Advocacy in Action: Members Make
The AAE engages in a number of activities to advocate for endodontists, but the strength of our efforts truly lies with AAE members and their involvement. AAE members Drs. Ali Behnia, William Powell, Paula Russo, Susan Wolcott and Dennis Zent have seen this firsthand through their participation in dental advocacy at the local, state and national levels. Watch the video below to hear about their experiences, and then get involved yourself by learning about the issues affecting dentistry, contributing to the American Dental Political Action Committee and your state PAC, and participating in American Dental Association and your state and local dental affiliates’ legislative activities.
So What Can I Do?
“Things do not happen. They are made to happen.”
— John F. Kennedy
When I was in my residency, I was told early on that endodontists have a triad of responsibilities. First, they must perform clinical service at the highest level available; second, they must teach so as to pass on what they know; and third, they have to help create new knowledge. This can be summed up in three words: execution, education and research. By fulfilling this mandate, we provide the highest level of service to our profession and our patients.
I accepted this as how I would live my professional life. I keep my clinical skills and knowledge sharp, I teach both formally in presentations and informally to any dentist or patient I interact with and, since I do not work in a research setting, I give money to the AAE Foundation. I have been trying to diligently fulfill my responsibilities for over 20 years with more or less good success, and in the process, I have been advocating for my profession and my patients.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines advocacy as “the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal.” In endodontics, “our cause” is what is best for the profession, our members and the patients we serve. Most of us understand, I think, that this is important, but also many feel that it is not our job as individuals to do anything about it. They say, “There is nothing that any one individual can do to advocate for our cause,” or “This is something for big organizations to do, not me.” So the thought process goes. I would respond to that by saying that while the AAE does work on this, it’s also everyone’s job to advocate. We have described in our previous two issues of the Communiqué what advocacy is and what the AAE does to further the interests of our patients and our members (“our cause”). In this issue, we want to help our readers understand what they can do to help.
I mentioned last month that you should all donate to the ADA’s American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) and your state dental PAC, so we can help elect political representatives who understand dentistry and are sympathetic to the needs of patients. I also said that you should sign up for the ADA’s Action Alerts so you can be notified of important decisions being made and weigh in directly to your politicians in an amazingly simple and efficient way. I’m sure that since reading that column, most of you have run out and done that, but now you want to do more. Well, there is more.
One of the best ways to engage in advocacy is to become more active in your state ADA affiliate organization. This is really where the rubber meets the road in terms of political advocacy. Most state associations, for example, sponsor a day at the state capitol at which volunteer members fan out across the legislature speaking to elected officials about how this or that piece of legislation will affect patient care. Sometimes the issue has nothing to do with endodontics. So why should an endodontist care? Because your dentist colleagues care, and by supporting them, you support the specialty of endodontics. Not only do you generate goodwill among potential referring dentists, but you also influence issues affecting dentists and patients -- issues whose effects will surely trickle down into your practice. Your state affiliate will brief you on talking points, strategy, who the players are (for or against your position), and things to say and not to say. The first time I went down to my state legislature on Dental Day, I was excited and a bit scared. I walked into the orientation meeting that morning knowing almost nothing. I was told that there was an amendment to the Dental Practice Act before the House that we needed to address. It did not relate in any way to endodontics, but I sat there and learned why this bill could hurt our patients and how to communicate that to legislators. I was given the talking points, which I memorized, and we broke into teams of two. Appointments to meet the representatives and senators had been scheduled already (by our state association staff) so all we had to do was go in and talk.
The meetings were amazing. I met my state representative and state senator for the very first time. As it turned out, my freshman representative (who I had voted for) was the sponsor of the very amendment that we wanted to defeat, so this made the conversation very interesting for me. It turns out that another group had spoken with her first and convinced her to sponsor their amendment, but they never told her the whole story, and she had no idea that this would negatively affect patient care. To save face, she could not withdraw the amendment, but I think our conversations caused her to perhaps not campaign as hard for it as she might have otherwise. Eventually, through all of our efforts that day, the amendment was defeated and my representative learned a good lesson. She now regularly contacts our state dental association for information when anything dental comes up. This is how it works: execution, education and research. Association staff and members executed the meetings, and we educated our legislators based on research done by our governmental affairs council.
Many of our members do this regularly and, believe me, it works. But maybe some feel that they are not cut out for this direct type of political advocacy. Last month I asked what advocacy means to you, and I hope it helped you to think about that question.
Perhaps, aside from supporting ADPAC and the ADA alert network, there is something else you can do. Perform clinical endodontics at the highest level. Educate everyone you meet –- dentist and patient –- about what you do and why it can help him or her. Support the AAE Foundation to create new knowledge, so we can ensure our future as a specialty and provide new treatments in the future. All of these activities are types of advocacy that may seem passive but hold great power. When your community knows that you treat them well, that you help them to understand, and that you help push back the frontiers of knowledge, you, the specialty and the profession earn respect and trust. You can’t advocate for anything better than that.
AAE Board Sets Sights on Improvement
The 2014-15 AAE Board of Directors officially took office at the 2014 Annual Session in Washington, D.C., and they hit the ground running at the Board Annual Meeting. Strategic discussion focused on key goals for the year, including improving dialogue with the membership, engaging newer practitioners in the organization, cultivating future leaders and improving recruitment and retention of endodontic educators.
As the first order of business, the Board discussed results of the 2013 Member Needs Survey, which examined member satisfaction with the AAE and needs of endodontists in the future. Results were overwhelmingly positive, though members did express concerns about awareness, advocacy and practice management resources. In light of the results, the Board approved measures to improve messaging, tactics and programs that promote the priority areas of advocacy, outreach and practice management resources. The Board also agreed that key committee chairs would review and act on priority areas of focus from the survey.
Additionally, the Board continued its focus on organizational quality improvement, highlighting the importance of measuring results of activities to ensure continued improvement, and aligning all AAE leadership groups behind a strategic vision.
The Board felt that, although the AAE collects a wide range of data through various surveys, the organization would benefit from a structured focus on trends over time, remeasuring and analyzing the results of improvement efforts. Committees will have detailed discussions to identify factors contributing to the success of key programs, and will develop methods to measure, track and continually progress.
In line with measurement and analysis efforts requested of committees, the AAE Board utilized a new self-evaluation instrument aimed at measuring the Board’s performance as a governing body. Discussion of the results underscored priorities highlighted in this article, and in future years, will be used to track trends and progress, as well as to compare the AAE Board’s performance with other organizations’ Boards.
In addition, the Board held dialogue on the AAE’s current leadership philosophy and communication between committees and the Board. The Board noted the importance of empowering committees to operate strategically and ensuring that they have an understanding of their relationships to one another and the Board, and how their responsibilities relate to the AAE's mission and strategy. In the coming year, the AAE will work toward developing a leadership training session to provide incoming committee chairs with opportunities to collaborate on common initiatives, as well as enhanced education and training.
The AAE’s efforts to improve recruitment and retention of endodontic faculty are ongoing, and the Board revisited this priority to evaluate opportunities for enhanced initiatives. The evolving environment within endodontic education is impacted by factors such as an increase in young international students, a gap in endodontic educators in the 29-40 age group, and the potential need to increase endodontic faculty to support the growing undergraduate enrollment. Discussion emphasized promoting resources for endodontists who would like to go into education and focusing on new faculty support. The Board approved the investigation of courses to assist in the areas of mentorship, curriculum development and alternate formats of instruction. Additionally, the AAE will look for ways to collaborate with other dental organizations on recruitment and retention initiatives.
The AAE has appointed a committee to lead the search for a new AAE Executive Director. AAE Secretary Dr. Garry Myers is chairing the committee, which has engaged a search firm, Quick Leonard Kieffer, to assist in the process. The Board plans to interview final candidates at its August meeting.
The AAE Board approved a 2014-15 budget with revenue of $9,225,048, expenses of $9,214,897 and a net surplus of $10,151.
AAE Foundation Wraps Up a Successful Year
As the final “goodbyes” and “see you soons” were exchanged at the 2014 AAE Foundation’s Leadership Donor Reception, Foundation donors and volunteers swelled with pride at another banner year. There was much to celebrate in the campaign’s final hours –- new programs, new donors and a total of $1.18 million raised –- but it didn’t come without the hard work and tireless efforts of volunteers who value the mission of the AAE Foundation.
The Foundation’s Special Committee on Fundraising hit the ground running in fall 2013 to help the campaign begin to take shape. Committee Chair Dr. Louis E Rossman encouraged volunteers to share the Foundation’s story and goodwill. Years of fundraising have proven that educating donors about the Foundation’s offerings is vital to advocating for the specialty of endodontics.
According to Dr. Rossman, the success of the campaign came from "the enthusiasm of our members and the feeling that more people understand the mission of our Foundation and what it does for our specialty."
The committee fostered new ideas over the course of several conference calls and meetings. Bringing new life to the campaign each year can often be a challenge, but is imperative to engaging new and existing donors and volunteers. Pledge increases remain popular among the Foundation’s generous donors. However, committee members realized that donors are interested in climbing the ladder at different speeds. To satisfy the needs of a diverse group, the committee created three new levels of giving. The Foundation hopes to provide the ability for donors to steadily increase their generosity with comfort and ease. The new giving levels are highlighted below:
Patron - $2,000
Benefactor - $5,000
Founder - $10,000
Topaz - $15,000
Emerald - $20,000
Diamond - $25,000
Silver - $35,000
Gold - $50,000
Titanium - $100,000
Platinum - $250,000
Named Award - $500,000
The Foundation also created a new program for individuals who have reached their maximum pledge level. The iWill Match Program offers donors at the Founder level and higher the opportunity to make bequests matching their pledges. All that is required is language inserted in the donor’s will that states their intention.
“I, (Name), of (city, state, zip), give, devise and bequeath to the AAE Foundation (written amount or percentage of the estate) for its unrestricted use and purpose.”
Many donors who have supported the Foundation for many years agreed to leave a bequest to the AAE Foundation.
Special thanks to these remarkable leaders who have matched their pledges with bequests:
D. Scott Fehrs, ChFC
David C. Funderburk, D.D.S., M.S.
Kenneth M. Hargreaves, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Keith V. Krell, D.D.S., M.S., M.A.
Mark A. Odom, D.D.S.
Terryl A. Propper, D.D.S., M.S.
Robert S. Roda, D.D.S., M.S.
Ken Thomalla, C.P.A., C.L.U., C.E.P.
Each year, the campaign gradually builds to the AAE’s Annual Session where it receives a final push to hopefully meet the committee’s goal. In the fall, the committee settled on a goal of $1.25 million to be raised! The goal was lofty but kept the future in sight; in order to continually fund new and current initiatives, it is imperative that the Foundation persistently strive for significant goals.
The Foundation is fortunate enough to have many donors who understand the core of its mission and believe in supporting it for a lifetime. One generous individual who is very in sync with the Foundation’s duty to the specialty is Dr. Ace Goerig.
Dr. Goerig has been a Titanium-level donor for many years, and at the 2014 Leadership Donor Reception, AAE Foundation President Dr. Keith Krell announced that Dr. Goerig would graciously be increasing his contribution by $100,000 to the Platinum level, a total pledge of $250,000! The room filled with applause and delight, and, above all, appreciation. It is undoubtedly donors like Dr. Goerig who understand the Foundation’s mission that make the AAE Foundation a success.
In the end, the AAE Foundation raised a total of $1.18 million to support endodontic research and education. And to no one’s surprise, the fundraising committee is already gearing up and counting pledges for the 2014-15 campaign.
Leadership Meets With Dental Insurers
Three AAE leaders wrapped up their responsibilities at the AAE Annual Session and headed straight to Albuquerque, N.M., to attend AAE’s biennial Dental Directors Meeting. President Dr. Robert Roda, President-Elect Dr. Terryl Propper and AAE Representative to the ADA Code Management Committee Dr. Ken Wiltbank met with 15 Dental Directors representing the national’s largest health plans, including Delta Dental, Cigna, Aetna, Guardian and United Concordia.
Dental directors are an important group of stakeholders for AAE advocacy. They are dentists and members of the insurance plan senior management team with responsibility for dental claims processing and payment policy. Many of them have distributed AAE treatment guidelines and AAE root canal safety materials to their provider networks.
The meeting was a valuable exchange of information and resulted in better understanding of the AAE’s respective positions on several important topics. Cone beam-computed tomography was a key point of discussion, in response to AAE member frustrations that plans do not cover this technology.
The dental directors explained that insurers are often cautious with new technologies. While the directors recognize that small field of view CBCT is an important and effective tool in many endodontic situations, they also see it as ripe for abuse. Possibilities for covering CBCT in the future may exist if they can develop data and criteria to control costs. The directors encouraged the AAE to continue to share research that could assist in this process.
The insight AAE leaders gained regarding specific codes will be shared in in future “Decoding the Code” articles in the Communiqué.
Dentistry Flexes Its Muscle in D.C.
The AAE was well represented among the 500 dentists who attended this year’s ADA Washington Leadership Conference in May. Participants lobbied Congress on key pieces of legislation impacting dentistry, including the Action for Dental Health Act and student loan reforms.
In addition to AAE ADPAC Representative Dr. Ali Behnia, a number of AAE leaders participated as part of their state dental society “action teams,” including Drs. Mark Desrosiers, Mark Feldman, Maria Maranga, Michelle Mazur-Kary, John Olmsted, Bill Powell, Paula Russo, Susan Wolcott and Gary Yonemoto.
Their lobbying efforts focused on access to care and student debt, and they asked their representatives to support the following pieces of related legislation:
H.R. 4395, the Action for Dental Health Act, would fund two federal grant programs to expand access and innovation in delivery. The first grant would go to state and local programs that provide free dental care for underserved patients. The second would go to innovative programs designed to improve the dental health system, such as programs to decrease emergency room visits for dental emergencies and to increase access to the elderly in nursing homes.
S. 1066, the Federal Student Loan Refinancing Act, would allow college graduates to consolidate or refinance direct unsubsidized Stafford Loans at a fixed rate of 4 percent.
H.R. 1527, the Student Loan Interest Deduction Act, would expand the federal income tax deduction for student loan interest and remove the current income cap that limits the availability of the deduction.
WLC participants also heard from speakers who also emphasized the importance of getting involved, with the midterm elections around the corner and voter apathy on the rise. The AAE encourages all AAE members to learn about the issues and support ADPAC in its efforts to elect dentistry-friendly members of Congress.
APICES: Engaging Residents Professionally and Socially
Planning is well underway for the 11th annual Advanced Program in Clinical Endodontics Symposium, to be held August 8 and 9 in Houston. Since October 2013, APICES co-chairs Drs. Valerie Okehie and William Pack and the APICES planning committee have been hard at work coordinating the resident symposium –- and making it their own with some true Texas flair.
After the Resident and New Practitioner Committee reviewed host applications and chose the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as this year’s host, the program director selected Drs. Okehie and Pack to co-chair the planning committee. They are both in their final year of residency at UT. Serving on an APICES planning committee is no small task during the busy life of a resident. In fact, Dr. Okehie is planning her wedding while serving as APICES co-chair! The planning committee works closely with AAE staff to coordinate and execute a well-attended and popular meeting. Many integral decisions about the program are left solely to the planning committee, including the speakers and topics.
“The most rewarding part is knowing that it is planned from a current resident's perspective,” said Dr. Pack.
The UT Houston School of Dentistry recently moved to a new home –- a 300,000 square-foot, six-story facility, located in the UT Research Park. The endodontic department operates in a new state-of-the-art clinic with ample space and technology. Shortly after, the 14,000-square-foot Denton A. Cooley, M.D. and Ralph C. Cooley, D.D.S. University Life Center opened. The Cooley Center, which is adjacent to the new dental school, is the conference facility where most APICES 2014 programming will take place. “I am looking forward to being a great host and showing the attendees the fun city of Houston, as well as our brand new endodontic clinic,” said Dr. Okehie.
A sneak preview of the APICES 2014 program was released to all residents in March 2014 via email. Four speakers covering endodontics from microsurgery to regeneration, as well as representatives from the AAE, AAE Foundation, ABE and College of Diplomates will travel to Houston to present.
After brainstorming, planning and coordinating, Drs. Okehie and Pack decided to implement a new schedule format, in an attempt to ease travel pains and provide the most reasonable and valuable time with other attendees and corporate partners. The program will begin Friday mid-day and end with the Saturday night social event. With APICES hosted by a different institution every year, each planning committee has the opportunity to test new approaches and techniques.
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the U.S.; it is a first-class venue full of southern hospitality. The committee is working hard to arrange a weekend experience with a variety of activities to showcase this hospitality firsthand. Friday evening will be spent at Minute Maid Park to see Houston’s own Major League Baseball team, the Houston Astros, take on their cross-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. Saturday night will find residents enjoying the sights and sounds of old Paris at The de Gaulle! The planning committee hopes that these settings serve as forums for residents to get to know one another and form new friendships.
The social component of APICES is extremely important. Each year, the meeting is an opportunity for residents to meet their future colleagues. During the two to three years a graduate student spends in their specialty program, they are fully immersed and concentrated on endodontics within the walls of their institutions. APICES allows residents to come together and share experiences with one another in a new setting. Engaging professionally and socially will remain the two greatest elements of the symposium.
“The most rewarding part about co-chairing the APICES planning committee is being an active participant in the process of organizing a session that is as entertaining and enjoyable as it is educational,” said Dr. Okehie.
Visit the APICES website to learn more about the meeting and how you can encourage residents to attend.
Member News: Colorado Endodontists
The Colorado Mission of Mercy was held recently in Greeley, Colo.
Seven AAE member endodontists -- Drs. David Funderburk, Anthony Girardi, Kelly Jones, Bradley LeValley, Ben Ricketts, Brad Ross and Rand Russell -- performed more than 125 endodontic procedures over two days. Overall, 1,246 patients were seen and more than $1.1 million of services provided. A total of 203 dentists from across the state pitched in.
“The positive energy at the event was incredible,” said Dr. David Funderburk, an AAE member and Mission of Mercy participant.
Member News: Dr. William Johnson Speaks at Fort Bragg
AAE Past President Dr. William T. Johnson visited the Rohde Dental Clinic at Fort Bragg, N.C., to speak to U.S. Army endodontic residents. Dr. Johnson lectured on a variety of topics, including vital pulp treatment and the diagnosis of cracked teeth and vertical root fractures.
Reminder: Renew Your AAE Membership
Renew your AAE membership and pay your 2014 dues online -- it’s quick, convenient and secure! Your membership renewal ensures continued access to the AAE’s clinical, educational and practice management resources. Payment is due by July 1, 2014.
Questions? Contact the AAE Membership Department regarding your payment or membership benefits by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 800/872-3636 (U.S., Canada, Mexico) or 312/266-7255.
Sylvester C. Robinson, Potomac Falls, Va.
Mostafa S. Tolba, Stafford, Va.
Kelvin Chou, FPO, AP
Emilyjane A. Sunga, Anaheim, Calif.
Hiroaki Watanabe, Takatsuki, Japan
Tariq S. Abuhaimed, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jun Sang Yoo, Seoul, South Korea
About the Communiqué
The Communiqué is distributed four times a year in print and seven times a year electronically to 7,000+ AAE members. Its mission is to promote communication among AAE members, leaders of the AAE, ABE and AAE Foundation and AAE Affiliate organizations; encourage coordinated activities; inform the membership of developments in the endodontic specialty and dental profession; and raise awareness of AAE events, products and services. The AAE Membership Services Committee serves as the Communiqué Editorial Board. Visit www.aae.org/communique for back issues.