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‘It’s not loyalty but principle that drives our policies’

Dr. Faiella charts course with data-driven policies for presidential year

San Francisco—There are great challenges facing the profession of dentistry, and the ADA’s future success will hinge on its ability to see beyond the horizon and find solutions.

Image: New president: Dr. Faiella addresses the House of Delegates Oct. 23 in San Francisco following his installation: “Our attention to emerging issues of tomorrow begins with our strategic vision today.”
New president: Dr. Faiella addresses the House of Delegates Oct. 23 in San Francisco following his installation: “Our attention to emerging issues of tomorrow begins with our strategic vision today.” Photo by EZ Event Photography

“The challenges we face as an Association will require us to think and interact in ways that push us beyond our past efforts; and although we have already taken steps in that direction, few would agree that our work is complete,” Dr. Robert A. Faiella said to the ADA House of Delegates Oct. 23 after the Osterville, Mass., periodontist was installed as the 149th president of the American Dental Association.

“We are all engaged in an extraordinary and dynamic profession that will continue to demand our attention,” he added. “As leaders, none of us have all the answers, but we will find them as we work together over the next year.”

In his address to the House, Dr. Faiella—who completed postgraduate training at Harvard Medical School—reflected on the ornate gates of Harvard Yard through which new and graduating students pass, and the inspiring inscriptions they convey.

“In many ways, the gates made me think of how we spend our time in our profession,” Dr. Faiella said. “Both how we enter it and how we transition from it, after what is hopefully a long and satisfying career.”

He called on delegates—and all members—to remember the passage through the professional gate into dentistry.

“More than likely we made a silent commitment to the profession in return for the opportunity to become part of it,” he said. “Yet as the years go by, I can tell you it’s easy to forget those challenges to ourselves and let our greatest opportunities slip by.”

Image:  Facing the House: Delegates listen as Dr. Faiella outlines his vision for the coming year, relaying the Board’s Call to Action for Oral Health.
Facing the House: Delegates listen as Dr. Faiella outlines his vision for the coming year, relaying the Board’s Call to Action for Oral Health.
Naming a few of the more challenging issues facing the Association—the influence of large group practice models; remaining relevant to a new generation of dentists; expansion of workforce; the decrease in utilization of dental services; the influence of third-party payers; remaining financially sustainable as an organization; and new models of dental education—Dr. Faiella urged the delegates to “look over the horizon” for sustainable solutions.

“We need to consider them, and as they cross our paths, we need to take each one with the responsibility that we accept as members of this organization—responsibility for our goals and priorities, of our relationships and of our communications.” 

When it comes to one in particular, the proposed expansion of the dental workforce as an access solution, Dr. Faiella asked, “Can we really be led to believe that our future for providing care to underserved populations lies in expanding the workforce to provide a limited scope of restorative and surgical services through a delicately balanced public and private reimbursement model?

“Or would it be wise to propose a ‘suite’ of policy-based, affordable, actionable solutions—with measurable outcomes—that leapfrog the narrow, workforce-based proposals by the foundations and outside stakeholders?”

Key to that, he said, is the Board-approved Call to Action for Oral Health, a set of actionable policies that are data-driven in response to challenges from the media and other stakeholders who see the ADA’s workforce policy as an access barrier.

Image: In session: Delegate Dr. Zack Kalarickal of Wesley Chapel, Fla., addresses the 2012 House Oct. 22 in San Francisco.
In session: Delegate Dr. Zack Kalarickal of Wesley Chapel, Fla., addresses the 2012 House Oct. 22 in San Francisco.

“We need to own this message,” he said emphatically, “and move it forward in an aggressive campaign to reframe our answer to the question, ‘What will you do?,’ and to define for stakeholders that it’s not loyalty but principle that drives our policies for the future of the profession.” 

The Call to Action is not the only major initiative taking place during Dr. Faiella’s presidential year. The current ADA Strategic Plan ends in 2014, and in his speech he laid the groundwork for the next phase. 

“Our attention to emerging issues of tomorrow begins with our strategic vision today,” said Dr. Faiella. To that end, at the first Board meeting following the House he is appointing a Steering Committee to begin planning the ADA Strategic Plan for 2015-19.

Closing by thanking a list of family, friends and colleagues for their support, Dr. Faiella recognized Dr. Bob Saporito in the audience, for playing “a critical role in my decision to change my interest from medicine to dentistry.” Dr. Saporito’s father Louis was ADA president (1973-74), “installed 40 years ago, in this very city,” Dr. Faiella told the delegates. 

Before exiting the stage, he reminded the delegates of what he said to them as a candidate for president-elect. “I told you about the advice my father gave me when I graduated, to make my career more than about myself, and my promise to him that I would.

“When the time comes for me to walk through that gate again at the end of my career,” said the new ADA president, “the honor you have given me to serve you as your president will assure that my promise to my father was, in every sense, fulfilled.”