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A ‘unique’ perspective

Dr. Tankersley addresses ADA House

Session opens: Onstage at the Opening General Session yesterday, ADA President Ronald L. Tankersley stands with Dr. Terry Dickinson (center), 2010 ADA Humanitarian Award recipient, and Dr. Ted Roberson, president of the International College of Dentists, USA Section. The ICD made a matching gift of $5,000 to the Missions of Mercy.
Dentistry is unique among health professions and the ADA is unique among professional associations, Dr. Ronald L. Tankersley, ADA president, told the House of Delegates Saturday at the first session of the 2010 House.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants—men and women who secured our transition from a trade to a highly respected profession,” he said. “Everyone practicing today, and everyone receiving oral health care, benefited from the actions of those leaders.”

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon from Newport News, Va., Dr. Tankersley talked about dentistry’s legacy, about the profession and the ADA today, and about what he sees in the future for both.

On the topic of legacy, he noted that early dental leaders were confronted with solid scientific evidence that fluoridated drinking water could reduce caries by as much as 50 percent—potentially shifting the focus of dental practice from disease management to disease prevention.

That dentistry embraced such a sweeping change “speaks volumes about our profession,” he said. “Imagine trial attorneys advocating to cut litigation in half.”

The dental profession today is unique in that it remains market-driven and consists mainly of solo practitioners or small group practices peopled largely by general dentists who work collaboratively with specialists.

As a result of this long-standing configuration, said Dr. Tankersley, dentistry enjoys “a cohesiveness that is the envy of other major health professions.”

The ADA today is unique, he said, because it is the “umbrella” organization of the entire profession, develops and maintains standards for the profession, and is “exceptionally well-positioned,” thanks to its dedicated membership, professional staff and infrastructure, and its recognized brand.

The ADA, he added, is “a prize worth protecting and defending.”

The president also chronicled ADA accomplishments of the past year that included successful advocacy on issues such as the Red Flags Rule, the 1099 tax form requirement, fee caps for noncovered services, the McCarran Ferguson Act and financial reform legislation. The Association also stepped up its collaborative efforts with other groups to improve access to care for the underserved.

The president reminded the delegates that the House is the “supreme authoritative body” of the Association.

“Like those dental leaders in the 1950s who determined our legacy, you will determine the legacy for future generations,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in this House, but it’s also an incredible responsibility.”

He then offered five “heartfelt beliefs” on how, in his view, the delegates could advance the ADA’s reputation, credibility and relevance:
  • insist that ADA policies are based on sound science and impeccable ethics;
  • insist that all information from the ADA is appropriate, vetted for accuracy and in proper context;
  • insist that elected representatives are properly vetted before being duly elected;
  • insist that debate is limited to relevant issues, not “perceived personal failings.”
  • insist that the Association do a better job of telling its own story because the ADA and the dental profession have “an incredible story to tell.”
In closing, Dr. Tankersley noted that the ADA has been addressing internal issues with “an aggressive corrective plan” and that the Association is engaged in “meaningful dialogue” with others concerned about oral health.

He described his successor, Dr. Raymond Gist, as a man who “understands parochial challenges but is global in perspective” and has strong “consensus-building skills.” And he hailed the “legendary power and wisdom of a knowledgeable and committed House of Delegates” as one of the ADA’s “greatest assets.”

He added, “I’m confident that you will steer us on the right course and that our future is bright.”