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Golden Apple Awards mark 25 years of tripartite achievement

March 18, 2013

By Karen Fox, ADA News staff

For 25 years, the ADA Golden Apple Awards have recognized dental society achievement by shining a light on programs large and small that capture the spirit of volunteerism among the tripartite.

Golden Apple recognition draws attention to programs that add value to membership; lead to membership recruitment and retention; and honor volunteers and members for their leadership roles.

Entries are judged by teams of volunteers drawn from appropriate ADA councils and committees. To win an award, exemplary programs are compelled to demonstrate positive results.

The awards have evolved to reflect a changing profession as well. In more recent years, the program has expanded to include recognition for environmentally sustainable programs; promotion of diversity and inclusion; and excellence in access to care programs.

Starting May 1 and lasting through June 3, the ADA will accept 2013 nominations for the annual awards.

Award-winning societies say that garnering a Golden Apple is a boost to their missions and gratitude for the efforts of volunteers and staff.

“We were 'bowled over' when we found out we had won a Golden Apple Award,” said Dr. David Schirmer, a past president of the Steuben County Dental Society, a branch of New York's 7th District. SCDS and the 7th District won the 2012 Golden Apple for Excellence in Dental Health Promotion to the Public in the component category for Rock Your Smile With Rock and Bowl, a community health fair held in a bowling alley that raised oral health awareness during National Children's Dental Health Month. Dr. Schirmer served as assistant project manager to Dr. Melissa Brown on the event.

“We knew we had a novel idea but never expected such an honor,” said Dr. Schirmer. “I would suggest to anyone that if you have an inspiration, unleash your creativity, develop a project and go for the gold.”

Rock Your Smile is an example of an outstanding dental society initiative that increased the value of membership.

“We encouraged our members to come out and volunteer to spend time with residents of the community and talk about dentistry,” said Dr. Schirmer, now a member of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. “This particular event really sparked their interest. Everyone was drawn to it, even some who had been less active in society activities. I think the message about dental health promotion to the public strengthened our local society.”

Award-winning programs are often those that are easily replicated, too. In 2013, SCDS/7th District repeated Rock Your Smile With Rock and Bowl with a 50 percent increase in attendance and they are locked in for 2014. “This is a program that can take place in every community,” Dr. Schirmer said.

In 2012, the North Carolina Dental Society walked away with five Golden Apples: for Excellence in Membership Recruitment and Retention Activity; Excellence in Access to Dental Care Programs in the constituent category; the Open Category; the “Green” Apple for Environmentally Sustainable Programs and Education; and the New Dentist Leadership Award.

“I was thrilled beyond belief,” said Kimberly Roberson, NCDS membership coordinator.

“The biggest part of winning is what it does for the volunteers,” said Ms. Roberson. “Recognition is a huge thank-you to them.”

The “Green Apple” category was added in 2010. NCDS received the award in 2012 for its association-wide initiative that used online communication to highlight eco-friendly initiatives that dentists could replicate to help reduce carbon footprints and save money. Their award-winning Ambassador Program rejuvenated membership retention by lowering the rate of nonrenews by 200 in one year.

Ms. Roberson's father, Dr. Ted Roberson, an NCDS member and 33-year-faculty member at the University of North Carolina dental school, is the NCDS membership ambassador who was appointed to reach out to societies and districts to find out why dentists opted out of membership. Dr. Roberson has presented at more than 30 venues statewide, developed informational papers, and compiled data on membership that didn't exist prior to the program's inception.

“I am very proud of the NCDS winning five Golden Apples, especially one for a program I am involved with,” said Dr. Roberson. “I believe we have made some important progress toward increasing our membership.”

Also new in 2010 was the Golden Apple category for Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion. The Maryland State Dental Association won the constituent award in 2012 for Wine, Women and Song, a gala event held at the National Women's Museum in Washington, D.C., in January 2012, and sponsored by a grant from the ADA Membership Program for Growth.

“The inspiration came from Dr. Ann Christopher, who was chair of our membership committee at the time and an ADA delegate,” said Frank McLaughlin, MSDA executive director. “It was intended to capitalize on opportunity for growth for women dentists and bring a diverse group of women dentists to together for a networking event.”

Wine, Women and Song included wine tasting, hors d'oeuvres, a jazz band and guest speakers, and drew an audience from Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia, including dental students. In fact, 37 of the 120 women in attendance were nonmembers—providing MSDA with a unique opportunity to enhance the society's perception and elevate member value.

Winning the Golden Apple Award in this category, Mr. McLaughlin said, is due to the hard work of volunteers like Dr. Christopher.

“People are working to help the profession of dentistry; I think they want to give back and a lot of them have opportunities to do that but don't get recognized,” he said. “The ADA Golden Apple Awards are a tremendous opportunity to do that.”

Golden Apple Awards are an important part of the Michigan Dental Association. Literally.

“We built our new office three years ago and had the Golden Apple Awards in our building plan,” said Drew Eason, MDA CEO and executive director. “In our lobby, we have a beautiful display of awards under the lights. We built with long-term goals in mind.”

Between 2011-12, the MDA won six Golden Apple Awards in a variety of categories.

“I think it's part of our history and also an expectation that when you do good things, you get rewarded for it,” said Mr. Eason. “It motivates the staff to do great work, too. It's a sense of pride that we will win awards.”