Updated: May 17, 2019
Academic Year 2018-2019
New York Academy of Dentistry Inaugural Speech
“There is one individual, however, who rises above all others as my role model and mentor. He practiced for over forty years above a hardware store in Kearny NJ and was sometimes paid with a bag of Portuguese rolls or a box of fruit. His meetings were not at the Union League Club but were instead at the Lions Club. He taught me the value of character and the importance of ethics and to see my patients as people and not just a set of teeth and to always treat them as if they were a member of my family. That mentor was my late father, Robert Pitman, DDS”
I want to start off term as President of the New York Academy of Dentistry by asking, “What are we doing here?” Actually, I want to know if we are even relevant as an organization? Does a group such as ours, founded almost 100 years ago still have meaning and purpose? Organized dentistry is losing membership and younger dentists are struggling to pay back overwhelming student debt, let alone come to groups such are ours with their associated dues and expenses. Is it important to spend hours at the Union League Club after a hard day in the office? Wouldn’t it be easier to go home and watch Netflix or hang out with the kids?
I think that the answer to the above questions depend on what your view of yourself is and how you view dentistry and its relationship to society. The New York Academy of Dentistry has endured because it has core principles and values that have lasted through generations of dentists. Specifically our purpose is, “to uphold the dignity and honor of the dental profession; to exalt its standards; to extend its sphere of usefulness and to promote the advancement of dental science; to elevate the standards of dental education; and to exert an influence toward placing the activities of its members and of the dental profession upon the highest ethical and non-commercial plane.” The New York Academy of Dentistry, through its activities and membership, exemplifies the best that dentistry has to offer. It is worthwhile because it embodies what dentistry should be as a profession. If we strive to be better dentists, we will better serve our patients and our communities.
Our activities serve our purpose. The upcoming scientific programs to be presented at the Union League Club will excite and challenge our members. With the help of the Program Committee, we have recruited speakers who will engage our membership with lectures on a variety of topics. The Humanitarian Outreach Committee and its collaboration with World of Smiles and Donated Dental Services positively impact those without access to dental care. It is also a way for us to interact with globally minded younger dentists who share our commitment to helping others and who may later become fellows of the Academy. The Mentorship Committee also serves to develop and identify potential new members and guide them into serving the dental profession. Our Research Grant Committee advances dental science by fostering student research at our area dental schools. Support of dental science, as mentioned earlier, is a core value of our Academy. The Website and Publications Committee along with our editor, keep our membership informed and in the loop. They have exciting plans to make our Academy more user friendly and to modify our communications strategy to make it useful to our twenty first century membership. Whether by design or happenstance, our organization through these and other activities, is evolving into an organization that will continue to be relevant in our next hundred years. The New York Academy of Dentistry, and organizations like it, is facing critical issues related to its survival and position in the dental community. Can we adapt and embrace change while remaining true to our ideals and traditions? This is the fundamental question that I will be working on with our dedicated Board of Directors in the year ahead.
We hold a very special place in society as dentists. We are given a license that allows us to alter human tissues and thereby alleviate pain, suffering, and disfigurement. We may even occasionally recognize oral pathology, which, if identified and treated, can save a life. Dentists as a profession are primarily self-governed and must be vigilant to maintain the public trust that allows us this privilege. Unfortunately, there are forces at work that seek to erode or remove the position of trust in which the public holds us. These forces include greed as manifested by commercial interests that seek to have proprietary or non peer reviewed treatments taught to a few and not disseminated to the profession which is in violation of the ADA code of ethics. There are high dental school tuitions that test what the market will bear and that burden our graduates and their families with sometimes insurmountable debt or prevent less well off students from even considering our profession. In 2018 we are faced with a rise in corporate dental practices which may place production goals ahead of patient welfare. In recent years there has been a push for specialty recognition by boards rather than by rigorous training programs. Not understanding who is and is not a dental specialist can confuse dental consumers. In some states there are now non-dentist caregivers who work without the supervision of a dentist. There is also a lack of access to affordable dental care for many Americans who often forgo needed treatment because it is too expensive. All of these issues present worrisome challenges to dentistry. The New York Academy of Dentistry, through its bylaws, activities, and most importantly its members, serves as a countervailing force to those who would erode our trusted position in society. While we cannot solve all of dentistry’s problems, we are in leadership position in dentistry and can help to make a difference.
As President, I am following in the shoes of Joyce Johnson. While I am sure her shoe size is smaller that mine, I know it will be difficult to fill them. She has been a great leader filled with thoughtfulness and insight and will be a tough act to follow. Behind me is Gabriella Lee who is incredibly dedicated, kind and energetic. I was at Columbia with both of them when I did my postgraduate training and admired them for their incredible abilities then as I do now. I have an amazing Board and will be counting on Julie Connolly, Jerry Halpern, Yakir Artiega, and Mark Bronsky for hard work and guidance. I appreciate all those who guided me at the New York Academy of Dentistry, including Jon Roberts, John Lanzetta, Guy Minoli, Gene Farone , Tony Curinga, Bob Wein, and my former instructor and employer, the late Paul Tannenbaum who brought me as his guest to many of my first meetings and encouraged me to attend Board meetings. Mostly, of course, I want to thank Carol Bensky who I will be relying on heavily in the coming year. Of course there is my wife Susan who puts up with me and my late nights out at meetings. There is one individual, however, who rises above all others as my role model and mentor. He practiced for over forty years above a hardware store in Kearny NJ and was sometimes paid with a bag of Portuguese rolls or a box of fruit. His meetings were not at the Union League Club but were instead at the Lions Club. He taught me the value of character and the importance of ethics and to see my patients as people and not just a set of teeth and to always treat them as if they were a member of my family. That mentor was my late father, Robert Pitman, DDS