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Dr. Kathryn Kell to assume FDI presidency

August 02, 2017

By David Burger

Dr. Kell photo collage
Globe-trotter: Dr. Kathryn Kell, Iowa dentist and former ADA trustee, will assume the presidency of FDI when it convenes in Madrid at the end of August. Clockwise from top left: Dr. Kell speaks at a special meeting convened by the La Asociación Dental Mexicana — the Mexican Dental Association — in Mexico City in 2016; Dr. Kell presents a University of Iowa baseball cap to Professor Chuanbin Guo, Dean, School and Hospital of Stomatology, Peking University, Beijing, China, during Dr. Kell’s trip to Beijing on behalf of the FDI; Dr. Kell works on a patient in her Davenport, Iowa, dental practice. Center: Dr. Kell attends a celebratory horse-meat lunch in a yurt for the joint signing of a memorandum of understanding joining the two large dental associations in Kazakhstan as members of FDI.

Davenport, Iowa
— According to Dr. Kathyrn Kell, residents of her home state have marvelous qualities.

“Iowa is a state where everyone can pitch in, work hard and get things done,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are — more important is just getting the job done well and learning to work together.”

Working together is just one of the skills Dr. Kell has cultivated and will employ as the president of the FDI World Dental Federation. She will become the president during the FDI World Dental Congress in Madrid the week of Aug. 29.

FDI, the largest membership-based dental organization in the world, serves as the principal representative body for more than one million dentists worldwide, developing health policy and continuing education programs, speaking as a unified voice for dentistry in international advocacy and supporting member associations in global oral health promotion activities. FDI membership comprises approximately 200 national member dental associations and specialist groups in some 130 countries.

The presidency is the culmination of more than two decades of purposeful advocacy for, and in, the FDI.

Still, Dr. Kell is an Iowan through and through, graduating from Davenport West High School and then the University of Iowa for both her bachelor’s and dental degrees, with her interest in dentistry spurred by having an uncle and cousin as dentists. She also earned a master’s in health care administration from Davenport’s Saint Ambrose University and has taught at the University of Iowa as a part-time staff member. She has maintained a general dentistry private practice in Davenport — treating patients when she isn’t traveling the globe.

“I will attend many meetings and visit many of our members on all continents but will continue to work part-time when I’m home,” Dr. Kell said. “I have a great staff. Dr. Rachael Martin is also working with me in the office and it’s been a great experience working with her and knowing that the patients are being treated well when I’m gone.”

FDI, ADA experience

Dr. Kell first began to have an interest in the FDI more than two decades ago.

“I attended a lunch for FDI at the ADA and became interested in going to one of their meetings,” she said. “My first meeting was in Hong Kong and because of attendance and my interests in international affairs, I was appointed by my then-trustee, Dr. Michael Till, to the Council on ADA Sessions and International Programs. The ADA president appointed me as an alternate delegate from the ADA to attend the next FDI meeting. After that, I was nominated successfully to be a member of the FDI education committee. This was in 1998.”

Since then, she spent nine years on the education committee, six years on the science committee, three years as FDI councilor from North America, and then four years as FDI treasurer. She has spent the last two years as president-elect, with presidents serving two years as president.

Organized dentistry has not confined Dr. Kell to just the FDI.

When she first joined the ADA, she was involved in the American Association of Women Dentists. “Then the ADA had asked that AAWD require ADA membership to join,” Dr. Kell said. “This was successful at that time and I met a lot of people involved in ADA leadership. Also, several of my mentors were involved in ADA leadership and I was impressed with the dedication of these people to our profession. My involvement continued when I was appointed by my 10th district trustee, Dr. Dick Schoessler, to the Special Committee on the Young Dentist started by ADA President Abe Kobren. It is now called the New Dentist Committee. It was a very diverse group of young dentists involved in areas such as legislation, dental practice, specialty groups, education, research, et cetera. We all had a common bond of wanting to make the dental profession the best it could be.”
Dr. Kell was 10th District trustee from 2004-08, and used her international knowledge to good use as chairwoman of the ADA Committee on International Programs and Development. As a member of the ADA governing board, she was a liaison to many ADA councils and committees, including finance, dental benefits, dental practice, dental accreditation, economics and informatics, and also to the ADA Foundation, among other roles. “There were many opportunities to collaborate with some of the brightest professionals in oral health,” she said.
Quote infographic praising Dr. Kell
Looking ahead

Dr. Kell has plans to make her two years as FDI president count, with the omnipresent goal of improving oral health throughout the world. “FDI has just developed the structure for a new strategic plan to guide us through the next three years,” she said. “My goal would be to follow the plan that will be based on the three pillars of membership, advocacy and knowledge transfer.

“Our members, including the ADA, are our most important asset. We need to include more of our members in our projects such as World Oral Health Day, Vision 2020 and the new oral health definition, and many other projects. We need to do this by advocating for important issues and making statements on best practices for oral health, promoting high standards, providing good programming and professional development and providing for our members needs by having available appropriate resources to develop projects to increase the standard of oral health wherever possible.

“The next Congress is in August in Madrid, then Buenos Aires in 2018 and my last year of president will be in 2019 in San Francisco. This is another way to be involved. Come to the meeting in San Francisco and experience a global event. It’s a great way to help the ADA have a very successful meeting and experience a type of meeting you won’t see anywhere else. The ADA will need many volunteers and it could be a good way to serve your organization.”

Dr. Gary L. Roberts, ADA president, praised Dr. Kell’s leadership. “Dr. Kathryn Kell is a dynamic leader who has made countless contributions to the ADA and I am positive her impact will continue when she assumes the presidency of FDI,” he said. “The ADA and FDI are longtime partners in improving the oral health of people in the United States and around the world. I expect this relationship to continue growing under Dr. Kell’s leadership, and I foresee a fruitful future for FDI in the upcoming two years.”

Dr. Jack Cottrell, FDI treasurer and Canadian dentist, said, “She is a true visionary.”
Dr. Gerhard Seeberger, FDI speaker and Italian dentist, said, “When leadership capacity meets integrity and an open-minded attitude towards seeking the best, whatever situation and with whom this ever will be, then FDI has only one chance: to grow. Our next president, Dr. Kathy Kell, is ready for that.”