The evolution of practice management

Oct. 1, 1999
The Academy of Dental Practice Administration began as an organization dedicated to a more systematic approach to practice administration.

The history of AADPA reflects changes in management styles.

The Academy of Dental Practice Administration began as an organization dedicated to a more systematic approach to practice administration.

Joseph A. Blaes, DDS, Editor

I have mentioned my membership in the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration (AADPA) in other articles. As a result, I`ve heard from many of you, asking how you can learn more about the Academy and the role it plays in dentistry.

The AADPA has a rich history that began with informal discussions among several distinguished dentists. These dentists were active members of practice-management study clubs in the 1950s. This was a time of economic and population growth that seemed like it would never end. More and more people were in need of dental care, but there were far too few dentists.

The standard of care for many dentists at that time was extraction and dentures. High-speed instrumentation was still a dream on a researcher`s bench and effective delivery systems were in their infancy. It was an era when practice administration was rarely talked about ... except for the actual delivery of dental treatment. In those days, many dentists felt discussing such a subject with their colleagues was not professional and possibly downright unethical.

Against this backdrop, a spark of enthusiasm for the betterment of dentistry was born. It took the form of an organization dedicated to a more systematic approach to ethical practice administration. A few practitioners started thinking about the possibilities of such an organization. Their ideas and dreams came to fruition on Feb. 1, 1957, when the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration presented its first informative program with 109 dentists attending.

Presiding over that first meeting was Dr. Harry Klenda, a distinguished leader who later became the 106th president of the American Dental Association. Dr. Robert Stinaff, who followed Dr. Klenda as the Academy`s second president, planned the program.

For years, the Academy met in Chicago just prior to the Midwinter Meeting. The format was a three-day, members-only meeting, with a fourth day open to an unlimited number of guests. The AADPA`s Saturday meeting open to guests was an instant success! It was always sold out to an overflow crowd of 1,200. The best and brightest practice-management presenters gave the audience a great all-day seminar.

The Academy was quick to attract progressive thinkers who would revolutionize the methods of practice management, equipment, and office design. Individual workshops thought out new ideas about dental-equipment design, placing the dentist and staff in a more comfortable and relaxed position chairside. Many revolutionary, new-equipment designs were born from this research by Academy members.

The members sought to learn more about the business side of their dental practices. Tax specialists, accountants, investment specialists, practice consultants, and dental manufacturers were welcomed speakers. It quickly became evident to the members of the Academy that communication with the patient was the key to a successful dental practice. They began to learn the psychological approach to understanding and communicating with the people who came to them for their dental care.

Each year, new doors were opened for learning. In the late 1960s, a new problem faced the Academy - dentistry`s role in the national political and economic scene was a growing concern. Dental "insurance" had come of age, and dentists were excited about the prospects. Many programs were devoted to the political and socio-economic pressures on the private practice of dentistry. A hot topic was the formation of Delta Dental, an insurance program that would be controlled by the dentists (or so we thought at the time).

The 1970s also marked an era when prevention rose to the forefront. The philosophies of two of the Academy`s members, Dr. L.D. Pankey and Dr. Bob Barkley, gained widespread notoriety. Each emphasized treating the whole person through what we now call "relationship-based care." Each believed and taught that it was first necessary to find your own balanced life. This personal-growth orientation, coupled with the changing modes of practice, gave rise to a further evolution of the Academy.

In the early 1980s, some Academy members became weary of the Chicago winters and yearned for warmer climates. They also desired a smaller meeting that would foster more interactions among the members and guests. In 1985, the Academy moved its meeting to the Houstonian Hotel and Conference Center in Houston. This move was hard to accept for many members, and the membership in the Academy declined for the first time in its history. The Academy has since met in Phoenix, New Orleans, Palm Springs, and, most recently, in Florida.

Shortly after the move, the Academy undertook a strategic planning process to redefine its vision, mission, and goals. Over the years, attendance at the annual sessions has doubled. The programs also have been characterized by presenting the best of the best speakers. The next program - scheduled for March 1-5, 2000, at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island, Fla. - will be no exception.

For more information

More information on the Academy can be found at its Web site,, or by contacting Kathy Uebel at (847) 934-4404.

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