Our Common Link

Kelsey Creehan Featured News

By Carrie Mauterer, D.D.S., CDA President
From the Spring/Summer 2020 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Wow…what a year to take on the CDA presidency. I have big shoes to fill and a very important year to wear those shoes. I am excited that this year of leadership has finally arrived. None of us know what 2020 still has in store but if we have proven anything already this year, it’s that we can overcome more than we realize when we have the same goal.

I think the easiest way to tell you a little bit about myself is to share two stories that really define who I am and the leader I plan to be this year for the CDA.

The first story is my origin story. The beginnings of my journey becoming a dentist.

The first year I applied to dental school at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, I received a flat “no.” My prerequisite courses were not in proper order and I had to retake a couple of courses before reapplying. The second year I applied I was invited to interview but I received my “negative ghost rider, the pattern is full” letter. The third year, I remember being asked a question by the faculty member who was leading my interview. He asked me, “What will you do if you are not admitted to our incoming class this year?” Although it stung to even hear the question, I paused only briefly and responded to him saying, “I will apply again next year. And the year after that. And the year after that until I prove to you that I deserve a chance.” I got into the incoming class of the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in the year 2000 (off of the waiting list, four days after school had already begun). I tell you this story because the role of CDA president requires persistence and optimism, and I have plenty of those qualities. I will use my persistence…ahem…stubbornness and my optimism to push the CDA forward through whatever challenges this year may still bring.

Fast forward to the second story, which happened a few weekends ago. My husband and I are renovating a house and decided to chase down a claw foot bathtub listed on Craigslist for a steal of a deal. Once we dragged it down the mountain from Central City to Broomfield, we congratulated each other on our victorious prize and began to unload it. It was then that we realized we were one claw foot short. The little red iron foot had fallen off the trailer somewhere on our journey home. My husband went through all the stages of grieving for that little red foot from denial to anger to sadness. He started looking online for a new set of feet for our little red tub. I told him we would find the original out there wherever it fell off the trailer and he could stop looking to purchase replacements. There was no way I was going to pay for tub feet when I knew that little foot was out there waiting for us. I’m way too much of a budget hawk. (Side note: I will be watching our CDA pennies just as much as my own because those pennies represent our dues; and those pennies are a serious matter to me). The next morning, I dragged him out of bed, and we divided and conquered the entire journey back up to Central City. I walked the side of Highway 6 while he drove back up the mountain. Low and behold, he spotted the little red foot just down the road from the seller’s house, right in the middle of the road. I know this is a fairly silly story, but once again you can see my relentless optimism.

I need each of you to know that we all are going to be OK. You are going to be OK. Your family and your livelihood will thrive. The dental profession is as stubborn as I am. We have navigated through choppy waters before (like the 2008 great recession and the HIV crisis in the 80s) and our industry always rebounds. It is all going to be OK.

My practice experience as a dentist over the last 15 years has spanned from a start-up practice in a space-sharing environment all the way up to building a 5,500 sq. ft. beauty with my business partner. I worked at a Medicaid clinic in Fort Collins while building my private practice and later in 2017, I partnered with a DSO and became a supported dentist. The phrase “supported dentist” means I am an associate dentist working for a dental support organization. I have been so much happier as a supported dentist than I ever was as a private practice owner. I don’t say this to push the DSO work model on anyone; I say this to begin a conversation about work models in order to increase awareness and understanding. For me and for the group I joined, the supported model works best for us. My hope is that my varied practice model experience will allow me to guide the CDA to be as inclusive and cooperative as possible with all doctors working in all practice models. My goal as the new CDA president is to represent dentist members participating in all practice models in whatever way works best for them.

I will always be grateful to my two dental mentors, Dr. Michael Scheidt and Dr. George Gatseos. They were the first member dentists to welcome me into the warm community of the tripartite. They talked me into my very first leadership position as MDDS editor and their positive encouragement keep me inspired.

And what about my most influential mentor? Well, she is a woman whom I’ve never met.

Dr. Ameila Susan Savage was my great grandmother and was also one of the first women to graduate with an M.D. degree from Northwestern University Women’s Medical School back in 1902. It is amazing to me to think of the drive she needed to acquire not only a medical degree but also to bend gender roles and defy expectations. Her grit must have been unmatched to accomplish what she did. Sadly, she never practiced medicine. Back then, women had to make the choice of a family or a career and (lucky for me but unlucky for the medical community) she chose to have a family.

I am privileged to live in a time when I can choose both a family and a career, and I have dentistry to thank for that. This is why I’m so dedicated to serving and protecting our profession through organized dentistry.

My intentions for leadership of the CDA are fairly simple this year. As the spokeswoman of the CDA, it is more important than ever to unify our voice to keep the CDA the powerhouse that it is. I am determined to push our association’s diversity to new levels, to build membership trust and increase participation so that all of you can be the change you want to see in this association.

The CDA Board of Trustees is responsible for the mission, vision and direction of our association and as president, it is my job to ensure we have included all voices of the CDA regardless of practice model, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age and all other aspects of diversity. We are a progressive state and we lead the nation in including more voices than most states, but we can do even better. We are still missing some important voices. My job is to include all our voices and unify them.

As I watched the events unfold regarding the COVID-19 crisis, I paid close attention to the different examples of human behavior I saw.

Bravo to all the hard work that our state dentists and staff accomplished. During the endless virtual meetings of March, April and May, our association’s leaders kept the best interest of the profession and our public close to their hearts. I was so proud to be part of such an excellent and dedicated group of leaders.

As a first step of building and unifying our voice I want to offer you my perspective of what occurred in our profession since March 5, the day that Colorado confirmed its first case of COVID-19. I watched the uncertainty and then the panic build as we all grappled with the ever-changing news and rules. At first glance, the online arguments felt divided. Divisive opinions brought strong, harsh words quickly and I feared we were unraveling as a profession. When I looked a little deeper though, I found something beautiful. Underneath the fear driving the cruel words, underneath the rants and rages of the isolated dentist or hygienist or assistant sheltering at home, and underneath the relentless social media tags and insults, there was a common link. We all were trying to figure out how to do the right thing. At the bottom of all the ugliness was this beautiful notion of trying to find the right answers to do the right thing.

I was thrilled to see a huge CDA House of Delegates meeting this year with a record percentage of participants. I think that is a direct result of the wake-up call we all received on March 29 when Gov. Jared Polis ordered the temporary cessation of elective surgeries in Colorado. We have now all witnessed the important lesson of how political decisions can directly impact our daily lives and livelihood, and I know that has sparked a lot of thoughtful conversation.

So, my call to action for you is (very appropriately) the power of three:

Please come and share your thoughts on what doing the right thing means for the CDA. When engaging in debate, please remember that we all have a common intention. We all want to do the right thing and it is healthy for the association to have a difference of opinion in what this is. If you feel yourself heating up, take your mind back to that common intention and remind yourself that we are all trying to do what is best for our profession.

Second, volunteer for committee work and grassroots work. Be the change that you want to see in your CDA!

Third, relax, sit back, and enjoy the flight.  We play the long game at the CDA and for better or worse, procedures, rules and bylaws do not change quickly. Our goal is to continue to push forward without inducing volunteer fatigue. My goal is to help your volunteer work feel satisfying, productive and even fun.

I want to pass on one of my favorite quotes. Harriet Beecher Stowe once said, “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Thank you for giving me the chance to serve all our members in this capacity. I pledge to continue to protect our association and our profession