According to Wikipedia, a profession “can be defined as a disciplined group of individuals, professionals, who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognized body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.” A profession is not a trade and not an industry. Dentistry in the classical sense is considered to be a “learned profession.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Profession].
Even though there are a myriad of specialty organizations in the profession, Dentistry has one main professional association—the American Dental Association. The ADA is a tripartite organization, meaning that when a dentist joins the ADA, he or she also joins the state organization and the regional component organization. This arrangement allows the ADA to speak with one voice to legislators and to the public. Individuals alone have no clout, but the collective chorus of voices singing the same song is the only way dentists can influence both legislators and the public.
Legislators have the power to drastically affect how Dentistry is practiced, so influencing legislators to vote in the best interests of dentists and their patients is a matter of professional survival. One need only look at the profession of medicine to understand the sobering truth of this premise. Less than half of physicians belong to the AMA, so in essence, they have no say in how they are going to practice medicine. Government and insurance companies now dictate how they will practice medicine. Their best interests are not prioritized as humanitarian.
Organized Dentistry is safeguarding the privileges that dentists have enjoyed in the private practice of dentistry. Many dentists don’t realize how much has been accomplished on their behalf because behind-the-scenes efforts are largely intangible and somewhat invisible. New dentists are so busy trying to build their practices, their families and pay back their astronomical loans that they often overlook the value of participating in organized dentistry.
However, the benefits of participating in a professional association allow you to:
• Help Shape the Future of the Profession: Don’t like something? Get in there and change it! Your voice needs to be heard and there are many venues to express your opinion and work to change policies on national, state and local levels.
• Get Advance Information. When you are involved, you are privy to information that most dentists aren’t exposed to. This information can be quite helpful in your dental practice.
• Network with Peers. Networking with peers is a great way to obtain innovative ideas to enhance your dental practice and to ventilate issues and viewpoints with others.
• Develop Valuable Leadership Skills. The leadership skills involved with serving as a committee chair or officer are directly applicable to leading your dental team for practice success.
I have found that whatever you give to your professional association comes back to you a hundred-fold. I have served organized dentistry in numerous capacities—editor, council and committee chairperson, officer, board member, delegate—you name it. I had the unique pleasure of serving on four ADA Councils—which is almost unheard of! I cherish the experiences I have had and the numerous friends that I made from all over the country. I contributed to updating the ADA’s Standards for Publications and helped institute a peer review system for a state journal. I have worked on some of the largest dental conferences in the country in many different capacities. I have also helped enhance dentistry’s political action committees in the state and national arenas and provided testimony to legislators on Dentistry’s position on proposed legislation. These activities not only taught me a great deal; they bestowed on me tremendous personal growth.
And once volunteerism gets in your blood, you just can’t stop. When I left New York State, I had no intentions of resting on my laurels. It was never my intention to retire, but—instead–to change direction. I replaced full time practice with practicing part time practice. The extra time allows me to working on my teaching website, my speaking career and my publishing career. I recently wrote a second book, and it is now in the process of being published.
I became involved in the Arizona Dental Association almost as soon as I arrived in Arizona. I am amazed at how much involvement I accrued in just four short years. I have met many wonderful staff members and volunteers on AZDA’s Annual Sessions Council, and I love working with them. This year, I am serving as Secretary-Treasurer for CADS (Central Arizona Dental Society), a component of similar size to my previous component–the Ninth District Dental Association in NY State (which I continue to volunteer for). I thoroughly enjoy everything I am doing. There is no better feeling than making a difference for your profession.
The very essence of being a professional is to serve one’s professional association. I really believe that our charge as dentists is NOT just to be great dentists, but to make being a dentist great. Making a difference for one’s profession makes all the difference.
Become the best practitioner in full coverage restorative dentistry that you can be! Don’t settle! Join the ONWARD program and learn how to do crown and bridgework with excellence and confidence, how to save “hopeless” teeth, and how to provide new options for patient treatment that you never thought of. Visit the website: https://theonwardprogram.com
Dr. Feinberg is also available to give presentations. His CV and speaker packet is posted on the website. (https://theonwardprogram.com/about-dr-feinberg/) Dr. Feinberg can be reached at info@theONWARDprogram.com.