Deborah Preece prepares for installation
Alliance leader channels her passions into service to dentistry
Anchorage, Alaska—From her time as a dental student spouse, dental-assistant-in-training and mother-to-be in Seattle 33 years ago to staying active in the Alliance after a move to rural Wrangell, Alaska, two years ago, Deborah Preece has always made dentistry a part of her family.
She will be installed as Alliance of the American Dental Association president Oct. 10 during AADA’s national convention at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Fla.
Busy relocating a new home in Anchorage as she prepares for her office, Mrs. Preece's life right now includes not only strategic planning and leadership for the national Alliance and running her own business, but also house-hunting, packing and getting ready for a new life in Anchorage with her husband, Dr. Terry J. Preece.
"I loaded most of our possessions into a shipping container that will travel by barge—first to Seattle and then to Wittier, Alaska," said Mrs. Preece. "Then it will go by train to Anchorage. It takes about three and a half weeks. Meanwhile, I had to choose clothes for the move, clothes for the convention on the warmer climate side in Orlando. Then it will be approaching winter in Anchorage, so we need some warmer clothes as well."
Just as living in Alaskan twilight winters and moving via barge and train aren't commonplace for most folks; Mrs. Preece's dedication to dentistry has shown a decidedly personal touch.
The Preeces relocated to Utah after Dr. Preece finished dental school. With a bachelor of science degree in computer programming, Mrs. Preece not only used her professional skills in her husband's dental practice, she also served as a consultant for a dental software company, teaching dental and medical office staffs how to set up and use their systems.
"I also loved mentoring student and new dentist spouses in the Alliance,' she said.
One of her favorite Alliance projects while in Utah, she remembered, was coordinating a dental health education project at the Children's Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City.
"Many dental suppliers and organizations were a part of this project, including the Utah State Department of Health," she said. "A local dentist donated a dental chair, suppliers donated toothbrushes and toothpaste for participating children and dentists from the Weber District Dental Society donated their time on Saturdays for the entire month of February to provide oral exams for children visiting the museum.
"At one time, I had over 500 toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes stored in my camper," she added. "We even had the Colgate 'Big Mouth' slide on-site so the children could slide down the tongue over the teeth. The cost for this project was only $50 because of the generous support we received."
She served as project coordinator for three years. It won awards from the ADA and the Alliance.
Mrs. Preece has held nearly every local and state Alliance office, including dental health education chair, historian, president and legislative chair. At the national level she has served as editor, trustee, secretary, vice-president, president-elect and worked on the membership, dental health education, reference, legislative, public relations and well-being committees. With the Utah Alliance in 1994, she coordinated a legislative day event with the Utah Dental Association that included presentations on health care and dentistry from Sen. Orrin Hatch and Lt. Gov. Olene Walker. An afternoon continuing education course on dental insurance billing was also offered. She also used her training as a dental assistant in 2002 helping provide dental services at the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Two years ago, she and her husband embraced an opportunity that enabled him to practice in a community health center in rural Alaska.
"Terry and I love to travel to meet new people and learn new customs and traditions. When the opportunity to work for a nonprofit community health center became available in rural Alaska, we decided to take on the challenge," she said. "It was an extremely busy two years."
She and her husband have three children, Jenekah, Brandon and Taryn. Her family will be in Orlando for her installation.
Her goal as president is to encourage dental spouses to consider the Alliance when they are making decisions about how and where to volunteer.
"Many people volunteer in some capacity, whether it is PTA, scouting, book clubs, libraries and so on," said Mrs. Preece. "I recommend that every dental spouse find some time at least every few years to devote to the Alliance. When everyone takes a turn serving in leadership or committee roles, it adds new perspective and enthusiasm in our local communities, our states and on the national level."
Mrs. Preece encourages ADA member dentists to support the work of the Alliance by paying their spouse's dues and encouraging them to actively participate.
"They will see amazing work accomplished in their communities in dental health education, advocacy and wel-being," she said. "National AADA dues are only $50. We want many more members in all the states to join us, to have fun, gain friends across the country and help with many projects in our communities. Terry and I have met so many incredible people because of my membership in AADA. We have dental friends all over the United States."
For more details on AADA activities, visit www.allianceada.org.