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Service to members, public top Dr. Calnon’s agenda

Las Vegas—To fulfill its mission, the ADA must focus on serving two critical constituents: its member dentists and the public at large.

IMAGE: Dr. Calnon
Dr. Calnon: “Become a mentor. Make a difference by your actions,” the new ADA president told the House of Delegates Oct. 14 in Las Vegas. Photos by EZ Event Photography

“Membership is all about value, and that message must be delivered at all levels of the tripartite” and through “peer-to-peer personal contact,” Dr. William R. Calnon told the ADA House of Delegates Oct. 14, shortly after the Rochester, N.Y., general dental was installed as the Association’s 148th president.

“We should not try to convince someone to be a member,” he added. “Rather, we should present a value proposition that makes the decision to join the logical outcome.”

In his early career, the new president was “the poster child for mentoring,” learning lessons that he would later share with other dentists, including family members.

His older brother, Tom, is a dentist. Both men are graduates of the School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. The older of Dr. Calnon’s two sons, Christopher, is a 2008 Buffalo graduate who now practices with his dad. Christopher’s wife, Jennifer, is a dentist practicing in Rochester, and Dr. Calnon’s younger son, Timothy, is a dental student at Buffalo.

The new president urged the delegates to share their time and experience with newer colleagues and dental students as a way to personalize the profession. “Become a mentor,” he said. “Make a difference by your actions.”

For its part, he noted, the Association is pursuing programs and services that resonate with all segments of a diverse profession and help dentists excel throughout their careers.

“That takes in the bookends of the dental profession—students and those retiring from active participation, and everyone in between, a truly monumental task,” said Dr. Calnon.
The other half of dentistry’s mission is to educate, treat and protect the patients it serves, with the need to protect patients taking on greater urgency in light of persistent concerns about access.

“In the past,” said Dr. Calnon, “the dentist was considered the expert in this arena. Now several other groups have laid claim on this turf. Everyone has an answer, and some promote theirs as the answer.”

It is time, he said, for the dental profession to reassert its primacy in the provision of oral health care and for the ADA to affirm its standing as “America’s leading advocate for oral health.”

Some others, he noted, have proclaimed “what they think is their rightful place” within the nation’s health care system.

“Not on my watch!” Dr. Calnon said emphatically, stirring applause from the delegates.

“The ADA has embarked on a more comprehensive approach to alleviating oral health disparities in the United States,” he said. “As we all know, there is no single answer.”

But what constitutes no answer at all, he insisted, is simply increasing capacity within the current system by giving handpieces to “undertrained, unsupervised individuals.”

Dr. Calnon noted that the ADA has issued two position papers on access—one on breaking down barriers to care, the other on repairing the health care safety net—with other papers to come on prevention, health care funding and oral health literacy. These statements are being used to present the ADA’s point of view to lawmakers and opinion leaders.

Dr. Calnon called on the House members—and all member dentists—to interact with decision-makers, to “set up a meeting, pick up the phone, attend a fundraiser, educate them, answer their questions, influence them to make the right choices.”

He quoted a Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

The access issue, he said, “will continue to be hotly debated in the public forum, and the ADA must take the lead and, at the top of our lungs, be singing our song.”

IMAGE: Delegates listen to Dr. Calnon’s inaugural speech

Installation: Delegates listen to Dr. Calnon’s inaugural speech, in which he emphasized that it is time for the dental profession to reassert  its primacy in the provision of oral health care.