In reflecting on our recent meeting, I can see why so many people are clamoring to receive guest invitations. The projected clinics might have been the best in recent memory. That is, of course, until next year’s lineup! Behind the scenes, Curt Ringhofer (Arrangements), and Marco Brindis (Reception) along with Secretary-Treasurer Nader Sharifi, President-elect Betsy Bakeman, and Executive Secretary Cindy Metcalf are already working hard to create another exquisite event for all in attendance. The 2024 annual meeting is scheduled for February 24-25,2024, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.
As many of you heard in my acceptance, a moment of personal darkness has refocused my professional life. I am attempting to leave a legacy of development and promotion of young dentist, minority dentists, and female dentists. I am sure that you have noticed the shift in the demographic of the guests at our meeting in the last few years. Every year they continue to look more and more different than our Academy members and from the speakers on the podium. In speaking with our guests, they appreciate the quality of the program but can feel disconnected. The speakers typically are practioners that don’t look like them, or have practices like theirs, or face the same challenges. I would like to use to my year as President to being to remedy some of those discrepancies. I want them to see themselves on the stage next year, to motivate them to become the next pioneer. Drs. Brad Beckel (Essay) and Heath Balch (Clinic) along with their committees have done a brilliant job in formulating a program that followed my vision and will also meet the level of excellence expected from the Academy. I have said many times that membership in the AARD should be an acknowledgement of future greatness rather than a medal for a fruitful career. Next year, we will be highlighting the future greatness of dentistry from a young and diverse lineup. We will also be focusing on women dentists. Significantly more female speakers will be on the program than ever before.
The other aspect of professional development that I will be working on passionately this year is the Penn Jackson Young Dentist Recruitment Fund. The goal of the fund is to remove some of the financial burden of attending our meeting given the staggering cost of attending dental school and starting a practice. This fund does not reserve a guest seat at the meeting. That must still be obtained through a member. Once they have received their invitation to attend, they may apply for funding. Dentists in their first 8 years after dental school graduation may apply. Eight years is the minimum time that a dentist can be out of school and be eligible for membership. Dentists in residency will not be eligible as they already pay a significantly reduced fee. The funds will be transferred to the Academy and not to the dentist. The fund may be used 4 times. Four is the minimum number of meetings that are required before a candidate can be proposed for membership. We are pursuing matching funds from the Foundation’s education fund. Early indications are very positive. I will be sending more details and requests for participation soon. Hopefully, this will allow our Academy members to mentor the future leaders without a financial limitation placed on them until they are fulling invested in our organization.
As you heard from the Admissions report, we need more members. When Penn Jackson invited me to Chicago, the AARD membership hovered around 160, just shy of our maximum of 165. They would essentially replace members going to Life with new Active members. The last few years, we are dancing around 130. As importantly, we need members with time to serve. I became a member when I was 36 years old. At that time, the new members were routinely in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Lately, mentorship has been replaced by friendship as a criterion for new member proposals. Instead of finding the future, we are inviting people just like ourselves. I have worked in Academy committees every year for the last 24 years before becoming President. Members entering later in their careers simply do not have the time to devote to learning how the Academy works and enjoy the journey. While my vision for the program next year is to highlight the future, I am hoping to return to the past when it comes to membership and mentorship.