November 2018 Volume LIII Number 6

 
 
 
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The Year Ahead

July 2013 Volume XLVIX Number 4

One of the things I have observed after many years as a member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is that with 8,800 members, it is impossible for all of us to know each other. And as most of you have not worked with me on various AAPD councils, etc., before I make my comments about the coming year, I would first like to introduce myself.

 


Dentistry as a career choice when I was younger was not even a blip on my radar screen. I was a chemistry major in college and then went to graduate school, studying radiation biology and biophysics. After graduate school, I entered the United States Public Health Service as a commissioned officer, serving in the Bureau of Radiological Health, thereby fulfilling my military requirements. While in the Public Health Service, I worked on a team determining both the somatic and genetically significant doses from dental X-rays. Whereas the dosages we calculated were not deemed to be health hazards at the time, the dentists on the project suggested I go to dental school, explaining that working within the profession to improve dental public health was likely to be more successful than if I were a physicist on the "outside".

 

I enrolled in the School of Dental Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and when I delved into both the pre-clinical and clinical dental courses, I realized that being a dentist was something that would give me great satisfaction, while helping people in need. And, I found that guiding patients, i.e. children, to a path of a cavity-free future was more satisfying that addressing the ravages of time that beset adults. After Penn, I immediately matriculated at the School of Dentistry of the University of Maryland graduate program in pediatric dentistry. The program enabled me to further develop my clinical and patient management skills. I was aided by my fellow residents Jim Hefner and Harold Pincus, both of whom had significant clinical experience before entering the program. They both were unstinting in helping me learn more and shared their experiences so that I could get up to speed. They epitomized what collegiality and professionalism was all about.

 

I am proud to say that Jim, Harold and I have remained friends for the 38 years since we graduated. Jim has retired from practice; Harold is still in practice and is an active member of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry Examination Committee. The diversity of  our lives and career paths is typical of  many, but it is also typical that the bonds that pediatric dentists form with colleagues last for years  and always produces a sense of  great satisfaction. It is also typical of  our profession that, while in training, they helped me develop skills that I needed to better serve my patients and community.

 

Those of you who do know me may remember that I did not become active within the Academy volunteer structure until about 20 years ago. It was my concern, at the time, about lack of insurance coverage for sealants that led me to contact one of my former dental school professors, AAPD past president Dr. Lew Kay. In the true spirit of putting your money where your mouth is, Lew put me on the Dental Care Committee. At that time the Committee concerned itself with dental benefits, government programs such as Medicaid, and interactions with legislators. And as it turned out, these were the activities that interested me the most. When the Committee on Dental Care was divided into the Council on Government Affairs (CGA), Council on Dental Benefit Programs (CDBP) and the Medicaid Sub-Committee, I continued my involvement, becoming a member of CDBP, consultant to CGA and the Medicaid sub-committee.

 

I eventually chaired CDBP, then was elected trustee for District II, after which I chaired CGA, before being elected Secretary-Treasurer.

 

These achievements were realized because Kay saw things in me that I did not see and helped me along with advice and support; he was a mentor. This is not an isolated characteristic of Kay. In fact, his contributions to helping younger colleagues along were honored with the establishment the Lewis A. Kay Excellence in Education Award, which in part, recognizes educators who have mentored younger colleagues. Kay, fittingly, was also the first recipient of the award. I think you can see why I subjected you to this tortured path—using the words of former AAPD president Dr. Heber Simmons Jr., "If you ever see a turtle sitting on a fence post, remember, it had to have some help getting there." In a nutshell, we must mentor those who are coming up behind us.

 

Our immediate past-president, Dr. Joel Berg, started the process by forming a task force to help identify a talent pool so that when expertise is needed for participation with outside groups, the same faces are not called all the time. I want that task force to continue its work, especially in identifying younger colleagues who are ascending towards leadership positions, and give them guidance and the chance to perform. We can often identify these younger colleagues even before they can identify themselves. By helping them better navigate the paths we have taken, the Academy will benefit. As more of our members serve, their enthusiasm will rub off on others. And as I have observed time and time again, the enthusiastic pediatric dentist translates this verve to patient care and helps provide the road map for their patients to achieve optimum oral health.

 

Thinking about this, we all must realize that it is impossible for all children to be seen and treated by the approximately 5,600 pediatric dentists in America. Therefore, we must be the leaders in providing our general dental colleagues with the expertise needed to make sure that all children are being treated to the standard of care we were taught and as set forth in our Reference Manual.

 

The Academy presents a very comprehensive course for the general dentist taught by some of our best clinicians, scientists and lecturers. In addition, we have created a membership category specifically for the general dentist (affiliate) and significantly, there is also a seat for a general dentists on the board of trustees of the Academy as the non-voting affiliate trustee. The affiliate trustee brings a unique view of the needs of  children to the table, especially in terms of  how their oral health needs change as they mature.

 

We need to engage more general practitioners to make sure that the needs of children are identified in a timely fashion and, just as important, that referrals are made at the appropriate time so that we as specialists can start from square one rather than from a situation that may be compromised.
One way that is extremely effective is the "Points of Light" program started by former trustee from Michigan, Dr. Kevin Hale. Starting from scratch, Hale put together a program where infants and toddlers were screened by physicians and then placed with general and pediatric dentists in a Dental Home. Hale provided education for the physicians and dentists so that no child would be left behind. I recommend you to his website at http://www.pointsoflightonline.org.

 

As you can see, engagement will have to be a multi-faceted approach starting with special programs that members present to undergraduate dental students, professional study clubs, national meetings and other such venues. This year I will appoint a task force to help set forth such a plan and during the course of the year will engage you, our members, for comments and suggestions.

 

Lastly, I want to continue the excellent track record the Academy has with improving access to care for those children who are in less fortunate socio-economic situations. We have a superb ambassador to the halls of Congress in Dr. Heber Simmons Jr., our Congressional liaison, supported by AAPD Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Scott Litch, and professionals at the Washington, D.C., office of Hogan Lovells. This is supplemented by scores of our members who travel to Washington every spring to lobby their representatives on issues of importance to the oral health of children. The AAPD is augmenting this by identifying and training designated members to do the same at their state level. This year, the first state Public Policy Advocate program was held in conjunction with our March 2013 Washington, D.C., congressional visitations. To help achieve these goals of increased access to care, please consider making a donation to the AAPD Political Action Committee (PAC), which supports legislators on both sides of  the aisle who advance our legislative agenda.

 

And we all need to remember that "there but for the grace of God go I". We all must be proud to say, "I treat children on Medicaid because they deserve the same level of care that I expect for my own children."

 

In conclusion, I would like to make one more plea to you, my colleagues and friends: Donate to Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children, the Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Your contribution helps bring care to many children, especially those with access to care barriers and those with special health care needs. No amount is too small and every dollar will make the United States of America a better place for all.

 

Thank you for giving me the honor of serving as president of the Academy and being your voice to the public bringing the message of optimum oral health for all.  

warrenabrill