ADA president looks back at challenging, extraordinary year

Screenshot picture of Dr Chad Gehani
Honored: Dr. Chad P. Gehani addresses the 2020 House of Delegates during the ADA FDC Virtual Connect Conference on Oct. 15.
Before being installed ADA president, Dr. Chad P. Gehani had many hopes and goals for his year of service.

Visions included taking the Association to bold places, setting new precedents and leaving the profession stronger than ever before.

And that’s just what he did. Albeit during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Little did he or anyone else know that the extraordinary accomplishments he dreamed of would end up taking place during the “greatest health care challenges of our time.”

“Whether it is running your office, supporting your family or dealing with health issues, the key to your character and your value to the world, above all else, is not how you respond to good fortune and happiness, but how you respond to adversity,” said Dr. Gehani, during his address to the 2020 House on Thursday.

And for the way it has responded to COVID-19, the ADA has much to be proud of. Highlights include:

• Creating and releasing a Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit and a variety of other COVID-19 resources resulting in more than 548,000 downloads.
• Securing 4.5 million 3M-made KN95 masks and 1.8 million gowns from the national stockpile.
• Advocating for economic relief for practices.
• And so much more.

“I stand here before you with enormous pride in our profession for what it has done and continues to do in the face of the pandemic,” Dr. Gehani said. “There is no question that the ADA Tripartite stood as one, stood firm, and did what was right for the practicing dentists and the patients they serve.”

Issues that matter
During his address, Dr. Gehani singled out dentistry’s front-line workers, who faced unknown risks at the beginning of the crisis as they treated emergency patients.

“Our members had a duty to the public, and they answered the call much to the benefit of this nation’s health. I salute our members,” he said.

He also addressed the Association’s ad interim policy declaring dentistry to be an essential health service.

“This is an important step to ensuring that in any crisis — whether it is this pandemic, a future pandemic, or a natural disaster,” he said.

The policy, which was adopted by the ADA Board of Trustees, will be considered by the 2020 HOD.

Other issues the ADA focused on this past year were those on the public health front. This included adopting interim policy calling for a ban on all vaping products not FDA-approved for tobacco cessation.

The HOD will also determine how to provide oral health care to the elderly. Dr. Gehani referenced the work of the Elder Care Task Force.

“In this House, you will be voting on the results of a two-year study,” said Dr. Gehani, noting that at the close of the House, “for the first time in recent memory,” we will have a pathway to “comprehensive and coherent policy regarding the fastest growing population in this country.”

He also stressed that the ADA continues to support innovation in dental licensure by developing the Dental Licensure Objective Structured Clinical Exam (DLOSCE), which provides a straightforward pathway to licensure and eliminates patient-based examination.

“You will be pleased to know that the DLOSCE was officially launched this June — a full year ahead of schedule and [the exam] has already been adopted in six states.”

‘Our greatest strength’
He was also passionate about diversity.

“America is a nation of nations, and diversity is our greatest strength,” Dr. Gehani said. “It is critical that we, as a profession, continue to embrace our diversity without regard to the race, ethnicity and gender of any dentist.”

“We are one. We are dentists,” he said.

“We are living in transformative times. The entire world is changing and our profession is changing with it. With change comes the opportunity for success.”

The outgoing ADA president also spoke about being warmed by the “many positive messages” he has received during the year and which continue to inspire him.

“Most importantly, I believe that our ADA has been bound by something greater: The implicit human contract to help our members in times of need. To help our colleagues do good and be successful in times of difficulty. I am proud to report that we are honoring this commitment.”

There were special words for his fellow ADA trustees too.

Photo of Drs. Rekha and Chad Gehani
Thank you: Dr. Gehani thanks his wife, Dr. Rekha Gehani, and their family, during his HOD address.
“Wow! What a journey we have taken together,” he said. “This year, our Board has been convened an unprecedented 22 times — mostly virtually via Zoom calls. It has been an honor to serve with such a dedicated group of professionals. Thank you!”

He also thanked the House of Delegates for electing him “as an agent for change,” and proudly reported, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”

Finally, Dr. Gehani recognized a “special delegate” for her unwavering support: His wife, Dr. Rekha C. Gehani, former chair and current member of the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure, whom he called the “love of his life.” He also thanked the couple’s three children and their spouses, and his six grandchildren.

“Without them, our many successes this year would not have been possible,” he said.

“Thank you for being the lights of our life.”