ADA president praises unity of Association

George R. Shepley, D.D.S., addresses House of Delegates

Culmination: ADA President George R. Shepley, D.D.S., addresses the House of Delegates Oct. 7 in Orlando

Orlando — There is no single way for the ADA to express its purpose, but it’s in unity where the Association’s strength lies, ADA President George R. Shepley, D.D.S., told the ADA House of Delegates Oct. 7. 

Dr. Shepley completed his presidential year at SmileCon 2023, capping off a year of accomplishments that include legislative, workforce and licensure victories.

“Over the last 12 months, we have proven our collective power. It radiates from beyond the four walls of the ADA into real solutions that make a mark on the world… for people whose names we may never know, but whose lives and careers have seen positive improvements because of those of us in this room,” Dr. Shepley said. “When it comes to the success of our profession, the health of our patients and the public, the elevation and advancement of dentistry; when it comes to fostering an inclusive community that embraces professionals of all backgrounds and practice modalities … our differences offer us little distinction. We are each other’s business. We must always remember that we are each other’s harvest. In unity, our possibilities and destinies are intertwined.” 

Dr. Shepley, a Baltimore dentist who has been an ADA member for more than 40 years, received his dental degree from the West Virginia School of Dentistry. He previously served the 4th District trustee and president of the Maryland State Dental Association.

“I’ve seen firsthand the end-to-end process by which your innovation, commitment, service and vision yield positive change for other human beings, whether they too are dentists or those whose lives are made better, whose health is improved, because of what our community provides,” Dr. Shepley said. “It’s astounding to see just how our contributions are strengthened and magnified when they come together, when our talents converge to give others the treasure of good oral health. In dentistry, unity is our essential asset. The same is true for our American Dental Association.”

Dr. Shepley recounted a number of successes during his term, including the ballot measure in Massachusetts, which passed in 2022 and allows for dental insurance carriers in the state to establish a medical loss ratio for dentistry. Beginning in 2024, the state's carriers will be required to spend at least 83% of premium dollars on patient care rather than on administrative costs, salaries and profits. Other states are following suit with their own legislation.

“The Massachusetts insurance reform journey is a testament to grassroots success and how the power of a single voice, a single decision, and a single action can spur much-needed progress for all,” said Dr. Shepley. 

He also discussed the workforce shortage in dentistry and how the ADA is working to help dentists alleviate it.

“Strengthening the workforce pipeline requires comprehensive solutions, and states in our tripartite are taking action – like streamlining in-office training for assistants, running recruitment campaigns for high school graduates and funding efforts for education programs that also incentivize service in underserved communities,” Dr. Shepley said. “At the federal level, the ADA supports the reauthorization of the Action for Dental Health Act and increased funding for the Oral Health Workforce Improvement Grant Program.”

The ADA is also promoting workforce mobility through the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact—in collaboration with the Council of State Governments. The compact simplifies multistate practice by standardizing credentials across participating states. Washington, Iowa, and Tennessee have enacted the compact, with active bills in New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin soon introducing it. Ten more states have stated their interest in introducing the compact next year.

“In addition to meeting practical needs, succeeding in this endeavor, and in all we do at the American Dental Association, is about empowering dental professionals to experience freedom and ease as they design their lives and careers,” said Dr. Shepley. “It’s about empowering them to be their best… to fulfill the highest expression of themselves as agents of health and wellbeing.”

He asked the House and ADA members to tap into their collective power as they look ahead to future opportunities. 

“To be bold in designing a health care system that works. Even if it means disrupting the status quo, rejecting current options and creating a new thing. To be daring as we set the global standard for oral health. To be fearless in our calling to make people healthy,” Dr. Shepley said. “Who says we can’t? Who better to try than us? And how else to do it but together. Because in unity, where one thrives, we all thrive.”

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