May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


A Message from Your President: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: It is Not Me, it is YOU

November 2013 Volume XLIX Number 6

One of the responsibilities I have as president of the Academy is a great joy: meeting and talking with colleagues all over the country. This experience is heartwarming, fulfilling, knowledge building, friendship building, and informative all at the same time.


I would like to elaborate with two issues that encompass all of the above.


We have, amongst all dental organizations, the highest professional membership percentage, with over 96 percent of trained pediatric dentists as members. Our pediatric dentist member retention rate is 98 percent and attendance at our annual sessions grows every year. The latter is due to the excellent continuing education that is available, the unlimited opportunities for networking, and, of course, the fabulous venues. And, while some say that the Memorial Day weekend is not convenient, the results of every member survey we've given has this weekend coming out on top.


While membership percentage and retention rates sound terrific, there is always room for improvement. To that end, I have been talking and emailing with members to find out what they like and dislike; what they think should be kept and what they think should be discontinued; what needs changing and what needs to be reinforced.


Two themes that recurred are "transparency" and the direction of governance (which are intimately intertwined), but when I discuss this with colleagues, there are considerable differences in what people think they mean. I would like to tell you what I think they mean by giving specific examples based upon fiduciary responsibilities of officers of organizations in general and the Academy in particular.


Some of you may not know that the meetings of the board of trustees are open to every member. You can find out where and when they take place in several different ways: you can contact your trustee; you can look on the AAPD website in the Meetings Section (under AAPD Governance Meetings) or you could contact the headquarters office in Chicago for that information.


There are four caveats to attending: 1. All who attend, including trustees and officers, must sign a Confidentiality Agreement not to disclose information as to specifics of votes taken around the table; 2. You cannot speak unless recognized by the chair; 3. You must leave the room when the board goes into executive session and 4. You attend at your own expense. And, if you do wish to attend, please inform the headquarters office so that adequate seating can be assured.
In this scenario, witnessing and hearing every part of each agenda item, with the exception of those warranting executive session, is open to all in attendance. The actual vote count and who voted pro or con cannot be revealed, per the Confidentiality Agreement. The board's final decision on all issues brought to the table is recorded in the minutes, which are subsequently published in the Members Section on the AAPD website for all members to observe.


As you can see, transparency does not mean that the specifics of deliberations and who made comments can be taken from the board meeting. For those not familiar with boards, this is standard procedure.


So, what do transparency and governance mean within the AAPD? It means that any issue a member wants addressed by the board of trustees can be presented to them.


If the member feels that the particular issue has local significance that might be applicable to the Academy as a whole, it can be brought to the leadership of the state society for discussion. The local officers may deem that wider discussion is needed and put it on their agenda or the agenda of the state's annual governance meeting. It can be brought to the district leadership for discussion and voting in the same fashion. Alternatively, any member can communicate directly with their trustee. The trustee may discuss the issue with her local leaders about its applicability, and the trustee can take the issue directly to the board.


This is a bottom-up process and any issue a member feels is important can go in this direction at any time.


It also may work in the opposite direction. The board of trustees or Executive Committee may feel that an issue needs to be discussed and voted upon. If its impact does affect the membership as a whole, e.g., a charge to a council or committee, the issue may be resolved at the board table. Trustees then inform their districts directly of this occurrence, and it is also published in the Members Section.


If it is a global change that is being considered, then it is brought to the entire membership both by the trustees via their mechanisms of local communication and publication in the Academy electronic newsletter, AAPD E-News and published in Pediatric Dentistry Today. This would considered top-down communication.

I think you can see that these methods, their interchange, and how they are decided upon go in both directions, often at the same time. Therefore, it is up to your leaders at the state and district level, as well as trustees and officers, with the help of the central office, to make sure there are no "traffic jams."


And lastly, the ultimate examples of transparency and two-way governance are the Reference Committee and General Assembly. All members are encouraged to attend both and all members are encouraged to make substantive comments.


The meeting of the Reference Committee is not a place for debate. It is a place for a member to comment upon a motion that will be put to the General Assembly for a vote. The Reference Committee members then evaluate the comments and make any changes in motions that are deemed appropriate.


The General Assembly is the ultimate example of transparency and two-way governance. Every member can speak to a motion and every Active or Life member can vote. In addition, every member, within the rules of parliamentary procedure, can suggest an amendment to a motion or even bring a new motion to the floor; the ultimate expression of governance and transparency.


In closing, I must put the mechanism of how we get to the members' ultimate expression of governance into perspective. The Reference Committee hearing is held on Saturday. This is done so that all councils and committees have the opportunity to meet beforehand with the least amount of disruption to members' opportunities to attend the many continuing education sessions.


The General Assembly is held on Sunday so that the reports of the Reference Committee can be printed and distributed in time for members to review the recommendations. The General Assembly is open to all members and again, all are encouraged to attend, speak and vote.


If a member chooses not to attend and vote, to me it means one or more of several things: the member is satisfied with governance; the member is not interested in the governance process or the member has put a higher priority on an activity other than having a voice and vote at the General Assembly and the governance process. Procedurally, with the day after the General Assembly being a national holiday, there is ample time for all of us to return home in time to continue with patient care.


In conclusion, I trust I have put the issues I outlined when I started this essay into perspective. We all have a voice and with adherence to rules of procedure, we all are able to hear each other, converse and decide upon issues in the best interest of the Academy, which translates into the best interest of children.