Last night, I received an email with a link to a survey from the ADA. Their records show I’m not a member and they want my input. It was obvious they are becoming concerned about declining membership.
Subject: Tell us what you think.
The American Dental Association is interested in your perceptions about member value and opinions about ADA membership. Upon completion of this survey, you will be entered to WIN one of five $100 Visa gift cards.
Your participation is voluntary, but we would very much like your opinion. Please note that your answers to this survey are completely confidential and are only reported in aggregate. This survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
We appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us. If you have any questions concerning this survey, please feel free to contact me at 312.440.2864 or by replying to this email.
Please complete the survey by December 15. Thank you in advance for your assistance with helping us to collect this important information.
Chris C. Mitchell
Director, Membership Marketing and Research
The questions were fairly predictable… asking about my prior experience and satisfaction with what the ADA has done. They asked about my expectations of the ADA…. and so on. Rating them on various categories with a range from “disatisfied” to “very satisfied” or “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” At the very end, there was an opportunity to write additional comments in a text box.
This is what I wrote:
The ADA has abandoned me. You know who I am. You’ve read my blogs. You know where I stand. You know I’m very vocal. You even sicced your attorney on me for forgetting to remove my ADA membership from my website. He mentioned that he was aware of my derision for the direction the ADA has taken.
That said, it is dentists like me that you NEED as members. I have a rather big voice and presence in dental social media. When I like something people listen. When I don’t… they also listen. The ADA would do well to spend a bit of introspective time and think about why you’ve lost ground. You’d do well to gather a “focus group” of NON-members who are Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) for a pow-wow with the ADA.
I was an enthusiastic member. I “got involved.” I served on the local affiliate board all the way to President. I got involved, but I found that I stood alone in trying to bring the association into reality. Instead, I found the majority on the board were the “old guard” that insisted we “sit at the table” with political forces to work on the fictitious political football known as “access to care.” They cared about fluoride. They cared about schmoozing local liberal politicians. They cared about things that dentists in the trenches didn’t care about. They promoted the so-called “Direct Reimbursement” scheme that was doomed to fail. They spent ENORMOUS amounts of time debating the inane details of a local membership directory. They spent a lot of time recruiting members to give talks at local school kids (who could not be less interested). I used to say we had to form a committee to meet to decide whether to convene a committee to do something. And, very little got done.
Some of the things today’s dentists are concerned about:
The INSANELY high cost of dental school, leading to insurmountable debt by new dentists, most of whom will never be able to own their own practices. This has far-reaching effects, including a deleterious influence on the ethics of dentists.
The growth of “corporate dentistry,” with non-dentists at the helm.
The increasing interference by insurance companies in the doctor-patient relationship.
Perpetually increasing regulations by local, state, and national gov’t.
Our “reputation” or “standing” among professions.
Increasing vilification of dentists as “greedy” along with increasing attitude that they are entitled to our services.
The trend towards a possible “single payer” health system… that some would like to include dentistry (a really bad idea).
I could go on and on. I’ve gone on too long, already. I wish I could rationalize rejoining the ADA. I love Dentistry. I love being a dentist. My blog written for an audience of dentists averages 10,000 views per month. I am a dental cheerleader. But, I cannot cheer for the ADA. The ADA was lost a long time ago, and deeper in the weeds now than ever before. You’re in deep trouble with MY generation of dentists, and even worse for the younger generation. If you don’t get your shit together SOON, your organization is DEAD. Gone. Soon.
Two and a half years ago, I wrote an article “Why Can’t the ADA Be More Like the NRA?” Before you scoff or sniff contemptuously… before you dismiss it out of hand…. Take a moment to read it. It’s been read almost 3,000 times by my blog fans. And, it’s not as far-fetched or crazy as you might be prone to reflexively thinking. In particular, look at the financial numbers I present in the article. In that context consider the differences in the EFFECTIVENESS of the two organizations. http://thedentalwarrior.com/2014/04/28/why-cant-the-ada-be-more-like-the-nra/
That’s all for now. Best wishes and good luck.
A friend on the “inside” told me that ADA membership now stands at 52% of the profession. I remember when it was 80%. The iceberg was in clear view, yet it’s been “full steam ahead!”
Mind you, I assumed this would fall on deaf ears (and would bet money on it). So, my letter is hardly an exhaustive tome. My enumerated list of concerns is but a small vignette of the issues at hand. I could list many more, if I sat down and put my mind to it. I figured I made my point and didn’t see any reason to waste much more time writing a more comprehensive letter.
But, hey… I might win one of FIVE $100 VISA gift cards! The ADA values the opinions of non-members so much, they were willing to pony up a whole $500 to the effort! This is serious, folks!
It’s nice that the ADA is going through the motions of appearing to care. But, do they? Really? They are “investigating” why membership is plummeting. But, will they ACT on the information gathered? I admit to not being optimistic. When the leadership of the ADA is largely occupied by former insurance company executives, the conflict of interest is…. well… there it is.
Edit to add:
Hey everyone. Let’s add to the list I whipped up in the message to the ADA. I did that as stream of consciousness writing. Let’s focus a bit and come up with a thoughtful list. Add yours in the comments below, and then I’ll copy then to the article here:
8. “Foxes in the hen house”: Conflict of interest when our Executive Director and other executives have a conflict of interest such as a history of working for insurance companies and other corporate interests that are counter to the interests of practicing dentists.
9. The fact that dentists are the ONLY health professionals who are restricted from practicing anywhere in the country. No national reciprocity aka “licensure by credentials.” My brother, the neurosurgeon can practice anywhere. My sister the pediatrician can, too. Nurses, podiatrists, optometrists, veterinarians, etc… don’t have to take separate state board exams. They graduated from nationally-accredited programs and can practice anywhere. Wait… we also have nationally-accredited schools!
I can practice in ONE state. And, after 30 years of practice, if I want to move, I have to take another board exam! Crazy. It’s turf protection, plain and simple.
Anything I've ever written or write in the future is my opinion, and my opinion only. Read, ponder, repeat, or implement anything I've said at your own risk. Before doing so, consider consulting with: an attorney, the President, your BFF, the ghost of G.V. Black, your dog, or simply reconsider while contemplating your navel and sipping on a margarita.
I hereby declare myself an expert about nothing. It's up to you to decide how you will live your life.
That is all.
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