Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

Serious deja vu right now. Have I written this exact blog before? For some reason, as I write the title, I think that I am going to have to go back and look over the blog titles to make sure (if it is a repeat, I'll put the #2 in the title).

I'm not a big fan of silence. Well, that may not be entirely true. I love absolute silence but only when it is "active" silence. Does that make sense?

Kind of oxymoronic I know, but I love silence with a purpose: prayer, contemplation, reflection. I have gone on multi-month "noise fasts" where I don't watch TV, listen to music, etc. . .its amazing what can come from "active silence." Actually, that is how I decided to stay in KC and hang out a shingle instead of moving back to my hometown and buying a practice/associating.

However, silence simply because no one is around, and I can't get motivated to move is not good for me. No deja vu here, I know I've said this many times; the voices in my head really get talking when it is quiet. My stress level increases. Heart starts palpitating funny and I'm always tired. I have a hard time being motivational at the office, self-image drops. . . you get the idea.

I have all this "passive quiet time" right now because we are experimenting with a new schedule this summer. And by "experimenting," I mean trying something new that the staff suggested and that Dr. Crowder agreed to in a moment of weakness and without thinking it through. This summer we are working 7am - 3pm with no break. Now, that is probably not a big deal to many of you. I have a number of friends that work a similar schedule. However, I have discovered that I need a lunch break to clear my mind and get ready for my afternoon. More importantly, I need to get off work closer to the time my wife gets off work because otherwise I have too much free time and end up doing nothing at all - hence the "passive quiet time."

Also, I quickly realized that my staff still get a lunch break; I just pay them to take it. Now, I'm not cheap but that starts to get under my skin when I'm in the middle of a large restorative case and my stomach is growling in the patient's ear 'cuz daddy needs to eat and I can smell the leftovers being warmed in the microwave.

Oh, and by the way, I don't get to say it often and you all choose to read my depressing rants so often I should pass along the good news also - we are having a great month. Best June ever and 2nd best month of all time. We have turned a corner after 2 1/2 absolutely awful months. Maybe it is merely a bounce in the midst of a double-dip recession but maybe it is the start of a hot streak for my office.

So what am I going to do to keep the hot streak going? Yep, I'm going to close the office and attend the AGD House of Delegates and Annual Meeting.

But, I'm sure the remaining days in July will blow me away - the voices, however, are not so sure (in fact, they're pretty darn convinced that I'm an idiot). Which brings me back to Monday's subject - the House of Delegates (HOD).

I mentioned the PAC on Monday. I mentioned it because, as a Delegate, I have to tell you I think it may be the big topic of the HOD this year and I honestly do not have a feeling about which direction it will go.

Part of me wonders if the general membership cares - for that matter, part of me wonders if the general membership realizes that the AGD is a stand-alone organization and not the ADA's little brother. This distinction might be enhanced if we didn't have a group of active members in the AGD who seem to be constantly concerned about offending the ADA (for instance, I'm sure this blog will be offensive to the ADA and should be censored) - I guess I have not been around long enough to know better but I would like to think that all of the work I and my fellow delegates/leaders are doing is going to help this organization - the AGD.

I'm sure I'm not the only dentist closing the office for a few days during a "hot streak," and I want to believe that there is a lofty ideal in serving this profession. And by "profession" I mean GENERAL DENTISTS. I know that the other alphabet organizations serve their professions first (AAOMS, AAO, AAP, APA, AAPD, ADEA, AHA, etc. . .), so I am not ashamed to say that I serve General Dentists first - and the only way I can do that is through the AGD. Thanks to my leadership role in the AGD, I have had (and hopefully will continue to have) an opportunity to work with the other specialty organizations and the ADA.

As a general dentist, I have chosen to belong to 2 organizations - an umbrella organization that, by its own mission statement, looks out for the public and the dental industry as a whole (ADA) and a specialty organization that looks out for the general dentist specifically (AGD).

I love that we have that in dentistry. As a recovering lawyer, I have been a member of an organization that had no specialty groups to work with (and, quite frankly, rein in) the umbrella organization (the ABA). That lends itself to a national organization with a rather myopic view of issues. Multiple specialty groups communicating their perspectives lends depth to an issue - binocular vision, so to speak.

I am taking off work, during a hot streak, and traveling to New Orleans, during a heat wave, because I have been given the privilege of being a leader charged with looking out for general dentists. Now, no offense to the ADA or the specialists out there (I love you dad), but I'm not going to take off work (did I mention I'm on a hot streak) for the betterment of, for example, the Orthodontists. I mean, I love my Orthodontists (and I love you dad) but they have their own organization to look out for them. They can take off during their own hot streak.

I am going to the Deep South to deal with mundane issues like forming an AGD PAC; donating to an advocacy fund; setting mid-term election term limits on Regional Directors; establishing a policy on general dentists using dermal fillers and Botox; and other types of issues, because there are thousands of GENERAL DENTISTS who do not care - they want others to deal with these issues whilst they remain in their ignorant bliss. [Cue Jack Nicholson,"You want men like me on the wall?. . .You want the truth? You can't handle the truth."]

What really gets under my skin at these meetings is when we get confused as to why we are there. When we start to play the politics (even though my lawyerness loves the politics). When we start to use the rules of order as an offensive weapon instead of allowing them to be a passive guide to civilized discourse. I say this as a reminder to myself because I am guilty of falling into its siren-esque call each year and I am telling myself this year that I don't want to debate simply for the intellectual stimulation. I want to spend my time debating the merits of an issue, not wasting energy and time on parlimentary red-tape.

I want to spend time in the balmy city of New Orleans to help GENERAL DENTISTS. I am not there for the other delegates, the Board, the Regional Directors or the ADA. I am there for the dentist down the street. The dentist who may not even be a member of AGD - may not be involved in organized dentistry at all. But is a dentist who, whether he knows it or not, needs someone to stand up and fight for his/her right to independently practice excellent dentistry as the hub of the dental team. Someone to fight to prevent 3rd parties from determining what treatment is allowed or what treatment must be referred. Someone to fight for the wet-fingered dentist who doesn't have time to conduct a double-blind-randomized-clinical study just to confirm that sealants work. Someone to fight to prevent another alphabet organization from trying to limit the scope of a General Dentist's practice. Someone to lobby the Federal Government (hopefully alongside the other specialty organizations and the ADA) to ensure that the public has access to CARE not simply access to a person with a mouth mirror and some ZOE. Someone to fight for the members of the AGD who spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars taking continuing education that makes them the very best of their profession.

If I don't fight for it, who will? And if the fight is meaningless, why the hell am I putting my practice on hold during a hot streak? This blog is called "The Daily Grind," and this is my grind right now - I am taking a break during a hot streak and I am excited to do it because it is for an organization that I love and that, I believe, cares about helping me maintain that hot streak.

A man cannot serve 2 masters. I hope that next week I can be a delegate that is serving General Dentistry by being a member in the AGD. If you haven't been paying attention to the news for the past several years, there is a real fight coming in the near future. A fight that could change the practice of dentistry as we know it. The lawyer side of me knows that if we don't get organized now we (general dentists) are going to be left out of the discussion. If I wanted to be an examiner and referring general practitioner, I would have gone into medicine.

I'm going to end this journey through inspirational, sappy land with this: If you are not involved in the AGD -why not? If you are involved in the AGD - why are you not more involved?

Have you hugged your delegate today?

Have a great week.



Cynthia Becker DDS MAGD said...

Hooray for you! We need more folks who actually enjoy campaigning for the little general dentist toiling in the trenches every day. It made my day to know that someone who has passion for "the right" is in there swinging for the fences. Good luck with Silly Season! And BTW, I think a PAC is a good idea in this political climate. Dr. Becker

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your hot streak. I hope it continues right where it left off when you get back. Have a blast in New Orleans - you deserve it.

Stan Hardesty said...

Good commentary Ric! I am glad that I too believe in the formation of our own PAC. You speak very loudly and passionaltely to legislators when you speak with your own dollars. Pight hard for me too... unfortunatley my region will probably oppose althought I hope some will see the light.


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