Looking Back? No, Looking Forward!

Dr. Chris Delecki reflects on his term as WSDA President.
Christopher DeleckiOne of my most informative and enjoyable tasks as WSDA president this past year was meeting WSDA members during component visits and frequenting the dental school for the assorted “Lunch & Learns” and other activities with the students. During this “Age of Social Media,” I remain a strong proponent of meeting with individuals, discussing issues and exploring common interests and concerns “in the flesh!”

Over my previous seven years as a board member, including my year as president-elect, I often wondered whether WSDA functioned as a “trade” or a “professional” organization. Just prior to starting my term as WSDA president I did a Google search to help me sort out the similarities and differences between the two entities. My research led me to conclude that a trade organization primarily focuses on maximizing the success of its members, while a professional organization directs its attention and energies toward activities that are in the “best interest of the public.”

Consequently, my conversations and presentations this past year with members and future members often opened with the WSDA mission and vision statements which highlight the importance of optimizing oral health among our patients and the public we serve.  

To accomplish this, we must do two things! First, we must continually work to strengthen our role as the predominant “experts in oral health.” We can no longer remain insulated small business operators reacting to our environment. Instead, we must proactively build stronger relationships with individuals and organizations in our community to promote our profession and professional organization as the leader in oral health care delivery. Second and most importantly, we collectively must assume responsibility for the individuals who have limited access to optimum oral health. Our profession needs to move with passion, authority and expediency to expand the opportunity for optimum oral health care to more individuals! If we don’t take the lead in this area, other stakeholders will, and the results will not be favorable for our profession.

My year as WSDA president has been a whirlwind of time dominated by issues such as dental benefits, illegal corporate practice and the proliferation of midlevel providers. All of these three issues could have a disrupting effect on our profession and most importantly on patient care. It is noteworthy that the WSDA, its dedicated staff, its officers and board of directors, its consultants and especially its membership were stirred to respond to these disruptive forces this past year. I want to thank everyone for their time and support in these efforts!

From my observation, organized dentistry is better positioned than ever before to deal with these three challenges. Therefore, as we look to the future of our profession, we must not be distracted by these past battles. Going forward, how best to provide access to dental care for the millions of Americans who rarely see a dentist will dominate the oral health conversations at both the state and federal levels.

Unless we actively engage in these conversations, decisions on the structure and funding of the Medicaid and Medicare programs will be made without the benefit of our profession’s input. We must increase organized dentistry’s role in the decision-making process for improving the oral health of everyone in our state and our country. As we continue to provide optimum oral health and place patient care first for all individuals, we must remember — and help other stakeholders and elected officials recognize — that “we ARE the experts in oral health!”

The views expressed in all WSDA publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions or policies of the WSDA.

This editorial originally appeared in the Summer 2019 Issue of the WSDA News Magazine. Members can log in to read the full issue.