Jumping in With Both Feet

Krysia GabenskiFeatured News

By Brett Kessler, D.D.S., CDA President
From the Spring 2015 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

As I wind down my term as the 128th president of the Colorado Dental Association, I find myself in a reflective mood.  I wonder, did I make a difference? Was I an effective leader? Did I leave the organization better than when I found it?

In 2010, I was asked to serve on the CDA Executive Committee by, then treasurer, Dr. Ken Peters.  At the time, I was serving on the Metropolitan Denver Dental Society Board of Directors and was considering moving up to the executive level at MDDS.  Dr. Peters thought I would be a valuable resource at the CDA and asked me to consider running for CDA treasurer.

I had no treasurer skills—and if you ask my wife she will tell you that I still have no treasurer skills.

I had a business coach at the time who challenged me to look inward at my core values, compare them with the core values of the organizations that I was considering. When doing this, the CDA became the best choice for me.  I decided that I wanted to be president someday.  The only way for that to happen was to climb the ladder of the executive committee and for me that started with being treasurer.

I felt grossly unprepared and inadequate to be serving at this level so I leapt into a self directed study on leadership—both personal and organizational.  Every book I read, every leadership course I took, every potential and actual mentor that I sought out helped shape me to be the best leader that I could be.  Let me rephrase that—this helped me be the best “me” I could possibly be.

I am sure that every past leader in organized dentistry has asked himself/herself, “How will my time at the helm be remembered?” I quickly set my expectations that my legacy was to be created over the time spent on the board, not as my year as president.

Over the past five years, I have served with some of the finest people one could ever hope to find.  Each board member shaped the direction of the organization in their own way.  Additionally, the support from past leaders guided us from their experience and their love of the organization. We have spent thousands of hours in debate over issues that most dentists will never know.

I continue to have the utmost respect for all whom I have served with.  Each passionately brought a necessary perspective that represented the membership—demographically, geographically and philosophically. The time spent together has formed friendships that I value immensely.

Our board sought to be as transparent as possible.  We sought out opinions from new areas of practice.  We challenged the status quo at every turn. We looked to provide value to every member at every contact with us.

These are interesting times. The practice of dentistry is in flux.  Healthcare as a whole is in flux.  The way we used to practice is becoming more and more difficult. Every day, we are faced with challenges that are affecting the delivery of our services. We have communities of people in need of dentistry.

I can tell you that the CDA is on the correct path to make sure that dentistry is delivered to all people in our state at the highest possible level.  We, as a board, consider all options for the challenges we currently face and have come up with the best possible solutions.

I have met so many inspiring dentists across our state, both young and old—private, public health, corporate and solo practitioners—all looking to do the best for their patients.  I have met many legislators who now understand the value of our work.  They understand that we have our patients’ best interests in mind.  They appreciate the fact that we have collaborated with all the dental stakeholders across the state to assure that our patients are well cared for. They have publicly acknowledged the CDA as a model leader in healthcare in our state on several occasions.

I am inspired to see our members step up to fight against the anti-fluoridationists (or the “disbelievers of science”) and their initiatives.  They take time out of their practices to testify on various issues at the Capitol.  Our members continue to welcome and promote the value of organized dentistry to colleagues.  We have the highest number of members that we have ever had.  Our members continue to support CODPAC and ADPAC and understand the way politics can shape or misshape the delivery of dental care.  Our members continue to step up to leadership at the component, state and national levels.

I see a bright future led by amazing and passionate members.

Being on the right track is a good thing.  We cannot rest on our laurels.  We must constantly keep pushing forward; keep raising the bar.  We need to continue to seek input about what our members value and then deliver it.

This June, at our Annual Session, we will be doing just that.  We will facilitate a dental “mastermind mega-topic” discussion where every attending dentist will have a voice in creating how we will move forward.  In addition, the House of Delegates, our governing body, dictates the direction and focus of our activities for the upcoming year.  We need your experience, perspectives and voice to help take us to the next level.  Please consider becoming a delegate for your component.

Occasionally we get asked, “What does organized dentistry do for me?”

Organized dentistry advocates as a unified voice for our profession and the communities that we serve.  It offers collegial networking, continuing education, and valuable support from our endorsed companies.

Some will be our future leaders, some will not and that’s ok. Level of involvement is a personal choice and personal commitment.  If we are to remain a profession, everyone must do their part—and that is an individual choice.

As I mentioned, I came in feeling grossly unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.  I leave with a wealth of knowledge that can only be obtained through experience.  I know I have gotten somewhat wiser over the years. I hope to share my experience when asked in the future.

This experience has been fun beyond anything I ever could have imagined.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  I am forever grateful.