A Look Back to the Future

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greg-hillhrBy Greg Hill, J.D., CDA Executive Director
From the Spring 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

On April 5, 1887, in a downtown Denver dental office, 10 pioneering dentists met and created the Colorado State Dental Society. Over the next 130 years, this organization would, of course, become the Colorado Dental Association, and has grown from those 10 Denver dentists to more than 3,300 members across the state.

While the CDA has grown and the profession has changed dramatically since those early days, the 130th anniversary of our association presents an opportunity to look back at how this organization was formed and to those pioneering forefathers.

Over these next several months, the CDA will recognize this history on our website and through social media and speaking opportunities. It is important to understand where we came from, how the organization has transformed over the past 130 years from the days of Doc Holliday to the high speed technology based world of today.

But as important as it is to understand and celebrate this history, the 130th anniversary presents an opportunity to look to the future. What will the CDA look like in 10 years…20 years…let alone 130 years? Similar uncertainty exists today with the future of healthcare as it did in the early days of dental education when Dr. William Gies, widely regarded as the father of modern dental education, traveled the country, seeking to connect the mouth to the rest of the body by integrating oral health and overall health.

When the CDA Executive Committee gathered for its annual leadership retreat last July, we embarked on the beginning stages of a strategic plan not focused so much on the issues that face the profession, but on the strength of our organization. How do we as an organization grow internally so we can exercise more leadership externally? This included examining our dentist marketshare, which had decreased 10 percent over the past six years, the way we conduct business in the organization through our governance and how we better connect our membership to the member benefits that we offer.

These are challenging questions that require innovative solutions if we are to grow the membership, increase non-dues revenue and gather more influence as we fulfill our mission as the leading advocate for oral health in Colorado. To have a strong and vibrant organization, I believe it’s critical that we are successful in all three of these areas. At what point, with a 10 percent marketshare decrease in six years, could we lose our legislative influence? Imagine in 12 years if that rate were to continue; a legislator could ask the question, “who represents the other 50 percent of the dentists in Colorado?” This obviously isn’t an option for reality. The CDA represents strength in numbers and these numbers allow us to protect our profession and keep patients safe through advocacy efforts.

The strategic plan we adopted in January seeks to achieve three specific goals: ensure an efficient and viable organization for the future, create the infrastructure for the recruitment and retention of members and ensure quality dental care for all Coloradans.

Just as the founding fathers sought to create a successful dental society 130 years ago, we are committed to creating the same successful future. In 1959, William A. Douglas wrote “A History of Dentistry in Colorado 1859-1959” and told the rich history of organized dentistry in our state. We have a story we will tell one day as well. Together, we can make it a successful story.