We should all give back for the privilege of practicing our wonderful profession. Dentistry provides us with so much; it just makes sense to give back for the gifts that our profession bestows upon us. What are those gifts? They include a competitive salary, a clean and professional place to work, a team of allied dental health professionals with which to work, and the privilege to be called “Doctor.” Our patients trust us to “Do no Harm,” and they expect clinically acceptable results from our treatment. We must be lifetime learners and we must strive to practice an evidence based art and science of dentistry.
How can we give back? To whom should we give? I choose to be involved in leadership, education, and the community. It is a good idea for all of us to take time during the week to get out of our offices. Not only is dentistry stressful on our bodies, the daily management responsibilities of a dental practice can increase the stress of life leading to health problems. Dr. Walt Weber, SCCDS-Past President said, “It always seemed to me that those dentists who could afford to leave the office to serve the community must be doing pretty well!” I will highlight some of the things I am doing in the community that break up my week and give me the opportunity to get out of the office, participate in lifetime learning, and give back to the profession and the community.
Allied Dental Health Education
This month, I have visited the dental assisting programs at San Jose City College (SJCC) and Foothill College (Foothill). I also visited the dental hygiene program at Foothill College. Establishing a collaborative relationship with the program directors can lead to the placement of well trained dental auxiliaries in our offices. The program directors, Edna Dolatre, RDA at SJCC, Cara Miyasaki, RDA at Foothill, and Phyllis Spragge, RDH, MA at Foothill are appreciative of the dentists’ involvement in their educational programs. Our SCCDF has committed to fund $10,000 for yearly scholarships to the allied dental health education programs. Scholarships have the potential to rise from $250 to $1000 per student.
I have been privileged to have been an adjunct associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Pacific-Dugoni, School of Dentistry, for 19 years. I teach DDS students at the school on the second Tuesday of the month, and I teach the OMS residents at Highland Hospital on the fourth Tuesday of the month. I also lecture seven hours in the integrated clinical sciences course on ambulatory anesthesia in dentistry. My students are very smart, and I need to be prepared for them every time I teach. This really keeps me up on my didactics and their clinical correlations. Our dental schools appreciate volunteer educators, and they need them desperately. The cost of dental education is at crisis proportion, so offer to teach! Establishing collaborative relationships with faculty is a benefit to being in a dental school environment. It is a great way to continue on your journey of lifetime learning.
Office Evaluator for the Dental Board of California
The Dental Board of California (DBC) requires us to attend 50 units of CE per two year licensure cycle. For OMSs with a General Anesthesia Permit, we are required to attend 24 units of continuing education (CE) that pertain to anesthesia. Many of us who hold the permit become DBC anesthesia evaluators. I try to do at least two office evaluations per year, leading to 8 units of CE credit in Anesthesia per licensure cycle. The candidates for the permit are evaluated every five years. They must demonstrate surgery with anesthesia on a live patient and perform 13 simulated emergencies with their dental anesthesia team. These evaluations are a great way to learn how other providers deliver ambulatory anesthesia (taking note of what they might be doing incorrectly). Safety is paramount. I evaluated an office in Gilroy this month with Dr. Paul Carroll. The permit holder did very well and it was a great learning experience for the dentist, evaluators and staff. Anesthesia evaluators are in short supply. If you maintain an anesthesia permit with the DBC, please get out in the community and become an evaluator!
Federally Qualified Health Centers
There are multiple Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) within the boundaries of the SCCDS. They include Gardner Family Health Center, Indian Health Service, and Foothill Health Center. All of these facilities have dental clinics. I visited the Gardner Family Health Center earlier this year and I was given a tour by our own Secretary-Elect Dr. Shakalpi Pendurkar and Board Member Dr. George Barghouth. I also attended the 50th Anniversary Gala for the Gardner Family Health Center this year with Dr. Shakalpi Pendurkar and Dr. Kelly Nix, my wife. It was a wonderful event and it raised funds from generous community groups and individuals to support the good work that they do at Gardner. The FQHCs provide health services and dental care to all in the community, but they specifically serve those with Medi-cal and Denti-cal. Access to dental care is our problem to solve as a profession. I am excited to see the efforts of these community health centers to provide services to those in need.
Collaborating with our Elected Officials
Three months ago, I hosted a meet-and-greet with community leaders and staff from the SCCDS at my office. We hosted Mr. Evan Low, Assemblyman from the 28th District, representing Cupertino, Campbell, West San Jose, Los Gatos and Saratoga. Advocacy is so important for dentistry, and all politics are local. Take time to get to know your representatives to your city, county, state and federal governments. They develop policy and make laws that affect the daily practice of dentistry. Attend their community functions; visit them in their state, national, or district offices. Join a political action committee, like the SCCDPAC, by donating funds for the support of political candidates that are attentive to issues important to dentistry. I also attended the COMPAQ Barbeque two months ago. This Chamber of Commerce function brings community leaders and elected officials together for camaraderie and collaboration.
Charitable Work to Support our Foundation
Here’s an opportunity to give back locally that doesn’t even require you to leave your office. Our own Santa Clara County Dental Foundation partners with several community organizations such as Next Door: Solution to Domestic Violence; the Salvation Army; PRERNA, which serves refugees here through the federal resettlement program, and others to provide general dental care to individuals who have little access. Might you volunteer to take 1-3 patients a year and provide pro bono care? The Foundation has guidelines, protocols and patient agreements to vet referred patients to make sure these are patients who need and will appreciate our help. What a wonderful chance to give back to help someone gain more confidence to get an education, a job, and move on in life. Contact the Foundation at 408-289-1480 if you can help.
Get out of your offices and reach out to the community! Find a group in dentistry or healthcare that can benefit by your gifts of time, talent and treasury. This service will help us grow professionally, could be our pathway to lifetime learning, and will extend our practice lifetime decreasing the constant stress of the dental profession on our minds and bodies. We are truly privileged to receive the benefits from the great profession of dentistry.
Ned L. Nix, DDS, MA