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Dr. Cole recounts a year of decisive ADA actions

September 07, 2019

By Judy Jakush

Photo of Dr. Cole giving a speech
Speech: ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole addresses the House of Delegates Friday. Photo by EZ Event Photography

ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole promised the 2018 House of Delegates that the Association would "continue to take bold action on issues that impact our member dentists and our patients alike. We will address disruptions head-on and seek the most innovative ways to address our members' biggest concerns."

In his address to the 2019 House on Friday, he recalled those words and recounted the ADA's achievements during his tenure. He talked about disruption, a topic he had addressed the day before during a panel discussion at the Moscone Convention Center. He noted that the Board of Trustees had "some difficult strategic discussions this year — disruption, consumerism, student debt and inclusion."

Highlights of the year he listed include:

  • The ADA and the American Student Dental Association boards examined ways to further collaborate as organizations.
  • With bipartisan support, the Action for Dental Health Act was signed into law in December 2018.
  • For the first time ever, there are ADA-backed bipartisan bills in both the House and the Senate to repeal the antitrust exemption of the McCarran-Ferguson Act.
  • The ADA filed a citizens' petition with the Food and Drug Administration describing how patients have been harmed because of the dispensing of orthodontic aligners outside of the "by prescription only" model.
  • The Association filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, raising concerns over aspects of SmileDirect Club's marketing and direct-to-consumer sales of plastic teeth aligners.

The work on these issues was new in some cases, and in others a continuation of ongoing efforts. After taking office, he said the Board looked at the challenges of a changing world and the ADA's place in it.

The group of ADA leaders considered "the advances of science and technology and most importantly the consumer experience around those advances, the CX as it has been termed by business experts," the president told the assembled delegates. "The consumer experience, and not just technological advancement, is the true deciding factor between success and failure in a disruptive environment and marketplace. We explored how we as the ADA could better serve our customers in a changing world — our customers being our members, our constituent societies, the public and our patients.

Another concept that helped the group plan for the future was lateral thinking, finding solutions through efforts that may be seemingly unrelated. "Lateral thinking is discovering solutions that deviate from convention," he said.

With that background of discussion, the Board adopted the next five-year strategic plan.

"This plan, Common Ground 2025 will ensure that the ADA remains relevant to members, remains relevant as the voice of the profession representing the vast majority of dentists, remains relevant as the trusted source of information, remains relevant through financial sustainability, and remains relevant as it benefits both our members AND the public," Dr. Cole said.

The Association's efforts on opioid issues was also the focus of action this year. Meetings with top government officials covered dentistry's role in finding solutions to the opioid crisis. Dr. Cole spoke at the National Institutes of Health to a group of more than 500 scientists, researchers and individuals in the recovery space. "They wanted me to explain why the American Dental Association was the first health care organization to stand up and advocate for solutions to the opioid crisis when other health care organizations would not," he said. "It was the courage and leadership of our Council on Governmental Affairs, our Board of Trustees, and this House of Delegates that made it happen. Following accolades about the ADA and our profession from the director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, I was honored to explain how in a most personal and professional way our organization stepped up and did the right thing. That was one of my proudest moments representing this profession. Thank you all for your courage!"

He closed his speech by focusing once again on a call for bold action on issues that affect members and patients. "As leaders, we are charged with ensuring a positive future — not for maintaining the status quo — but for building and shaping a most positive future.

"Together we can deliver that bright future I have talked about.

"Together, we can take bold action despite the risks.

"Thank you for the opportunity to serve you as your president and thank you for the chance to allow me to make a difference," he concluded.