A conversation with Dr. Ron Snyder, WOHF’s new President
Recently, WSDA News sat down with Dr. Ron Snyder, President of the Washington Oral Health Foundation (WOHF), to find out how he became involved in the organization, and see what he would like the Foundation to do in the future.
How did you get involved with WOHF?
“I have been associated with the Foundation for years. I was active as a provider for the access program through WOHF for a decade or more, seeing elderly or disabled patients. Spence Jilek, who has his fingers in just about everything in organized dentistry, asked me to sit on the board, and I accepted. I had been involved with community dentistry in several different ways during my career, and this was just another way of expanding that arena statewide.”
How were you involved in community dentistry?
“I helped set up our local children’s dental day. We used to have a big treatment day, and I would generally take on the role of finding the staffing for that event. It was pretty easy in the Richland, Wash. area because local dentists are very eager to help, we have a dental hygiene program at Columbia Basin College, and there are several dental assisting schools. The program got pretty big at one point, but we actually ended up being able to discontinue the program because access for kids is so good in Washington. I was also the chair of the ABCD program in 1999. Again, it was Spence Jilek who called and asked me to a meeting. Spokane had started the program in ’95, and we were the second county to give it a whirl. We were kind of a training ground to tweak the program so that it could be duplicated around the state. Now, it’s statewide, and it has won national awards for its success. That was exciting. I was the chair of that for 10 years.”
What has surprised you most about the Foundation in your time on the Board?
“I like serving on the Board because it has given me the chance to see WOHF’s outreach in action, and see what is happening across the state. Before I became involved, I had no idea that other counties had their own outreach programs. I had no idea that many dentists do programs on their own in schools and Boys & Girls Clubs. It’s been great to see all this community dentistry going on because it’s not something you do to develop your practice, and you don’t get paid for it, it’s just outreach. I always like to see people volunteering for that.”
What would you like to see the Foundation do?
“The Foundation lacks good exposure to dentists in the state. A lot of the component societies don’t look at the Foundation as being part of the WSDA. I really think that we need to have people in every county who are ambassadors for the Foundation. The way we raise money is through our constituents, but if they have no knowledge of our programs, it’s very difficult to have them buy in. And I don’t just mean sending a check, but calling up to run a program with MTI in their church or community center, and helping to find the volunteers to make it happen locally. I think if that happened, our programs would just mushroom across the state. We’ll always need to educate kids, so I imagine that will be a part of our ongoing mission. But I believe our biggest population without access to dentistry is recent veterans, so I do a lot of those exams here in Richland. I get people from Lewiston, Oregon and Spokane. Not only do they have a tough time finding employment, but they have a tough time getting dental insurance, so their dental needs often go unaddressed. I think it would be wonderful if the Foundation could help in this area, too.”
What does the Foundation do that dentists may not be aware of?
“The Foundation exists to help our members do outreach in their community. We’re here to help the underserved get the care they need, whether it’s Title 1 schools, community centers, or senior enters, we have educational programs and materials that can be used by dentists across the state, and while you’re helping in your local community, you’re also working to make a name for yourself.”
What’s the best way to get involved?
“That depends on exactly what they want to do. If they want to work in their own community, then they need to use the Foundation to help them do it. Do they want to sponsor an MTI van, do they want to present educational programming or assist WOHF staff in a presentation, or do they want to do community work by participating in the Access Program to help the elderly and disabled? There are all kinds of options. There are portals of entries at different levels. You can be involved a little or involved a lot. If you want to be involved a lot, you can serve on the Board. We want to create opportunities for you no matter what you want to do. We’re promoting, always educating, and creating awareness for good oral health. And while it might seem counterintuitive, our educational goal is for nothing to happen — no caries, no gum disease, no tobacco-related cancers.”