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Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin Earns 2021 Distinguished Service Award

October 11, 2021

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Chicago, October 11, 2021—The American Dental Association (ADA) has awarded ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin with the ADA Distinguished Service Award following a special recognition at the SmileCon opening session today in Las Vegas, ahead of her retirement after 12 outstanding years with the ADA and 40 years of service to the dental profession. The Board of Trustees usually only gives one Distinguished Service Award per year, however, this year, they chose both Dr. O’Loughlin and Rear Admiral Timothy L. Ricks, D.M.D. 

“It was my honor to surprise Dr. O’Loughlin with the 2021 Distinguished Service Award during SmileCon’s opening general session,” said ADA President Dr. Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D. “After 12 years of leadership at the ADA and 40 years of service to dentistry, Dr. O’Loughlin is well-deserving of this distinction. On the eve of her retirement, this recognition is a small token of our appreciation.”

Dr. O’Loughlin became the first female executive director of the ADA in 2009, following a career as a clinician, an educator, an industry executive, an advocate, and a trailblazer in the field of dentistry. She graduated valedictorian from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in 1981, in a class of dental students with 165 men and fewer than 20 women. After 20 years of owning a private practice, Dr. O’Loughlin received her master of public health degree in health care administration and management in 1998. She then served as the CEO of Delta Dental of Massachusetts from 2001-2008 and as chief dental officer for United Health Group from 2008-2009.

Since beginning with the ADA as the executive director in 2009, Dr. O’Loughlin has strengthened many aspects of the association, for members and employees alike. Strengthening the finances of the association, cultivating the relationship between the Board of Trustees and the House of Delegates, improving communication between state dental associations, and having the Chicago Tribune name the ADA as a top workplace based on employee surveys in 2019 have been a few of her many successes as executive director. 

“I am honored to receive a 2021 ADA Distinguished Service Award—it was a wonderful surprise, says Dr. O’Loughlin.  “I am grateful to have worked with an amazing team at the ADA, and together, we have shaped our Association into one that is committed to serving our members and moving our profession forward.  Indeed, dentistry is the best profession on the planet, and working at the ADA has been one of the best experiences of my career. I will miss it, and as I shared today, I am lucky to have experienced something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Dr. O’Loughlin has been working to ensure a smooth transition with Dr. Raymond A. Cohlmia, DDS, who will be taking over her role November 15, 2021. Her time at the ADA will be marked by transformation, creativity, strategic insight, collaboration and trust. She is looking forward to retiring with her husband in Saco, Maine, where many of her family members live. She is excited to find new ways to continue volunteering with organized dentistry while enjoying time with family and friends.

Editor’s Note: Reporters are invited to follow the ADA on Twitter @AmerDentalAssn and #SmileCon2021 for updates from SmileCon 

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 162,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website