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My View: Secure your future, leave a legacy

November 17, 2014

By Robert Ferris, D.D.S.

Robert Ferris, D.D.S.

It has been my distinct pleasure to be involved with the ADA, the ADA Foundation and organized dentistry for many years. My journey has given me a unique perspective about leadership and the ways in which we can improve the profession and thereby improve the oral health of the public.

When we have more in our rear view mirror than in our windshield, we often reflect on what’s most important to us. Whether you are old or young, moving toward retirement or just starting your career, it’s important to not only think about giving back, but to act on those thoughts.

The ADA Foundation is an important and effective resource to help you define your legacy. The ADAF works through a variety of programs that support the organization’s mission pillars: charitable assistance, access to care, research and education. Whether in the form of a scholarship, a grant to educate new parents about how to take care of their small child’s oral health or a research fellowship, ADA Foundation funding has supported innovative programs in almost every state in the U.S. and several overseas during the past few years.

For example, the ADA Foundation has launched the new Dr. David Whiston Leadership Program. This program will provide at least one award annually to young dentists who have shown the potential for leadership in the profession and who possess the desire to refine those skills with more formal leadership training. The ADAF will provide two or more awards of up to $5,000 to up-and-coming leaders.

The ADAF has already raised more than $100,000 and is working to raise another $100,000 to support more young leaders. Imagine the impact these leaders will have, steering the ship and all of its rowers toward effective use of resources, both human and financial, for the improvement of oral health.

This is an example of what your ADA Foundation does. The ADAF can help secure your future through your legacy. Many of us don’t know that we can virtually secure our retirement, while leaving our legacy, with charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts and other methods which your Foundation staff can explain and develop for you. These vehicles ensure guaranteed retirement income, including immediate family if desired, and the benefit to our favorite charity. I call this the trifecta: A win for your secure retirement, a win for your heirs and a win for the patients we serve in the profession which made it possible.

A famous quote often attributed to Winston Churchill said: “You make a living from what you get — you make a life from what you give.” Looking again at that rear view mirror, who would want to be remembered as an average dentist? We’d rather it be as a leader, someone who showed how good dentistry can be for the public and for the dental family. Our leaders paint a portrait of our profession and respond to the public’s questions about our profession and their oral health.

One of our great leaders, Dr. Art Dugoni (past president of the ADA Foundation), was known to say “It’s not what you can buy — it’s what you can build.”

To paraphrase the English poet Robert Browning, “… if your reach does not exceed your grasp, then what’s a heaven for?”

Please join me and many others in collectively extending our reach to the highest levels so that the ADA Foundation — OUR foundation — can achieve its noble goals on behalf of our beloved profession and the patients we serve.

Dr. Ferris has served as a leader in organized dentistry for more than 50 years, including as vice  president of the ADA, service to the ADA Foundation and leadership in the periodontal and dental examiner communities. In 2013, he received the ADA Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor conferred by the ADA Board of Trustees.