If you’re a new grad, you’ve definitely asked yourself this question about organized dentistry.
“What’s in it for me?”
If no one has said this to you before, I see you and acknowledge the challenges that you face as a new doctor. It’s a balancing act. You’re working long hours, gaining speed and proficiency, learning how to communicate effectively with your staff and patients, taking continuing education, paying off student debt, and of course trying to maintain some semblance of work-life balance.
So when it’s time to renew all of those wonderful organized dentistry memberships, you end up wondering, “Well, what am I paying for?”
I struggled initially with the answer to that question. The biggest barrier to dentists renewing their membership seems to focus on cost. Three years out of school, I felt burnt out in my profession and began wondering why I pursued dentistry in the first place.
There was an opportunity to attend my dental society’s annual meeting. I went alone and sat at a table full of unfamiliar faces. The moment I sat down, I looked across the table and made eye contact with an older dentist with kind eyes and a warm smile. He introduced himself and his wife to me, who were both dentists. My first thought was, “Wow, I feel so welcomed and accepted.” My second thought was, If this is how his chairside manner with his patients is, I can learn a lot from him.
This chance encounter led me to learning more about his successful practice of over 21 years. Ultimately, we developed a professional relationship where I’ve received mentorship in practice management, treatment planning and a crash course in occlusion.
At the same event, the guest speaker that night was Laila Hishaw, D.D.S. She is a pediatric dentist and is the founder of the nonprofit “Diversity in Dentistry.” Wow! As we all know, mentorship is a gift for the mentee and the mentor. We can all reflect back on our own experiences and identify those mentors who gave us their time and talents to help us reach our goals. I felt so moved by her mission that afterwards I went up to her and through conversation realized that she was looking for additional mentors for her high school workshop at Spear! I jumped at that opportunity. It was a great honor to mentor high school students and guide them to a rewarding career in dentistry.
At one organized dentistry event, I had two chance encounters that positively impacted my personal and professional life. After that evening I gradually became more involved within my local dental society. I currently serve on the society’s council on membership, with the to recruit and retain members, along with developing innovative programs for new dentists.
As humans we all seek connection. That much is obvious as we think back to how the pandemic isolated us. In such a digital world where we can get advice and approval and communicate via social media, we lose the value of face-to-face interaction. In an age where we face the real struggles of staff shortages, increasing costs of materials, decline in reimbursement rates of insurance companies, know that your local and national societies are working on protecting our profession through advocacy, volunteering, and CE opportunities.
As dentists we can choose to disconnect, work alone on a island by ourselves, or we can choose to seek connection and grow together to improve our profession for the future. I’ve experienced the power of organized dentistry on the local, state and national level and I hope that you will see the value of organized dentistry.
For me, the answer to my original question is: I’m involved in organized dentistry to better myself, my patients and the future of our profession. When we work together united as one voice, we as a whole are stronger. It’s very simple to dismiss organized dentistry or think that it’s archaic, but ask yourself: Have you truly given organized dentistry a chance?
Elieza Yonan, D.M.D., graduated from Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine-Arizona in Glendale, Arizona. She currently works as an associate in a private practice in Tempe, Arizona. She also serves on the council of membership with the Arizona Dental Society and is a peer reviewer for the Journal of Periodontal Research.