Attending the AAPD 2022 Conference

Dentistry

Last week, I went down to San Diego, California to attend our American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) 2022 Annual Session. In order to be an actively practicing dentist in Nevada, I need at least 40 continuing education hours every 2 years; and these conferences usually knock a big chunk of those requirements out of the way. Not to mention, with the AAPD being a fairly large organization, the invited speakers and presented topics are high caliber.

In case you haven’t read some previous posts, I was president of our local chapter (the Nevada Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) for one year back in Jan 2020 to Jan 2021. In addition to informing our members of new COVID guidelines within their practices, dealing with state Medicaid cuts for dental reimbursement – I also worked with my executive committee to plan our annual business meeting and CE course. Mine was an extraordinary year; as an organization, we were implementing our very first online meeting. Finding sponsors proved to be difficult (many companies reported their own financial hardships), but our speakers were kind enough to donate their time to talk to our small group (plus we had no large venue to book) so fortunately we were not on the hook for the honorarium we have paid to our speakers in the past – so it was a bit of a wash for us in terms of our bank balance.

Anyways, the AAPD had also done virtual meetings for the past couple of years so certainly there was this universal consensus amongst attendees of how satisfying it was to be back to in-person meetings. You had not only pediatric dental professionals attending, but office staff members were invited, a bunch of children were present – I mean, it had the makings of a total super-spreader event. Let’s hope it wasn’t? I masked for all of 5 minutes. I got there and realized maybe about 1-2% of people were wearing one and I admit I got into a total ‘when in Rome’ kind of mindset.

If you don’t already know, I am an introvert and not particularly fond of crowds. When I arrived, and lots of people were standing together and socializing – and I didn’t see any familiar faces, I awkwardly stood alone at a table with continental breakfast wondering if I made the right choice to attend in the first place, and thought to myself anxiously whether the next four days would be like this very moment. I consider myself fairly affable, but I am not comfortable introducing myself or striking up conversations with strangers.

Fortunately, I eventually found my boss, some dental school friends, and even met some new people along the way. I spent time roaming the exhibit hall where many of the sponsors set up booths and promoted some of their products. I learned about dental procedures (e.g. tooth autotransplantation, molar substitution, etc.), attended some mini-clinic courses, and heard from M.D. physicians talking about mental health screenings on teenagers and adolescents.

Perhaps my favorite part of attending this year was listening to the keynote lecture by a guy named Ben Nemtin. He is an impressive young motivational speaker and is the author of a book titled “What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?”. His backstory discussed bouts of deep depression, but then went on to speak about how him and his friends started a journey to cross things off their bucket lists – resulting in more fulfilment in their lives by helping others, setting goals, and accomplishing their dreams.

Here are five things I took away from his speech:

  1. Write your bucket list – make it a project.
  2. Share your goals – make yourself accountable with others. “Fear is the taxes you pay to achieve your goal.”
  3. Be unstoppable – be persistent. Take as many “no’s” to get the “yes”.
  4. Moonshots – shoot for unrealistic goals.
  5. Give – happiness is only real when it is shared.

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again.” 

Eleanor Roosevelt

In addition to the course, my family used this as an opportunity to turn our S.D. trip into a mini-vacation. We were able to hit up Legoland, had some fun at Belmont Park, went to the beach and saw Balboa park. All-in-all, I was very glad I attended this years annual conference!

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit this blog and read through this post!

Leadership

Dentistry, Lifestyle

A few years ago, I received a call one evening while getting ready for dinner. Apparently someone had nominated me for president of our local professional chapter, the Nevada Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Should I choose to accept, I would join the committee and spend a year as president-elect, and then assume the role of president for a year thereafter.

If you read my first post, about being introverted, you would have some inkling that I spent a good portion of my life avoiding being the focus of attention. Yes, I joined several clubs in high-school… mostly to have something to pad my college application with. Not once did I ever consider/desire/strive to be in a position of power or take on a leadership position. I have never liked the limelight.

When I was a kid, I saw my father do it once, as he became president of our local Friends of India (FOILV) association. That baffled me. He had a similarly shy and reserved demeanor about him; and yet here he was taking on a role that required quite a bit of socializing, event planning, and worst of all, public speaking. To this day, I am proud of him still, but now I certainly feel like I have a new appreciation for his selflessness and his social consciousness towards helping our community be better.

The president position of our NVAPD, traditionally, was not really a very time-consuming role. Some years were better than others. We always have to organize and host an annual meeting; invite speaker(s), book a venue, find sponsors, arrange meals, provide continuing education credits, etc. Sometimes, Medicaid and political issues arise throughout the year, and so then there are other matters that the president typically has to tend to as well.

My president-elect year was quiet and uneventful. Granted, the president that year likely did an excellent job at blinding us to the many tasks she was likely under-taking. Frankly, I was hoping mine would be a similarly easy year.

My term started January 2020, and (for the first couple of weeks) was off to a good start – made a name change on our business bank account, deposited some checks that slowly rolled in, no sweat.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a dentist; but its a bit scary when your profession calls for you to be mere inches away from someones mouth and open airway while a novel, aerosol-transmitted infectious pandemic plagues the world. In the uncertainty and chaos, we followed local and national guidelines from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), ADA (American Dental Association), AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), and our state dental board.

For a short while, it felt like the blind leading the blind. Every organization was just as clueless as the next, and fortunately, dental offices in town shut down for a bit while things were being figured out. In dentistry, we take personal protective equipment and infection control very seriously and keep those high standards for every patient we see. However, temperature checks, social distancing restrictions, questionnaires, all of those measures and precautions are new to our standards of care and slowly started to emerge with time.

I appreciated the offices closing because 1) it afforded me time with my kids I normally would not take and 2) I started to devote more time to my duties as NVAPD president. I started drafting regular email correspondence to our members to update them about new state and national guidelines and restrictions; I worked with other local dental associations to try and acquire PPE for our members; as COVID-19 related state budget cuts started to emerge, I tried to unite our members and organize efforts to protest the politicians and legislators that were proposing a bill that could have severely threatened dental benefits for our most vulnerable patients.

At the end of the day, that was the main reason I took the president position. Certainly not for the fame, notoriety, prestige, what have you. I genuinely love my job and the patients I serve; and I want to do my part in protecting their access to dental care. If that means swallowing the uncomfortableness of being an introvert for a year – so be it.

In all fairness, I could have made this year as easy or hard on myself as I wanted it to be. One thing you will come to learn about me, is I tend to over-analyze, over-prepare, over-worry about almost everything. Very much Type-A, obsessive-compulsive characteristic traits. And although, internally, a position like this is very stressful; I am happy I accepted the offer and am glad I decided to step up to the challenge.

I am currently attempting to figure out how to host our very first VIRTUAL Annual NVAPD Meeting! I will keep you posted on how that goes! Wish me luck. Thank you so much for reading, I’ll be writing again soon!