Things We Need to Hear Most—Thoughts for a New Dentist

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By Kevin Sessa, D.D.S., CDA Past President
From the Summer 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Taking on a leadership role can help new dentists make a difference.

I heard something simple yet profound last week: “Sometimes the things we want to hear the least are the things we need to hear the most.” As new dentists wrestle with the stress of a new practice, those huge student loan payments, perhaps a new home, a new car or maybe an expanding family, the pressures of debt and responsibility can seem overwhelming at times. Believe me, albeit a long time ago, I have been there and done that! The need to produce and collect enough just to meet your obligations can be daunting. Do you remember back a few years ago to dental school when your biggest worry was if that bridge, denture or implant would fit? Will I pass my national and regional boards? Will I graduate? Those stresses, which seemed astronomical at the time, probably seem rather small in comparison to your present pressures … correct?

As you face these and other pressures and decisions, taking on a leadership role in your local, state or national dental association would not be feasible at this time, right? It would mean more time away from your practice, your family and your recreation. You just cannot do it now. You really would like to do it, so in the future, down the road, when life gets easier, you tell yourself: “I WILL get involved.” Guess what, doctor—life only gets more complicated and time gets more compressed.

So I ask you to step back from those present pressures for a moment and refocus, rethink and re-envision your mission. We all complain about the outside forces that negatively impact our ability to do what we need and want to do professionally to survive. In my over 30 years of dental practice, those outside pressures, which come from legislators, bureaucrats and third party payers (and the list goes on), have grown exponentially and will continue to do so. The challenges that face our profession now and into the future will require outstanding leadership to provide the profession with reasonable solutions to these difficult issues, and it is incumbent on your generation to take the lead. If you don’t or won’t, the solutions that arrive at your door step will continue to come from those outside parties and will affect your ability to practice in a way that, assuredly, you will find more burdensome and more intolerable.

Often, I have said that if you won’t accept a leadership role or work to make positive differences for your profession, then you do not have the right to complain about what you get if you let someone else dictate the way you must practice, how you get paid and how you comply with ever-increasing regulations.

I have witnessed firsthand the positive changes that can occur when outstanding leadership acts to bring an association together to work for a common goal. When we do so, our profession and our patients benefit, and that is inspiring. However, leadership that does not change also does not grow. New leaders bring new vision along with new voices and new commitments to service our profession. Are you that person who brings those positive influences to our profession through leadership in your component, at the CDA or the ADA?

Our sixth president of the U.S., John Quincy Adams, said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Are you willing to sacrifice a bit of your practice time and your family time and your recreation time to lead your colleagues as you work together to accept the ongoing challenges and create positive changes in our profession that are meaningful and maybe even visionary?

I strongly encourage you to consider stepping up at the component or state level. Develop those leadership talents that I know you have within you. If you do so, I guarantee you will inspire others to dream more, become more and do more. In other words, you will become the leader you were meant to be. And that leader is the foundation of your practice and personal success.