of Delegates as the new ADA President. Photo by EZ Event Photography.
Denver — During his Oct. 24 installation as the 153rd president of the American Dental Association, Dr. Gary L. Roberts thanked the House of Delegates for "stepping up to guide the future of the profession" and urged his fellow dentists to be "willing to try new things."

Calling the state of dentistry "strong," the new president shared some of the goals he hopes to accomplish, including expanding on the Association's innovation initiatives, governance reform and licensure portability.

He pointed to the new ADA Credentialing Service as a key example that the organization is committed to keeping pace with technology. In 2015, the House of Delegates authorized a $1 million innovation fund to test new ways to support members.

"Technology is always advancing," Dr. Roberts said, "and our patients' expectations are always changing. So we have to be looking forward for new ideas."

Regarding governance reform, he spoke of the need for a "more nimble process."

"I want an association that makes decisions based on the best evidence and research," he said.

Finally, he spoke of the need for licensure portability.

"The majority of dental students at over half of the country's dental schools in our country don't practice in the same state where they're educated," Dr. Roberts said. "More dentists are moving for a spouse's job. And this disproportionately affects our military families."

"We're investing heavily in working with the state societies and dental boards, to encourage them to collaborate and work toward licensure portability."

In addition to these three priorities, Dr. Roberts also talked about some of the challenges facing dentistry: a declining utilization of dental services among adults, rising costs and flat earnings, and shrinking market share among new dentists.

"These are not small challenges," he said. "They're trends that will define our profession for decades to come, and you have an important role in shaping these outcomes."

He concluded by reminding everyone that organized dentistry is a family as he recalled the story of how fellow Louisiana dentist, Dr. Kaylan Worley, got him involved 40 years ago.  

"He came over one afternoon and said, 'I'm going to pick you up and take you to a dental meeting this evening.' "

Dr. Roberts had very good reasons for not taking Dr. Worley up on his offer: his wife was sick and their young son needed minding. But his mentor persisted.

"He said, 'I totally understand, I'll pick you up at 5:30.' And that's how I got involved in organized dentistry.

"In those years, the ADA gave me exactly what I needed. I got to meet other dentists who understood what I was going through, and who could give me advice and support for my practice, and help me keep learning. Forty years later, our Association is still providing that personal support to our member dentists. For my part, I'm going to continue to reach out to new dentists to understand their needs, just like Dr. Worley did for me."