WSDA has been thoughtfully contemplating a more robust strategy for increasing the diversity of the Association and fostering a more inclusive and equitable organizational culture. In February, the WSDA Board unanimously adopted a DEI mission and strategic priorities focused on leadership development, mentorship, training, self-reflection, and advocacy.
For over a year, WSDA has been thoughtfully contemplating a more robust strategy for increasing the diversity of the Association and fostering a more inclusive and equitable organizational culture. Several factors have prompted this focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), including individual member and non-member feedback and a formal recommendation from the 2020-21 Task Force on Leadership Opportunities & Development convened by the 2019 House of Delegates. WSDA’s DEI Work Group (Work Group), founded in Summer 2021, has been working to move interest and intent into concrete action.
“I was inspired to get involved in this current DEI effort because of the passion I saw from emerging leaders in the Task Force on Leadership Opportunities & Development,” explained Dr. Ashley Ulmer, WSDA president and Work Group member. “I’ve heard too many stories from dentists who feel like they do not belong in our organization. I have only known the support and care of my colleagues in WSDA. As president, it is important to me that we take meaningful and immediate actions to help every dentist know and feel the same support that I have experienced.”
“I have been involved with organized dentistry at all three levels (Seattle-King County Dental Society, WSDA, and ADA),” said Dr. Gregory Ogata, WSDA past president and Work Group co-chair. “The membership increasingly wants us to champion DEI efforts and we are listening. Our work so far has been a small group of members and staff defining a mission and priorities. We are excited to share what we’ve developed, listen to feedback, and invite others to join us.”
So, what exactly is this work? In February, the WSDA Board unanimously adopted a DEI mission and strategic priorities focused on leadership development, mentorship, training, self-reflection, and advocacy. Both the WSDA Board and the Work Group envision that the new mission and priorities will serve as a guide for activities across the Association.
“Our new mission and strategic priorities build upon the important DEI efforts and activities undertaken by the ADA, component societies, and other dental organizations,” said Dr. Harlyn Susarla, Work Group co-chair. “Our ongoing work will honor these commitments while also continuing to inspire our Association and others to focus not only on sustained actions, but also new on initiatives.”
WSDA leadership sees DEI as an integral ingredient in the Association’s strategic planning and, ultimately, in achieving our mission of empowering members to advocate for and provide optimal oral health care.
If you are interested in joining the DEI Work Group or learning more about its work, please email Natalia Hilal at NataliaH@wsda.org.
The WSDA Board of Directors approved the following DEI mission and strategic priorities in February 2022.
WSDA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Mission and Strategic Priorities
Developed by the WSDA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Work Group, February 2022
The Washington State Dental Association is committed to fostering and supporting a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization. We strive to understand and embrace the lived experiences of our dental community by engaging and supporting all dentists and patients, especially those within groups that have been historically underrepresented in the Association.
WSDA’s mission is to empower its members to provide, advocate for and promote optimal oral health care. Ensuring that all people, regardless of disability, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, have equitable access to optimal dental care provided by dentists reflective of their community is paramount to achieving
Achieving our Mission
We acknowledge there is much to accomplish to achieve our mission of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Currently the dental profession is less diverse than the U.S. population, WSDA membership is less diverse than the dental profession at large, and WSDA leadership is less diverse than WSDA membership. While progress has been made toward addressing historical inequities in the dental profession, there is much work to be done. The WSDA is committed to enhancing diversity, promoting equity, and fostering a culture of inclusion within dentistry. Ultimately, this mission will be seamlessly integrated into the day-to-day practice of dentistry in the state of Washington, as well as within the activities supported by WSDA.
WSDA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Strategic Priorities
- To intentionally increase opportunities for mentorship, leadership, and professional development for dentists from groups that have been historically underrepresented in organized dentistry.
- To develop and disseminate resources for fostering a more inclusive dental community.
- To foster a culture of inclusiveness within the leadership and staff of WSDA through training, dialogue, and reflection.
- To advocate for public policy and other actions that increase opportunities for bringing individuals from historically underrepresented groups into the dental workforce and sustainably thrive within the community.
- To identify and mitigate current and historical barriers to obtaining equitable access to optimal oral health care for all.
Overcoming a History of Discrimination in Organized Dentistry
“Resolved, that all component societies of the American Dental Association be directed to eliminate from their bylaws and membership practices the following procedures which might be construed as discriminatory under the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
- Any procedure which requires more than a majority vote for the entrance of any dentist into membership in a component society.
- Any procedure which requires the submission of a photograph in connection with an application for membership in a component society.
- Any procedure which places an unreasonable requirement for the sponsorship of a dentist applicant.
- Any procedure which establishes an unacceptable period for the renewal of the application of a dentist who has been refused membership in a component society.”
- Policy adopted by the 1965 ADA House of Delegates in response to a Civil Rights Act of 1964 non-compliance complaint alleging that some African American dentists were denied membership into national, state, and local dental societies on the basis of their race.
“Since the origins of the ADA in 1856…through the passage of the Civil Rights Act, until 1963, ADA constituent and component societies denied membership to African American dentists against the dictates of the ADA Bylaws...These acts of racial discrimination contributed to irreparable harm and adverse health conditions for generations of African Americans for over 150 years…The National Dental Association deems it appropriate and necessary to insist on an apology from the American Dental Association for allowing these practices to continue as long as they did…We await your response and trust you will see the immediate benefit and value that a public apology will serve. Your action will begin the reconciliation process and serve to address the many national health care concerns of ALL Americans.”
- Dr. Nathan Fletcher, National Dental Association President, 2008
“The ADA regrets the discrimination demonstrated by a number of its state societies and local societies in the years before 1965. The ADA recognizes that all African American dentists’ lives have been affected by our nation’s discrimination history. In order to build a stronger, collaborative platform for our future accomplishments, the American Dental Association acknowledges its past mistakes and apologizes to the members of the National Dental Association and to all African American dentists. We cannot and must not forget the past, yet commit to move forward collaboratively to ensure the strength of our profession for those currently practicing and for those who will come after us. The ADA’s goal is to be a welcoming, member-led association representing the richness of a truly diverse profession, well positioned to serve the needs of all of our communities now and in the future.”
- Dr. Raymond Gist, ADA President, 2011