Academy of General Dentistry`s President Responds To Column Critical of Decision To Drop ADA Dues Requirement
After reading Hugh F. Doherty`s column in the October issue, I thought your readers should have some perspective as to the rationale for the Academy`s deleting the requirement that all members must first belong to the American Dental Association, the Canadian Dental Association or the National Dental Association before they can join the Academy.
In 1991, the Academy identified a major problem for the dental profession in that recent graduates were not retaining membership in organized dentistry. The Academy surveyed those out of dental school less than 10 years and found appalling debt loads that approximated $100,000 in many cases. The problem was discussed by our membership council and various options were explored.
The Board of Trustees proposed a resolution to the 1993 House of Delegates that would have created a category of provisional membership in our organization for those out of dental school less than seven years who did not belong to the ADA. Part of the problem with the provisional membership proposal is that there are legal problems with withdrawing an existing member. It should be recognized that most dental organizations in the U.S. do not require membership in the ADA, including four of the eight specialty groups, and three of the other four specialty groups have been given the same legal advice as the Academy and have not enforced the requirement for existing members for a number of years.
Armed with this information, the Academy`s 1993 House of Delegates created two ad hoc committees, one of which met with the ADA and the other met with the Canadian Dental Association. Our basic bottom line was that we wanted reduced dues for those out of dental school for up to four years. This year, the declining membership worsened. When our membership council met in February, it was noted that after the first year out of dental school, the percentage for the next four years varies from 54.3 percent to 60.2 percent of recent graduates retaining membership in the ADA.
Currently, there are 30,717 general dentists out of dental school less than 20 years in the U.S. who do not belong to the ADA. Those dentists need to be kept up-to-date in the same way as members of the ADA.
Dr. Doherty depicts the Academy as an organization with a wonderful record in assisting dentists in becoming the most proficient clinical dentists in the world. We agree with that assessment and believe that our primary purpose is to foster continuing dental education to the general dentist. We further believe that we could serve a role in helping non-ADA-member general dentists to keep up with the profession and once we have done so, we could successfully recruit them into the ADA.
The Academy has a history of being responsive to the needs of its members and of listening to what they have to say. We have published both sides of the issue in our publications. Based on a recent membership survey, it appears that our membership is going to be divided about the same way as our House of Delegates, with about 61 percent favoring the removal of the requirement. This makes it extremely difficult for us, because the 39 percent who want to retain the requirement have extremely strong feelings. Dr. Doherty criticizes the delegates for voting on the issue on a closed ballot. This was done because many of our delegates felt intimidated and threatened by the heavy lobbying that was taking place on the issue. There was ample discussion in the reference committee hearing and on the floor of the House of Delegates to make the vote predictable.
The top officers of the Academy are meeting with the top officers of the ADA this month for the purpose of helping to bring unity to the dental profession, which is especially necessary on legislative matters. We agree with Dr. Doherty that the ADA needs the strength of membership with a strong and harmonious voice and, that in trying to be responsive to the needs of the younger members of the profession, we need to help to build a strong ADA.
Howard S. Glazer, DDS, FAGD
President, Academy of General Dentistry