May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


A President’s Year in Review

Catching up with AAPD President Dr. Robert Delarosa

May 2016 Volume LI Number 3

Q As AAPD President, your agenda has focused on the creation of a task force to investigate the growing debt burden of recent graduates and potential avenues of relief, as well as continuing to act upon the recommendations of the previously created task forces, specifically identifying future volunteer leaders and enhancing chapter relations. Can you please share how each of these goals have been accomplished?

A The task force we created was not specifically for just debt burden, but rather all things millennial. However, debt is the "elephant in the room". Our association with SoFi has allowed our young members to take advantage of loan services that will give them some leverage on this significant issue as they begin their careers. My focus was to have our young bright stars be able to impact children’s lives on their terms, in the practice environments or academic settings from where they could best thrive. With three young partners and a son in medical school residency, I have seen the costs of higher education first hand. Although it’s quite staggering, I do believe with the right fiscal advice and support, the debt can be managed efficiently and provide a sense of peace to our young members that we can help them through it.

Leadership development is also a part of the Millennial Task Force and through our newly established Leadership Development Committee, we will identify young leaders and develop a specific protocol where we can provide the necessary support, mentorship and encouragement for these individuals to succeed in their service to AAPD and beyond.

International Relations is another personal priority of mine and will continue to be so.  If we want to achieve optimal oral health for kids everywhere, we need positive and meaningful engagement with our global partners. To that end, Joel Berg, with his vast international experience and network, created this opportunity that we have embarked upon, and already I see the potential to affect kids everywhere. The reception we hold at our Annual Session for International Members has been growing in number each year, and we have committed to having our presence at their meetings as well. I attended international meetings in Glasgow and Dublin this year, and the reception from our colleagues could not have been more welcoming and gracious. I look forward to attending our joint meeting with the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in October, and Jade Miller will be attending the European Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Meeting this summer. Also, we have our first international graduate of our Kellogg Leadership Institute, Dr. Eduardo Alcaino. I think Alcaino will serve as a great ambassador for this opportunity and help us recruit other interested members from the international community. Finally, we have international presence on councils and committees, and their expertise and knowledge have been invaluable in helping us produce the strongest policies and guidelines possible.  

Chapter relations remains one of our highest priorities. We need to have strong districts and states to function effectively as a hierarchal entity, and we continue to evaluate means to help our chapter affiliates. Obviously, one of the positive activities has been our collection of dues for the chapters. This has consistently resulted in an increase in numbers and reserves for each district and state. In the near future, we believe our Speakers’ Bureau will be a great resource for our chapters in providing lecturers and faculty for their CE courses. With AAPD Headquarters serving as the repository for this benefit, it will be very easy for our chapters to call and request names of individuals identified as the best in their fields. This should enhance the CE experience for our chapters. Finally, in every endeavor of life, bidirectional communication is critical. AAPD and its chapters hold no exception to this creed. We certainly will not always agree, but we have to continue to work together for the common good of our kids. If that is our mutual goal, we can overcome any obstacles we face and will encounter moving forward.  

Q Can you please explain why the Millennial Task Force was important to you and ultimately for the Academy?

A As mentioned, I became acutely aware of this issue of debt as my associates came on board. It struck me that this burden falls on all of us—the senior partners, as well as the new practitioners—because structuring buyouts, buying new equipment, and practice growth all become hinged upon what the young doctors can afford. I realized we had to provide a means for the practice to maintain its progress and growth, while at the same time, not cripple my young partners with greater debt. In other words, we’re all in this together. Through my own millennial twins, and my interactions with my partners, I also realized how different we are—what my life journey is didn’t necessarily (and rightly so) resonate with these young individuals. I began to research millennial trends so that I would better understand and relate to them, and in the process figured out AAPD needed to do the exact same thing if we wanted to remain relevant to our future members. I am more than pleased to state how supportive Academy leadership has been for my project, both in time and resources. I am more than confident that we will emerge as a leader in our industry in membership value and retention of millennials moving forward. As with my own children, I am so fired up about the possibilities for their future, and with a little help from our "mature" members, we can only make it brighter for them.

Q Are there achievements/milestones of AAPD under your leadership of which you’re most proud?

A This is not about me in the least, it’s about what is best for the kids under our care. With that said, I am so proud to be part of an organization that fulfills such a noble mission. As importantly, this is an organization with a volunteer workforce and company employees who work side by side with great dedication and commitment to that mission. I guess then it’s the selflessness and willingness to be involved with something bigger than any individual that gives me a sense of pride. I love this Academy and all that we are trying to do.

Q You have been key in promoting our Monster-Free Mouths campaign this year.  From your perspective, how was it meeting with the New York Times and Family Circle among other consumer publications in November of 2015?  What message in your opinion were they most receptive to?

A That was truly an amazing experience! I took two things from the interviews: the first is how far we’ve come in exposure with Weber Shandwick working with our organization, and the second was how little the public still knows about pediatric dentistry. Our messages about the Dental Home and the Age One visit are received exceptionally well, but there is an initial lack of awareness and perception that surprises me. The enthusiasm and responses were all very positive, but we still have work to do. I have full confidence that the team will continue to get us into the right media outlets to deliver our message of optimal oral health for all children.

Q How would you recommend addressing the faculty shortage issue?

A Tough question! I know there are more qualified individuals than myself working on this issue, but I see two aspects of it that I think should be connected. The first is, once again, our millennials, and the way they receive instruction. As one example, many higher teaching institutes have changed their delivery models to include online courses, etc. I think we need to look at these other means as a way to teach that can bring a bit more efficiency to the system. The other component is to realize there are many individuals who have thirty plus years of practice experience and are cutting back or retiring who could be utilized to shore up the shortage in a more organized and structured way. Wow, and that right there is how a task force gets created! 

Q You participated in a national Satellite Media Tour as part of our media outreach for National Children’s Dental Health Month, where you spoke to 26 television and radio stations across the country.  Can you please share insight into this experience?

A As with my time in New York and Los Angeles, this also was a first and great experience for me. I especially enjoyed this one because it was one setting, with the various outlets coming to us. It was a bit easier becoming familiar with the surroundings and delivery of information. Also, this production crew was especially helpful and supportive. From what we were told, I believe our message was well received because it created activity beyond that day, and several of the interviews went over the time allotted. I would say all of these interviews were very friendly and having gone through the AAPD’s media spokesperson training several times, I felt I was well prepared.

Q In your opinion, how can dental professionals do a better job of reaching parents and educating them on the importance of a Dental Home and Age One dental visit? 

A We need to continue to be in the trenches, whether it be in our communities, hospitals that deliver babies or schools, educating our families, colleagues and other stakeholders. Some of the time it is one family you reach, but you’ll never be able to quantify the positive effect that one family can make if they choose to be the "voice." I learned from Ann Page Griffin a long time ago, you just need to be out there delivering the message. In Baton Rouge, I sadly admit it has taken a long time for our pediatrician friends to understand and buy into the Age One dental visit. Almost every week we hear the same old thing—that’s too early! It’s really only been through dogged persistence and commitment that we see the breakthroughs. I have shared the data and the information countless times, but it sometimes takes countless plus one to make that difference. 

Of course I believe what we are doing on the national level with media exposure is also important, and we need to use those campaigns to help us locally and regionally. I remember the Ad Council’s Two Minutes Twice a Day billboards were a hit in our practice. It got that simple message out and helped reinforce what we were already teaching in the office. In fact, as you may recall, we engaged in the Ad Council campaign with other leading dental organizations to promote children’s oral health.  It’s important to note that what we’re doing with the Ad Council and our Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives, is on a parallel track with what we’re doing with Weber Shandwick and our Mouth Monster campaign—educating and providing resources to the lay public on children’s dental health! I’m hoping that you’re all fully utilizing all of these resources at both, as well as

Q I know your goal is to aspire for a cavity-free generation.  Do you feel this is realistic in our lifetime?  Why or why not?

A You know what, why do it when you can overdo it! Any worthwhile goal stretches us and requires great effort. If we believe that decay is preventable, then why can’t we attain this amazing milestone? I think of what the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation has done for malaria prevention, and I feel the same passion for our cause. I know there are practices in this country that have achieved very high levels of cavity-free kids, and as with anything, they started with one at the beginning. Who knows how long the journey will take, but what I do know is that it’s a noble goal worthy of our best efforts.

Q Anything else you would like to add?

A As I have reflected on this blur of a year, what keeps coming back to me is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for this amazing opportunity. I can say this has been the ultimate year in my professional life, made possible by the leaders who preceded me. I humbly took my gavel from one of pediatric dentistry’s true heroes, Jerry Miller, and ran my race with the support and encouragement of family, friends, colleagues and staff. With so many individuals to thank, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to each of you for helping me serve our Academy. It has been more than a dream come true.


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