Critic of ADA Policies on Infectious Diseases Lauds Association Leaders for Responding to Concerns

Oct. 1, 1996
Critic of ADA Policies on Infectious Diseases Lauds Association Leaders for Responding to Concerns of the Membership

Critic of ADA Policies on Infectious Diseases Lauds Association Leaders for Responding to Concerns of the Membership

In past years I have challenged the ADA and its leadership in the pages of this publication. At the same time, fair is fair, and I must tell readers of Dental Economics that, lately, the leadership of the ADA has impressed me. I was in Chicago July 28 at ADA headquarters, participating in an Infectious Disease Symposium. This symposium was organized by ADA President Dr. William TenPas, with the help of 14th District Trustee Dr. Charles Siroky, as well as other interested parties. Some have stated that Bill TenPas organized this Blue Ribbon Panel in order to mute the challenges a number of us have been voicing relative to present ADA infectious disease policy. I do not believe this to be so. I think Dr. TenPas backed this symposium because he felt it not only appropriate and fair, but in the best interest of dentistry.

There were six presenters. The discussion sessions, which followed the presentations, included the officers, trustees and much of the permanent staff of the ADA. The presenters were: Dr. Harold Slavkin, director of the National Institute of Dental Research; Dr. Donald Marianos, director of the Dental Division of the Centers for Disease Control; Paul Lombardo, JD, bioethicist of the University of Virginia; Dr. Steven Abel, member of President Clinton`s Commission on AIDS and director of a federally-funded HIV Dental Clinic in New York City; Mark Rubin, JD, of the ADA legal department; and myself, Dr. John L. Kennedy, a general dentist from Albuquerque.

The discussions were animated and, at times, adversarial. Some good came out of this gathering, although I would have found it more productive if the panel had been more evenly represented by participants on both sides of the question. But, with that said, no one can criticize the fact that present leadership at the ADA recognizes the need to encourage healthy debate in our profession on this, as well as other important issues that continually impact our profession.

Recently, the ADA has been under attack from a variety of quarters, including the year-old decision of the AGD to "go it alone" relative to membership criteria. I believe it is healthy for the membership to challenge the major voice of dentistry. I will continue to challenge, when I feel it appropriate, but I will do so, following my recent visit to Chicago, with increased respect for the officers, trustees and permanent staff of the ADA. I do not have to agree with the decisions of those intimately involved to have respect for the fact that there are many good people at the ADA who are working long hours for our profession. I found a group of officers and trustees who take considerable time away from their practices, attempting to make some sense of a very complicated, professional world. I believe few, including me, recognize the amount of time these dentists spend out of their offices, as well as away from their families during their tenure as officers and trustees. While the majority of dentists were relaxing with their families, the officers and trustees were putting in a 12-hour day discussing important and difficult subjects. They do this many times each year.

Do I feel sorry for them? Not a chance, for all who take offices of this nature receive some sort of a return or they wouldn`t do it. I respect that these men and women are "in the game," that they are willing to expose themselves to criticism and that their participation in this wonderful profession extends beyond their own individual office. I`m especially proud of Bill TenPas as the outgoing president. He can go back to his practice in Corvallis, Oregon, next year, knowing that this Albuquerque dentist believes he gave it his best shot. I think incoming President Gary Rainwater is cut from the same cloth, and that he will "whistle his own tune through his own beak."

Does this mean I`ve gone soft on the ADA? Not in my lifetime! I will continue to criticize my association when I think it is appropriate, and I continue to think it is appropriate on the issue of infectious disease policy. I will continue to ask hard questions until I get better answers than I have received to this point, but I will criticize with a new-found sense of pride in my professional association. Dentistry is the finest profession in this country and, perhaps, is the last major example of free enterprise in the health-care field. All who care should participate in maintaining this wonderful profession. I envision a new and more receptive era of leadership from the ADA, and I encourage all dentists, not only to belong to the major organization of dentistry, but to get involved on a local as well as a national level.

A few months ago in an editorial, Dick Hale, editor and publisher of Dental Economics, rhetorically asked the question, "Is the ADA listening to its membership?" I believe they are listening more acutely to the membership than at any time that I can remember in the past 25 years. Dentistry is being challenged as never before. It will take the efforts of all of us, if we are not to be buried under an avalanche of external controls. Individual dentists truly can have a major impact on the profession, only through encouraging and criticizing the ADA as a member, not as an outsider. To think otherwise is not only short-sighted, but foolish. Join me in supporting the major voice of dentistry through applauding the ADA when appropriate and challenging them when necessary. I think you might be surprised by the response of present leadership to the applause, as well as the criticism. I was.

John L. Kennedy, DDS

Albuquerque, NM

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