Leadership Development: ADEA’s Long-Term Investment in Dental Education

Dr. Richard ValachovicIn this month’s letter, Dr. Rick Valachovic, ADEA President and CEO, describes ADEA’s current leadership development programs, plans for future opportunities and the reasons these investments matter.

If you could spend a few days looking at the world through the eyes of a theoretical physicist, exploring the virtues of courage and hope, reflecting on your own personal development and gathering the collective wisdom of your peers on a thorny problem at work, would you seize that opportunity?

Leadership development may sound abstract and impersonal, but it is anything but. Well-designed programs offer an immersive experience that challenges participants both personally and professionally, and the results are impressive. ADEA’s decades-long investment in leadership development has yielded a cadre of dental educators who are extraordinarily well-prepared to lead our institutions. These individuals have also been influential in guiding our Association and the course of dental education. As we seek to navigate the challenges of training the next generation of dental professionals for 21st-century practice, the value of investing in leadership cannot be overstated.

“Everyone has to lead at some point, so it strengthens dental education when we prepare our members to lead and to see themselves as leaders,” says Diane Hoelscher, D.D.S., M.S., ADEA’s Senior Vice President for Professional Development. In that position, Diane oversees a continuum of leadership programs tailored to meet the needs of dental educators of all kinds at every stage of their careers.

I hope by now most of you have heard of the ADEA Leadership Institute, our flagship professional development program for faculty who are ready to enter the senior leadership ranks. The institute started in 1999, when multiphase, yearlong programs for health professions educators were few and far between. The program’s duration is important, because research indicates that the best way to change adults’ behavior is to work with them over an extended period of time.

“A yearlong program requires a great deal of commitment from the participants as well as the Association,” says N. Karl Haden, Ph.D., a former ADEA staffer and current President of AAL, which has contributed to the design and implementation of the institute since its inception. According to Karl, 75% of ADEA Leadership Institute alumni say that the program had a significant or highly significant impact on their careers, and 99% say they would recommend the institute to their peers.

In recent years, ADEA has also developed programs tailored to early- and mid-career faculty:

I should also note that over the years, ADEA has partnered with others on two programs with a long record of achievement. Starting in 2004, ADEA teamed up with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation® to offer grants to 11 universities through the ADEA W.K. Kellogg Foundation Minority Dental Faculty Development (MDFD) Program. To meet the program’s goal of diversifying the community of dental educators, MDFD supported leadership development for underrepresented minority and low-income individuals recruited to faculty positions. The latest phase of the program builds on lessons learned and provides diversity leadership training and skills development for academic/community partnerships to improve access to both careers and health care for underserved communities.

In 1997, ADEA also partnered with the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine® (ELAM®) Program for Women to give dental faculty access to this exemplary program. This collaboration is at least partially responsible for the remarkable rise in the number of women who are dental school deans—13 as of today—or who hold higher positions within their universities.

But our Association is not resting on these accomplishments. Since mid-2014, an ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation (ADEA CCI) in Dental Education workgroup with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) has been helping to create a leadership course for dental hygiene educators. It combines a single two-day, face-to-face session with online networking and instruction to make the course both affordable and accessible. Still in development, the ADEA CCI workgroup with the ADHA will begin piloting the 12-week course in August.

Although ADEA leadership development programs are open to all members, allied dental educators often lack the institutional financial support that facilitates participation in leadership programs that require travel or a major time commitment. This new offering aims to fill that gap.

Meanwhile, just last month, 20 ADEA members traveled to Florida to take part in the inaugural programming for the ADEA Leadership Institute Phase V—an opportunity for institute alumni to reinforce networks, strengthen relationships and engage in further leadership development. Participants had high praise for the three sun-filled days they spent exploring the nature of the physical universe, contemplating virtues that can guide leadership, discussing colleagues’ professional challenges and envisioning their own personal pathways.

Looking ahead, ADEA staff are working on creating a cutting-edge program specifically for new dental school deans. A growing number of dental educators are taking unconventional paths to their leadership positions, and many have requested additional professional development and support.

ADEA also offers less formal ways for its members to develop their leadership skills. As Diane Hoelscher put it when we spoke recently, “The ADEA Leadership Institute gave me what I needed to move into a position as a chairperson, but ADEA also provided me with a great opportunity to lead in the Association.”

Diane first became involved with an ADEA Special Interest Group and served on its board. Seeing that leadership positions within the Association were both “very doable and rewarding” whetted her appetite for more. She was elected as a representative to the ADEA Council of Faculties, served on the Council’s administrative board and eventually became Board Director for Faculties. She found that experience unusually rewarding and instructive. “When you’re doing it, you’re learning by doing,” she observes, “and you’re learning in a way that sticks with you.”

Experience has also been a powerful teacher for ADEA Senior Scholar in Residence Leo Rouse, D.D.S., FACD. Most of you know Leo from his service as President of the ADEA Board of Directors. What you may not know is that Colonel Rouse had a distinguished 25-year career in the U.S. armed forces and served as Commander and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Army Dental Corps before becoming a civilian dental educator.

No one is more passionate about the value of leadership than Leo. The former Dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry puts that passion to work by mentoring a cohort of ADEA Leadership Institute fellows, an experience he calls one of the greatest of his professional life.

“Leadership is about the two Cs, communication and collaboration,” Leo says, “and how you look for the good in every person, especially those who may feel they don’t have the requisite skills to do certain things.”

When I asked Leo what lessons about leadership dental education could take from the military, he was quick to focus on mission.

“In academe,” Leo told me, “you have two missions: to educate students and to provide quality, safe patient health care. But faculty and administrators don’t always focus on the macro picture. Often times we think in terms of silos.”

Leo attributes his success as Dean to encouraging faculty to keep the college’s larger mission in view, and he urges other dental educators to keep an eye on the big picture, too. I share that view. No matter where each of us stands in our careers, leadership means remembering that we are part of a larger whole. Whether that entity is our class, our department, our program, our college or our university, we need to ask how we are contributing to the well-being of that whole and how our actions might influence its trajectory moving forward.

As Diane put it, “Leadership is important because of where we want to go and what we want to see happen. Change is a reality in life, but we want to be leading change in the right direction. The more leaders we have in the ranks of dental schools and allied programs, the more capacity we will have to realize our vision for the future.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Next month, many of us will meet at the 2016 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Denver to collaborate on “Shaping Tomorrow, Together.” I hope to see you there.

Related content from previous issues of Charting Progress:
– Who Will Teach The Next Generation?
– Wanted: Jack of All Trades and Master of Many
– From 0 to 13 in 13 Years: ELAM’s Impressive Track Record in Preparing Women for Leadership
– Tomorrow’s Leaders: Made, not Born

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