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'This is the challenge of our times'

Dr. Feldman's House address centers on access

The ADA has played a "vital leadership role" on a host of issues confronting the profession this year, but none more challenging than access to care, ADA President Mark J. Feldman told the House of Delegates Friday.

"We say it often and we say it proudly—Americans have the best oral health care system in the world," he noted. "But that system cannot survive without an unwavering commitment on our part to make sure that everyone who needs oral health care can get it.

"This," said the president, "is the challenge of our times."

Addressing the House at San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Dr. Feldman touched on a wide range of ADA activities aimed at strengthening the profession.

And as a prime example of the Association's ability to tackle a challenge, he cited the controversy over lead in dental crowns that hit the news media in the spring.

The ADA quickly developed talking points for dentists to use in discussing the crowns with patients. ADA scientists teamed to assess the issue, and the Association lobbied two federal agencies—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration—to look into materials safety. Neither agency found a safety threat.

"These actions," said Dr. Feldman, "constituted an important defensive action by the ADA—helping quell a potential public outcry while defending the health of our patients."

Central to the president's address, however, was the Association's response to what Dr. Feldman termed "the access-to-care crisis—and make no mistake, it is a real crisis."

Dr. Feldman, an endodontist from Rosyln, N.Y., voiced support for a post-graduate year after dental school focused on "hands-on clinical experience," ideally acquired through community health settings.

He lauded the ADA's Give Kids A Smile program, which provides dentistry with a "moral platform" from which the profession "can credibly and effectively engage in the national debate on access."

He talked about the Association's public policy advocacy at both the federal and, increasingly, state levels. He touched on the ADA's branding initiative and its new tagline: "America's leading advocate for oral health," which he dubbed "a way of thinking about ourselves and describing the ADA to others."

Dr. Feldman also addressed the on-going discussion of the Community Dental Health Coordinator, in development since 2006 in response to a resolution adopted by that year's House.

Funds the 2007 House committed to the program for development of a comprehensive curriculum for the CDHC were "put to very good use," noted the president.

This year's House will be asked to consider a measure aimed at providing long-term financial support for the program, designed to assist dentists in improving access to care for the underserved.

House debate of the resolution "will be yours to have," said Dr. Feldman, "but please remember, the CDHC is exactly as it was when you passed it in 2006 and then funded further development in 2007."

He reminded the delegates that the CDHC "is just one small part of our access to care initiatives," which include the Oral Preventive Assistant and other efforts.

Dr. Feldman also made a point of expressing his gratitude to Dr. Bob Brandjord, the ADA past president who has chaired the committee charged with developing the CDHC.

With his presidency drawing to a close, Dr. Feldman ends 25 years of elected service to organized dentistry, including eight years with the ADA—six as treasurer, one each as president-elect and president.

He will be succeeded as president this week by Dr. John S. Findley of Cross Roads, Texas.

For Dr. Feldman, the future brings Hope—the name of his 1-year-old granddaughter, his first grandchild, born last fall just before he ascended to the presidency.

Through the year, Dr. Feldman and his wife, Carol, have crisscrossed the nation representing the ADA and its membership.

"For eight years," he told the delegates, "I have ended every speech to this House with the promise to do my job with integrity and commitment, never forgetting who it is that I am working for. I now sit down confident in the fact that I kept my promise."