New York — Dr. Mina Kim was seeing a patient recently who seemed to be in a rush.
“She kept asking me how long this appointment will take,” said Dr. Kim, who serves as New York County Dental Society secretary. “And at some point, the patient just burst into tears.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, her boyfriend who drove her to her dental appointment couldn’t enter the dental practice with her. He’s sitting in the car by himself. He’s also black.
“I was taken aback,” Dr. Kim said. “She was fearful something could happen to him. I’ve never had that fear, but I quickly realized how justified that fear was. How ignorant have I been?”
In an effort to bring dentists together to discuss and learn more about today’s social issues, the New York County Dental Society is launching a new webinar series titled, “Contemporary Issues, Starting the Conversation.”
The first webinar is “Functional Relations: Racial Diversity,” scheduled on June 24 at 7:30 p.m. EST via Zoom. It’s described as a guided talk on how to start the conversation about issues dealing with race. It brings together a diverse group of panelists including Dr. Rico Short, a 2014-15 ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership graduate; Dr. Nitin Ron; Dr. James Jacobs; Dr. Suchie Chawla; and Dr. Elizabeth Simpson, an ADA New Dentist Now blog contributor.
The webinar comes as nationwide protests denouncing the acts of racism continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 while he was being restrained by police in Minneapolis.
It also comes about three weeks after ADA President Chad P. Gehani, in a message to members, implored dentists to recognize personal biases, to listen and to speak up for those who have been disenfranchised, and to commit to empathy and understanding.
“We don’t expect to solve everything, but this is the first step,” said Dr. Kim, who co-organized the series with Dr. Lois Jackson, NYCDS president-elect.
Although the webinar is mainly for New York County Dental Society members, Dr. Kim hopes it encourages other local and state dental societies to follow suit.
“Even though NYC is one of the most diverse parts of the U.S., not everyone is comfortable talking about race,” Dr. Kim said. “But as one of the most diverse components, we also have a responsibility to be leaders and explore these uncomfortable topics. We hope we’re setting an example for other local dental societies.”
Future series webinars will also cover other social issues, including those affecting the LBTQ+ community.
“The point is to start a conversation,” Dr. Kim said.