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2015 President-Elect’s Conference puts collaboration, networking at top of agenda

February 02, 2015

By Kimber Solana

Dr Carol Gomez Summerhayes

Listener: Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays, ADA president-elect, meets with attendees during a networking break at the 2015 President-Elect’s Conference.
Highlighting the need to share best practices, collaborate and to foster an emotional connection with members and nonmembers, ADA President-elect Carol Gomez Summerhays welcomed about 60 volunteer leaders from state dental associations and related groups to ADA Headquarters Jan. 11-13 for the 2015 President-Elect’s Conference.

“Our networking here as leaders is incredibly important to our success individually,” said Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays, ADA president-elect, in welcoming the attendees. “And more importantly, it’s absolutely crucial to our becoming an even stronger network of national, state and local societies to serve our members and the public.”

The annual conference acted as a leadership retreat for presidents-elect designed to facilitate in-depth discussions of critical issues facing the profession; networking and sharing ideas and tools; and insight from leading experts.

This year’s theme of “Advancing the Power of Three,” emphasized continued collaboration among local and state dental groups and the ADA in growing membership amid changes in the dental profession.

Adapting to changes

Opportunities for exchanging information were abundant while experts and leaders stressed the need to adapt to the fact that the face of dentistry is changing and that millennials have different sets of values, beliefs and expectations — such as advocating for social justice and more diversity in leadership, along with the use of more technology and social networking — than previous generations.

Five years ago, baby boomers dominated the workforce, according the keynote speaker Russell Walker, Ph.D., Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

“Just this year, we’ve seen the first indication that millennials have surpassed the baby boomers,” he said. “By 2020, they would be nearly three times (the number of baby boomers in the workforce). So the workforce, (organized dentistry) membership, in five to 10 years from now will look very different.”

One such millennial, Daryn Lu, American Student Dental Association vice president, shared his perspective about membership and leadership as a current dental student at Oklahoma University. He encouraged his fellow attendees to become a mentor to dental students and new dentists.

“These students are not looking for ways to rise to the top as fast as possible and take over everything,” he said. “But they want to learn. They want mentorship and want to grow.”

Dr. Timothy Oh
Discussions: Dr. Timothy Oh, president-elect of Maine Dental Association, comments during a town hall meeting session discussing key challenges of the profession and sharing ideas at this year’s President-Elect’s Conference.
Sharing best practices

In addition, leaders from dental societies and state associations shared best practices that have helped them reach out to nonmembers.

When an Illinois State Dental Society membership staffer found 100 non-ADA members claiming to be members on their practice’s website, she reach out to them. When those nonmembers were contacted and informed, 17 became members or renewed their memberships.

“If you play basketball or baseball, that’s probably not a great number,” said Dr. Michael Durbin, ADA Council on Membership chair. “But in the world of membership, 17 percent reinstatement of nonrenewing members is a great number.”

Dr. Durbin said the ADA looked at ISDS’s practice and thought it was a good idea but seemed labor intensive. In response, the ADA decided to look at the feasibility of Web tracker software — now in development — which would help locate similar websites.

“You still have to make the phone call to the nonmember, but it may be easier to identify them,” he said.

And thanks to the creation of the new Division of Member & Client Services, it’s now easier for the ADA to share other best practices from various components and constituents with the rest of local societies and state associations in the country.

“I would say that a couple of key takeaways were hearing from Dr. Mark Johnston, the president-elect from Michigan, and from Dr. Kenneth Wallis, the president-elect from California,” said Dr. William Ingram, Alabama Dental Association president-elect and ADA Council on Membership member. “Dr. Johnston talked about a unique, innovative program in Michigan to help with barriers to access and helping to lower emergency room visits through their ‘Pay it Forward’ program.  Dr. Wallis’ presentation on California’s legislative success with getting a ‘medical loss ratio’ passed for dental benefit plans was an eye-opener. These were exciting and innovative programs that I can see taking back to my home state of Alabama.”

Dr. Susan Doroshow, president of the Chicago Dental Society, said dental organizations have typically looked at membership as either a pyramid or a lighthouse.

“Traditionally, we’ve sort of set things up as a pyramid. We have advocacy at the bottom and we pile things on top. At then end, we have some picky little things such as discounts,” she said. “When you take something off at the top of the pyramid, it’ll look to your members as if you’re taking away their benefits even if it’s something they don’t use.”

A lighthouse is a better choice, Dr. Doroshow advised.

“I encourage you, if you’re going to have a volunteer force to go out and reach out to nonmembers, to give a specific value proposition,” she said. At CDS, she added, it’s continuing education, which every licensed dentist in Illinois is required to have, and resources to help them meet their CE needs.

“Unless you give your volunteers a critical message, they’re not going to be able to take that out to the nonmembers in their area,” Dr. Doroshow said.

Drs.Ryan Branden, Susan Doroshow, Michael Durbin
Leadership perspectives: Dr. Susan Doroshow (center), Chicago Dental Society president, answers a question during a panel discussion at the 2015 President-Elect’s Conference. Panelists included Dr. Ryan Braden (left), Wisconsin Dental Association president-elect, and Dr. Michael Durbin (right), ADA Council on Membership chair.
Fostering an emotional connection

The presidents-elect also attended leadership sessions to discuss topics such as increasing diversity and inclusion through the creation of statewide initiatives that could develop and teach leadership skills to a wider range of membership.

“The Power of Three is a call to action to leverage our resources and the strengths at local, state and national level with the ultimate goal of helping our members succeed,” Dr. Summerhays said, adding that, along with consistently providing excellent service and experiences, dental societies and associations need to focus on making an emotional connection to drive member loyalty.

In creating a strong connection with members and nonmembers, strides have been made, said Dr. Summerhays, such as the launch of Aptify, a membership database software that makes connecting members with local, state and national societies easier, and the growth of Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement aimed at ending America’s dental health crisis.

“We’re living in an age of unprecedented change and discovery,” she said. “So this is an exciting time for all of us as we begin to immerse ourselves in our new roles and to refine our vision and chart our course for the next two years.”

The ADA also continues to advocate for dental students and new dentists to find solutions to their challenges: high student debt, initial licensure and license portability, Dr. Summerhays said.

“The opportunity to network with your fellow presidents-elect at an event like this is invaluable,” said Dr. Craig Armstrong, Texas Dental Association president. “Coming from a large single state district like Texas, it is good to hear what is going on in some of the other multistate districts and learn what is and is not working in other parts of the country.  It is events like this that highlights the value of the ADA and the Power of Three.”