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'Advocacy is one of the ADA's most important duties'

Washington Leadership Conference draws leaders from across the country

May 03, 2016

By Jennifer Garvin

Capital event: Dr. Barry Howell and ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays during the 2016 Washington Leadership Conference.
Washington — They came from every state, including the nation's capital, and shared a common goal: advocating for dentistry.

"Advocacy is one of the ADA's most important duties — so we really appreciate that you're here," ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays told grassroots dental leaders. "There's a reason why the Wall Street Journal named us 'one of the most influential trade lobbies in the country' and the National Journal referred to our advocacy teams as the 'latex-gloved cavalry' and the reason is you: dentistry's leaders."

More than 440 dentists, state dental association staff and other dental leaders came to the nation's capital May 2-4 for the Association's annual Washington Leadership Conference.

Student presence: Adam Patenaude, a third year dental student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, asks ADA congressional staff about lobbying student loan legislation.

"This year, we are lobbying bills that will help protect our profession and our patients — as well as our new dentists who must contend with excessive student loan debt," said Dr. Barry Howell, chair of the ADA Council on Government Affairs, which presented the conference along with the American Dental Political Action Committee.

The conference also enabled audience members to engage with the Association's Washington staff on issues related to federal and legislative policy. Hot topics included the Medicare Part D opt-out, opioids and student loans.

The student loan debt burden was a key issue attendees were asked to take to the Hill. For their meetings with congressional staff, dental leaders received primers on key student loan bills H.R. 649 Student Loan Refinancing Act and H.R. 4223 Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act.

Grassroots: Drs. Maurice Edwards and Suchie Chawla of the New York County Dental Society receive advocacy tips.

They also promoted H.R. 3323 Dental and Optometric Care Access Act of 2015, the DOC Access Act, which prevents federally regulated plans from dictating what a doctor can charge for noncovered services.

"You're not just a dentist. You're a small business owner, an employer, a health care provider. Go, walk into those offices. Be bold for dentistry," said Dr. Bruce Hutchison, ADPAC chair.

For newcomers to the Washington Leadership Conference, the breakout session, "How to Effectively Meet with Your Member and Their Staff," provided tips on how to get the most out of their office visits. The session, moderated by Mary Dietrich, ADA director of Congressional affairs, and Emily Porter, vice president, The Nickles Group, included messages such as "don't be intimidated" and "avoid lecturing." The group also demonstrated a typical visit to the Hill with Dr. Richard Huot of Vero Beach, Florida, playing the role of dental advocate.

For Adam Patenaude, a third-year student at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, this was his first time attending the ADA's national lobbying event.

"What's that's expression, if you're not at the table, you're on the table," he said. "There's only so many hours in the day you can see patients. This is a way the profession can touch so many more lives."

Keynote speaker: Tucker Carlson discusses the 2016 presidential election.

Another breakout session, The 2016 Election Cycle — Congressional Elections, featured Bill McInturff, partner and founder of Public Opinion Strategies, a national political and public affairs survey reach firm.

Tucker Carlson, a host of FOX and Friends Weekend and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, was the keynote speaker. Calling himself "very pro-dentist," Mr. Carlson said he "admired the cohesiveness" of the ADA as an organization. "I'm rooting for you," he said.