Sleepless in Seattle—Well, Almost

Dr. Richard Valachovic
In this month’s letter, ADEA President and CEO Dr. Rick Valachovic shares what you may have missed at the 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Seattle, Washington.

Here’s an anecdote that captures the energy at the 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Seattle. I heard it from Monday’s plenary speaker, political commentator Tucker Carlson.

“I spend an awful lot of my life in hotels, and in hotel gyms early in the morning, and I’ve never seen anything like what I saw this morning: 5 [minutes to] 6:00—every machine taken. It was unbelievable. I didn’t know what to do.

“I got back in the elevator feeling kind of flustered, and I immediately run into your Chair-elect of the Board, Lily Garcia. I said, ‘What’s going on? Your gym is full.’ And she said, ‘Well, I’ve already been. You’ve got to get there early.’

“Early?! It’s 6:05!”

Were the ADEA members Carlson marveled at in the hotel gym the same ADEA members I saw crowded into the first-floor wine bar as I headed up to my room most evenings around midnight? I can’t vouch for that, but suffice it to say that Seattle provided almost round-the-clock excitement and an unexpected touch of romance for those who made the trip to the 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition.

This year marked our Association’s 90th anniversary, which we celebrated during our opening reception with the screening of a short video illustrating some of the highlights in our community’s history. At the opening of the ADEA House of Delegates, I also shared some of the topics addressed at our Association’s first Annual Session in 1923: “The Problem of Teaching Root Canal Technic in our Schools,” “Registration, Examination, Assignment of Patients in General Procedure Followed at First Sitting,” and “Method of Clinical Instruction in the Treatment of Pyorrhea Alveolaris.” I joked that everyone was no doubt glad that we would not be hearing about those topics this time around, and I’m sure they were.

So, what did we discuss? If you’ve ever been to an ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition, you know it would almost be easier to list the things we did not discuss.

Those who arrived on Friday or Saturday could learn about gender issues in the dental curriculum, the meaningful use of electronic health records, and the changing landscape of oral cancer survival. They could acquaint themselves with the best practices in community outreach programs, consider strategies for implementing interprofessional education, and cultivate alliances to strengthen diversity and inclusion on campus. They could start their day by touring the impressive new pediatric dental facility at the University of Washington or devote their morning to acquiring a grasp of the financial management and fundraising skills that every administrator must have. That’s not even half of the offerings available to those who arrived before the opening of the House of Delegates, and the subsequent days were even more jam-packed with diverse programming designed to reach every ADEA constituency.

This year’s theme, “The Landscape of Learning,” lent itself to this inclusive and eclectic treatment, and from my many conversations over the course of five days, the active Twitter feed, and the happy photos posted on the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition App, it appears that this year’s attendees were delighted with the programming. Submissions were at an all-time high, and the quality of the sessions reflected that.

Another indication that this year’s attendees were satisfied customers? They turned out in droves for the plenary sessions. Sunday’s speaker, scientist and author Dr. John Medina, acquainted us with declarative memory and how it manifests itself in the human brain. This was a great introduction to a fascinating topic that we will explore further next year, when the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition will focus on “The Science of Learning.” This theme was chosen by our new ADEA Chair of the Board, Dr. Steve Young, Dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry.

Our other two plenary speakers also drew enthusiastic audiences. Tucker Carlson kept everyone entertained with his unsparing assessments of the Republican Party and the Obama Administration, but he also delivered an important message that ADEA members would do well to heed.

“In contrast to the people I work with,” he told those gathered, “you alleviate suffering. That’s the bottom line of your job. When you go to Washington, I hope you go with that posture. I think people that project that kind of confidence are listened to on the Hill.”

Tuesday’s plenary speaker, Rahaf Harfoush, arrived needing a root canal. I’m pleased to report that we fixed her up with a local endodontist, and she left Seattle in a lot less pain than when she arrived. Her talk focused on how industries and institutions are being disrupted by the unprecedented power of individuals to create change using digital technologies. What impact this change will have on dental education is not entirely clear, but the growth of free, online courses and the existence of a DIY (do-it-yourself) dentistry site that has attracted tens of thousands of visitors should inspire all of us to heed her parting words: “Evolve or die.”

You can read more about these talks and other sessions as well in the April edition of the Bulletin of Dental Education (BDE). There were many other memorable events at the 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition that I could tell you about—the ADEA GoDental Workshop and Recruitment Fair for Predental Students and Advisors; the 2013 William J. Gies Awards for Vision, Innovation, and Achievement Gala; the ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education College President’s Symposium; or the much anticipated session on current professional students and their educational debt—but you will get a fuller account of these and other sessions in the BDE. For now, let me focus on a few firsts, and bring in that romance I mentioned earlier.

The One ADEA Showcase. Comfortable chairs, fresh fruit, access to information, and knowledgeable staff made this year’s addition to the Exhibition Hall a popular place to rest, refuel, and gather facts and advice about our Association’s member resources. Attendees could meet with MedEdPORTAL authors, explore the Curriculum Resource Center, or learn about the new ADEA Dental Hygiene Centralized Application Service in easy proximity to commercial and educational exhibitors, and the ever-popular lunch buffet.

Susan Dentzer. The editor-in-chief of Health Affairs is not the first professional journalist to grace the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition stage, but she is the first one to moderate an ADEA Presidential Symposium. This year’s Point/Counterpoint tackled the responsibilities of dental education vis-à-vis emerging dental workforce models and brought together two national figures—Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Tyrone Rodriguez, President-elect of the Hispanic Dental Association—and an insightful panel of respondents. Dr. Dentzer did a masterful job of keeping the discussion focused while drawing out different points of view. Another innovation—round table discussion time following the symposium—gave ADEA members a chance to talk face-to-face about emerging workforce models.

A proposal of marriage. If you’re looking for love, the 2014 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition just might be the place to do some reconnaissance. Dr. Joe Chang and Ms. Jenna Lau connected at our 2011 meeting in San Diego. The resident and student, both at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, stayed in touch and, apparently, got to know each other better. At the conclusion of their presentation, “Planting the Seeds of Leadership with a Student Research Program,” Joe got down on one knee and popped the question. Thanks to the ADEA Twitter feed and the next morning’s Daily News, they soon became the talk of the 2013 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition.

Of course, Joe and Jenna are not the first couple to meet through ADEA. The one I know best has been an integral part of the ADEA staff for many years. As I mentioned when I spoke in Seattle, one half of that pair, Dr. Dave Brunson, former Associate Director for the ADEA Center for Equity and Diversity, retired in February, and his wife, ADEA’s Senior Vice President for Educational Pathways Dr. Anne Wells, will be retiring soon. I also noted the absence of ADEA’s former senior executive overseeing public policy and advocacy, Jack Bresch, who passed away in 2012. Sadly, he was one of several dozen members of the ADEA family who died last year, but who left fond memories with those still in our ranks.

A change to this year’s meeting schedule meant that even delegates and Board members could head home half a day earlier. For those who stayed through Tuesday afternoon, the meeting ended on a high note. During the closing of the ADEA House of Delegates, Dr. Jerry Glickman surprised the crowd by delivering his final speech as President via a professionally produced video, made possible courtesy of Bill Butler of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Massad Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Alongside images conveying the landscape of learning—from the inside of a dental clinic to the inside of a human brain—Jerry shared the highlights of a very full year. His presidency has clearly been a labor of love, and his strong connection with students came through loud and clear.

We then acknowledged our Immediate Past President, Dr. Leo Rouse, whose service on the ADEA Board of Directors had come to an end. To mark the occasion, we presented Leo with an ADEA flag. This form of recognition is a tradition in the U.S. military—where Leo began his long and distinguished dental career—whenever there is a change in command. Leo was visibly moved by the gesture. He thanked those assembled for giving him the opportunity to lead and said he would proudly display the flag in his home.

As always, we have the tremendous work of the ADEA Annual Session Program Committee and this year’s relentlessly upbeat leader Dr. Ron Botto to thank for the success of our annual gathering. I also want to thank Jerry Glickman, whose infectious enthusiasm set the tone for this year’s high-energy event. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the presenters, staff, volunteers, exhibitors, and sponsors, whose participation and generosity are responsible for the growing popularity of the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition. Thanks to all of you, it just keeps getting better! Our new Chair of the Board, Dr. Steve Young, and our new Chair-elect of the Board, Dr. Lily Garcia, have a hard act to follow, but if the past is any guide, we will be celebrating their achievements with equal fervor over the next two years.

So I can’t quite say we went without sleep in Seattle, but as you can see, we had more than enough to fill our days. Many took advantage of the new schedule to head out Tuesday evening as a winter storm was rolling in. Most of those who remained were up before dawn the following morning in time to catch flights home. I venture to guess many did the bulk of their sleeping on the plane.

  1. Miki KUFTINEC said:

    well done, Richard.
    Enjoyed reading your review of the meeting.

  2. sandra andrieu said:

    What a wonderful overview of what sounds like a most productive and enjoyable meeting. I so regreat not being able to participate – but i remain supportive in spirit!

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