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Framing the message

Malcolm Gladwell headlines opening general session

Speaker: Malcolm Gladwell speaks at the Opening General Session.
Dr. Gist: “We have to demonstrate the value of ADA to every member.”
Mr. Bergman: Seeing the first cohorts of students to graduate from this program is “inspiring and gratifying.”
High five: Dr. Robert Law of Monona, Wis., greets Beetle Bailey Saturday at the entrance to the Opening General Session.
If dentistry’s goal is to persuade the public to support improved access to dental care, the profession should frame its message in terms of the public good.

That deceptively simple observation formed the central theme of best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell’s message to a full house of ADA members gathered Saturday morning at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center. Mr. Gladwell headlined the opening General Session and Distinguished Speaker Series, with ADA President Ron Tankersley serving as master of ceremonies.

“When we talk about this question of what it will take to convince lawmakers and policy makers to adequately fund access to basic dental care, we’re talking about a public good,” said Mr. Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point and three other books, and a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996.

Basic oral care, he said, “is not something that can be bought privately by the people who need it most. It must be bought by all of us as a society.”

Other highlights of the morning program included a brief talk by President-elect Raymond Gist, an address by Stanley M. Bergman of Henry Schein Inc. on the Community Dental Health Coordinator program and presentation of the 2010 ADA Humanitarian Award to Dr. Terry Dickinson.

Dr. Gist, who will take office as president in a few days, encouraged members to tell the leadership “what’s on your mind.”

Most importantly, he said, “we have to demonstrate the value of ADA to every member.”

As he introduced Mr. Bergman, Dr. Tankersley noted that the first students of the CDHC program had recently graduated. Henry Schein is providing about $860,000 in dental equipment for the program.

“Seeing the first cohorts of students to graduate from this program is inspiring and gratifying,” said Mr. Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein. “This is a new generation of dental professionals ready to carry forward the Association’s legacy of commitment to expand access to oral health care for years to come.”

Later he observed, “In today’s changing U.S. health care environment, community health centers are going to play a critical role in providing education and preventative care, and expanding access to dental and medical care for more patients.

The CDHC, he said, represents an “important new chapter in the Henry Schein long-term collaboration with the American Dental Association.”

Accepting the Humanitarian Award, Dr. Dickinson challenged others to make a contribution in life.

“We all have to answer the question: if we were to leave here today, am I satisfied with my legacy?” asked the executive director of the Virginia Dental Association and founder/director of the Missions of Mercy Project.

“The good news is,” he went on, “it is not too late to be the person you want to be, and, yes, we are all called to serve. We illuminate the darkness. We bring hope where there is despair.”

And later he added, “That’s what makes life worthwhile—we give this great gift we have, yet what we receive in return is incalculable.”