Albuquerque, N.M. — In the past, getting new dentists involved in organized dentistry felt almost like pulling teeth, said Dr. David Manzanares, secretary treasurer of the New Mexico Dental Association.
But looking at the NMDA’s House of Delegates meeting in June, he said, there was a sense of that changing.
“There was a feeling of the torch being passed from one generation to the next,” said Dr. Manzanares, who graduated in 2009 and has attended eight House of Delegates meetings in New Mexico. “It was one of the most amazing things.”
Of the 44 delegates during this year’s meeting, half of them were new dentists. It was the culmination of the state association’s — especially its New Dentist Committee’s — push to engage new dentists.
“From student debt and technology, new dentists face challenges that are very different for more experienced dentists,” Dr. Manzanares said. “It’s time for our generation to lead.”
And the new delegates didn’t just show up, they made their voices heard.
“You can’t complain about how things are going if you’re not willing to get involved,” said Dr. Stephanie Padilla, first-time delegate and a 2013 graduate of Baylor University School of Dentistry (renamed Texas A&M College of Dentistry).
Dr. Padilla co-authored a resolution requesting that insurers provide dentists the history of any services rendered to a patient under their plan.
“A lot of times, patients are poor historians,” she said, adding that some companies only provide a limited amount of information. “To have that information available, we can get a better sense of their treatment history and provide better continuity of care.”
The resolution passed.
It was Dr. Manzanares who reached out to Dr. Padilla and talked to her about the importance of new dentists providing input on the future of the dental field. The first-time delegate found the House of Delegates process fascinating — discussing issues that affect their professions, coming up with solutions, debating their ideas and ultimately voting on resolutions.
“The debates were absolutely incredible,” Dr. Manzanares said. “There were substantive discussions on several issues we talked about. People were engaged. And new members dove in really quickly.”
In recruiting new dentists to become delegates, it required some hard work.
Dr. Manzanares said NMDA and its New Dentist Committee leaders picked up the phone to invite new dentists to participate. They targeted new dentists from different specialties, those in private practices and those working in dental service organizations.
Dr. Joe Gherardi, NMDA New Dentist Committee chair, said his committee has engaged new dentists by doing a few social meetings — both throughout the year and around their annual convention, hosting new dentist-focused webinars, and by starting an annual new dentist symposium, a one-day event with a variety of speakers followed by a happy hour.
“Dentistry is both a successful career and efficiently run health care system because of its autonomy,” said Dr. Gherardi, noting that dentists of past generations have taken it upon themselves to make sure they are making the decisions on policies governing dentistry.
“If we want to enjoy this freedom and responsibility to provide the best care for our patients with the least amount of redundant inefficiencies, then we need future generations to do the same.”