Dear Fellow Fourth District Members,
A few weeks ago, a small group of us gathered at the Culinary Institute of America for our Fall Weekend Meeting. We cooked up some amazing food featuring local ingredients from the Hudson Valley. We sampled some delicious local wine, too. And we spent some time discussing an issue that is receiving a lot of attention at ADA meetings: The proposed regulation of dental laboratories.
Since that weekend, I find myself thinking a lot about “regulations”, and specifically those regulations that have had an impact on our profession. Since starting my practice, I have seen dentistry become more and more “regulated.” There are OSHA regulations, the Health Information Privacy Act, I-stop, and now e-prescribing regulations to contend with. I, like many of you, find myself increasingly frustrated with the constraints that these regulations place upon me. Why do I feel frustration and resentment? When I started practice, some 20 years ago, these regulations were just starting up and had little direct impact. I was conscientiously self-regulated, and it worked well. I think back to my early training in dental school; the most important skill that my professors tried to teach my classmates and me was “Good Professional Judgment”. It was drilled into us (no pun intended) during each and every class, from pharmacology to prosthodontics. The message was sent out loud and clear: We were not chosen to attend dental school to become “tooth technicians”. Rather, we were taught to use the library of knowledge that we were assimilating to become insightful and discerning practitioners. Our education was aimed at producing clinically competent dentists whose knowledge and astute judgment would help us help our patients navigate the path toward obtaining better health. We were taught that there were no prescribed routes to this end result, but rather that each and every situation would need to be evaluated separately and that our ability to “think outside the box” would be paramount to achieving this goal.
Now, like many of you, I find that these external regulations produce no recognizable improvement in what we offer our patients, but they do provide a lot more work. Frustrating! Furthermore, I believe that the increasing regulations impact us all in two ways… Perhaps most importantly, we need to encourage young people to develop their critical thinking skills, and not fall prey to mindless conformity. Young people today are faced with a vast array of rules and regulations, which are often blindly accepted without thought to secondary outcomes. We need to encourage them to give careful thought to their actions, to abide by the law, but to never slip into any type of compliance without giving careful thought and attention to possible consequences.
We also need to become actively involved in shaping the future of our profession. This often involves forcing ourselves out of that “comfort zone” that I referred to in the spring newsletter. Most of us did not seek a career in dentistry because of an affinity for politics and policy-making. Unfortunately, if we choose to be complacent about political matters, we are likely to have fewer professional “choices” available to us in the future. When I first started my dental practice, I would often omit my EDPAC contribution (it was voluntary at that time). I felt that it had little personal value to me. I now consider it the most important part of the yearly check that I send to the ADA. Having knowledgeable lobbyists representing our political interests is the only possible way to maintain our professional freedoms, and ultimately the welfare of our patients. EDPAC is our most important voice in changing or curbing unwanted regulations. I encourage everyone who is able to give at the “Capital Club” level.
Finally, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president for the 2014 term. Although I entered the year with a bit of trepidation, I am concluding my term with a renewed respect for our dental profession and for our district. I have found the members of the Fourth District to be a dedicated, conscientious and committed group. It has been a year of change, including the successful completion of our first Mission of Mercy event, as well as the welcoming of our new Executive Director, Lynn Martin.
This is an exciting time for our profession, and for our district. The challenge will be moving forward with advances in technology and increased regulations while holding tightly to those core values that have kept us strong for the past 146 years. The Fourth District is blessed with dedicated members and strong leadership to meet these challenges.
I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season,
Loren Baim, D.D.S.