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ADA president discusses pandemic, diversity

Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., addresses House of Delegates

October 13, 2021

By Kelly Ganski

Dr. Klemmedson addresses the House of DelegatesLeadership: ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., addresses the House of Delegates Oct. 13. Photo by EZ Event Photography. 

Las Vegas — “We have to be together.” 

ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., welcomed his colleagues at the House of Delegates Oct. 13 back to an in-person setting after last year’s virtual meeting. 

“The essence and strength of an association is dependent upon personal relationships,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “Those relationships are what lead to better decisions.” 

COVID-19 and the pandemic were one of the main focuses of Dr. Klemmedson’s address to the 2021 House. Among the other unexpected additions to the Association’s agenda were: 

•Dentistry as essential health care.
•Political divisions that spawned questions about the ADA’s involvement in the political process. 
•A focus on health equity spurred by social inequities exposed during the pandemic.
•The potential for a dental benefit in Medicare turning serious.
•Transitioning to a new executive director. 

“Two years ago, the House’s passage of a resolution on the culture of safety in dentistry helped shape our infection control recommendations during COVID. And in a future health crises or disaster, patients will likely have access to the full scope of dental care because last year’s House resolved that dentistry is essential health care,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “We proclaimed it, now we must own it. We must treat the diseases that define the essential nature of dentistry. If we do so successfully, we will also be able to treat the desires that drive many of our patients. Our place in health care is solidified. We have an obligation to address the health care needs of all patients — those who have and those who have-not.”

Dr. Klemmedson defended a Message from the President he sent in March in response to violence directed at the Asian community in Atlanta. 

“I was asked by those appalled by my comments how this could possibly relate to dentistry,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “Personally, I think that violence generates a need for health care. As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I am called to treat facial injuries caused by gun violence, just as dental injuries would be treated by you and my dentist colleagues. I hold prevention out as a hallmark of the management of oral disease. I consider the prevention of violence to be similar.” 
Dr. Klemmedson said he would like to see the ADA move forward in embracing diversity, equity and inclusion in support of its members. 

“I’ve had some tough conversations on this subject this year —  some healthy dialogue, some critical feedback, and unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end of a few choice words. But its our stated mission that the ADA exists to help dentists succeed,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “I steadfastly believe that all dentists — no matter their age, race, gender, or practice style — should have an equitable opportunity to thrive, both within our Association and in their communities. In my opinion, living our core values of diversity and inclusion — showing and not just telling — is simply the right thing to do. If we don’t, we not only risk our integrity, but the Association’s long-term relevance and sustainability.”

Attracting and retaining members should be a high priority for the ADA, he said. 

“The next generation of dentists is currently in dental school and is more diverse than its predecessors. And although women, racially and ethnically diverse dentists, and those who practice in large-group settings represent the fastest growing populations of the dental workforce, ADA membership and leadership does not currently reflect the changing face of the profession. I think it is time for us to catch up,” Dr. Klemmedson said. “Promoting a culture of belonging where everyone is represented — to the exclusion of no one — is what’s right, what’s fair, and what will sustain the ADA’s influence as the nation’s leading advocate for oral health.”

Looking back at the ADA’s accomplishments during his tenure, and acknowledging the extraordinary circumstances, Dr. Klemmedson believes that the Association is better and stronger than ever. 

“We are better and stronger than ever before, and we’ve unveiled a keen ability to organize and orchestrate our way out of a crucial situation,” said Dr. Klemmedson. “What makes me think that we can and we will be the ones to make a real impact? Because in so many ways, we’ve already have. Let’s continue to work together in common purpose. Let’s get comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. And let’s work toward our highest ideals and ultimate vision. Because I know, it’s possible.”