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Board presentation focuses on what ADA members value in 21st century

A watershed discussion that will shape decisions regarding ADA membership for years to come took place Aug. 1 during the ADA Board of Trustees meeting.

Featuring the Council on Membership, members representing various segments of the profession and ADA staff, the Board heard presentations on the value dentists receive and the satisfaction they experience as members.

“ADA’s Membership Map” was a candid discussion that identified barriers to membership; provided insights regarding market research and recruitment and retention activities; and proposed next steps for the Association to take.

IMAGE: Dr. Vigna
Dr. Vigna
It’s part of a concerted effort to focus on membership needs to ensure the ADA continues to provide value to members and build membership market share that has lagged in recent years, said Dr. Edward Vigna, 10th District trustee and the Board’s liaison to the Council on Membership.

“2010 marked the year with the lowest market share of active licensed dentists for the ADA since we began tracking in 1993,” Dr. Vigna told the Board.

“Overall, the number of dentists joining the ADA is growing but the market of dentists is growing at a faster rate. This will continue if we don’t realize gains.

“We want this discussion to positively affect future recruitment and retention efforts and how the ADA thinks about delivering value to members,” he continued. “This is a departure from ‘more of the same effort producing more of the same results.’ ”

In support of its effort, the Board invited a diverse group of dentists—seeking out members as well as nonmembers—to provide feedback on what the ADA does well and what the ADA needs to change to be most effective. They included:

  • Dr. Gordon Christensen, a 50-year ADA member and founder and director of Practical Clinical Courses. He and his wife Rella Christensen, Ph.D., co-founded the Gordon J. Christensen Clinicians Report.
  • Dr. Cesar Sabates, a 25-year ADA member and president of the Florida Dental Association. He is the first Cuban-American FDA president.
  • Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a 10-year ADA member, an ADA consumer advisor and past chair of the ADA New Dentist Committee.
  • Dr. April Hearns, a graduate of the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership, member of the board of the American Association of Women Dentists and past member of the ADA.

IMAGE: Dr. Christensen
Dr. Christensen
The panel fielded questions from Board members, including has the ADA changed and evolved as the profession has? Where do you think the ADA is lagging? Where is the ADA leading? What do you hear from other dentists about the ADA?

“The speakers gave the Board a different perspective on who we are and how we can reach out to members who represent the changing landscape of the dental profession, which includes a broader range of ethnic groups and more female dentists,” said Dr. Vigna, adding that their perspectives will be used in the long- and short-term to plan future membership benefits and services.

“I want to thank those individuals for being willing to come and share their thoughts with us,” Dr. Vigna said.

“Their presentations showed where the ADA has opportunities to provide relevance to a broader group than we do right now,” he continued. “I think we’re doing a good job in terms of programming and services that we offer. Over this difficult economic period, our membership has remained flat. We lost a little market share, which is a concern, but it also tells us we have an opportunity to do some things differently.”

Dr. Virginia Hughson-Otte, the 2010-11 chair of the Council on Membership and a presenter at the meeting, said the opportunity exists to continue to provide membership value to those who have been with the Association the longest, while developing and delivering membership value that resonates with those newer to the profession.

“Those coming out of dental school and those just starting into practice have an entirely different set of needs than the dentist of 30 or 40 years ago,” said Dr. Hughson-Otte. “We have to adapt at every level of the tripartite to ensure each member benefits based on their unique set of needs. If we truly listen to our customers and adapt at a national, state and local level, market share will follow.”