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Mon, 03 Aug 2015 09:53:58 -0700
Washington — The Association urged Congress in June 3-4 letters to House and Senate Armed Services Committees to oppose legislation that would reduce the current statutory ranks of the Army and Air Force chief dental officers.
As Congress debated the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the Association objected to a provision in the Senate version of the legislation that would reduce the rank for the chief dental officers of the United States Army Dental Corps and the United States Air Force Dental Corps from the current statutory grade of major general to “a grade above the grade of colonel…”
The Association thanked bipartisan leaders of the House Armed Services Committee for the recent House passage of defense reauthorization legislation “extending the current law as it relates to the military ranks of dental officers, which will ensure the continuation of quality oral health care for our nation’s service members.” The House-passed NDAA would continue “parity of grade” for the chief dental officers.
But the Association objected to grade reduction language in Section 502 of the Senate version of the NDAA. “Reduction in rank of the chief dental officer will result in a diminution of oral health readiness at a time when the services have just begun to achieve the overall dental health levels necessary to support national defense,” the ADA told bipartisan leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“The ADA is also concerned that this change will have a negative impact on military dental officers,” said the letter signed by Dr. Maxine Feinberg, Association president, and Dr. Kathleen O’Loughlin, ADA executive director and chief operating officer. “These dentists will view this as a step backward in the recognition of the importance of oral health and, by extension, the importance of their contributions to national defense. The ADA is very concerned that this change will have a negative effect on the recruiting and retention of dental officers.”
The Association urged the House Armed Services Committee to “insist on the House position” during House-Senate negotiations to resolve differences in the bills. If the House and Senate pass bills with differing provisions, a temporary joint committee or conference committee would be formed to iron out the differences including any differences over “parity of grade.”
Despite the required labor and creativity, the volunteers with the Academy of Prosthodontics Foundation Outreach Program never hesitate to return year after year to underserved areas across the U.S.
This year marks 25 years of service for the core of 12 volunteers who travel annually, mostly to Native American Indian reservations, providing dentures for patients who have few or no other options for getting dental care, said Dr. Geoffrey Thompson, chairman of the foundation’s Outreach Program and director of the graduate program in prosthodontics at the Marquette University School of Dentistry.
Since the early 1990s, volunteers in teams and individually – with the help of thousands of dollars worth of donated materials – have provided more than 1,660 dentures and partials to more than 940 patients, Dr. Thompson estimates.
Organizers focus their service on Native American Indian reservations or Alaska Native reserves where waitlists for prosthodontic care are sometimes hundreds of names long due in part to geographic isolation, Dr. Thompson said.
Dr. Thomas Taylor, chair of the division of prosthodontics at the UConn School of Dental Medicine, has led a team of volunteers to Juneau and Sitka, Alaska, 15 times over the last 25 years, where he says patients will in some cases travel long distances by ferry or airplane to get services.
The remote sites that volunteers have visited over the years also include Browning, Montana; Arapaho, Wyoming; and Montezuma Creek, Utah. Many places they visit lack a comprehensive dental clinic, so volunteers have learned to improvise with whatever tools are available.
Volunteers recall buying lawn chairs at a Wal-Mart near one of the reservations so patients would have a place to sit, buying a tent and folding tables to supplement volunteers’ pop-up clinic and using a pot meant for boiling lobster to process dentures.
“It’s kind of roughing it, but it’s really a lot of fun,” Dr. Taylor said. “We get the job done.”
So they can see as many patients as they can during the weeklong trips, volunteers work up to 15 hour each day, sometimes sleeping or having a meal in less-than-ideal conditions, said Dr. Ed Plekavich, who practices in Sterling, Virginia.
Plekavich said he remembers eating fruit and Doritos he bought from an airport for dinner during one trip to Montezuma Creek, Utah. He said he lost 12 pounds that week.
Still, the volunteers, who are mostly dentists who specialize in prosthodontics along with a team of graduate students and lab technicians, say the outreach trips are meaningful and personally rewarding ways to contribute to the underserved.
“We get such a kick out of doing this,” said Dr. Thompson. “It’s kind of like a high. I mean we really, really work hard and it’s sort of like running a marathon – you would never do another one if you remembered how hard it was (but) we enjoy putting the smiles on people’s faces.”
For some of the volunteers, the work especially hits home. Dr. Paul Martinez, who practices in Price, Utah, said his relatives were born and raised on a Native American reservation in Colorado. Dr. Martinez now helps the outreach program determine which tribes or areas may have the most pressing needs, and his background and understanding of the cultures can be useful when interacting with some of the patients, he said.
“It’s easier for me to talk to a lot of those individuals,” Dr. Martinez said, adding “All clinicians — medical and dental — we should be doing these types of things. We should be trying to help out those people that aren’t able to provide for themselves.”
Most volunteers can recall particularly memorable moments with grateful patients that motivate their return each year: witnessing tears of joy, a woman blushing with pride upon seeing her new teeth, letters from former patients who write about how their new smile helped them secure a better job.
“A patient in Oklahoma wrote to me, sent me some venison sausage, and said he enjoyed his first dinner in more than five years,” recalled Dr. Plekavich. “The greatest rewards for us for participating are the reactions of and personal impact on the patients we serve.”
Dr. Thompson said program organizers would like to expand the program to other tribal areas and are always seeking volunteers for the trips.
For more information, contact the Academy of Prosthodontics by calling 1-858-272-1018 or email email@example.com. The website is academyofprosthodontics.org.
Academicians, dental practitioners, regulatory bodies and leaders of professional dental organizations are encouraged to attend the conference scheduled for Oct. 28-29 at the Association Headquarters in Chicago.
The purpose of the conference is to develop guidance for interested parties that can be used to inform and assess the design and analysis of genomic studies of oral diseases, according to conference co-chairs, Dr. Daniel Meyer, ADA Chief Science Officer, and Dr. Michael Glick, editor of The Journal of the American Dental Association and professor of oral medicine and dean of the School of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo.
Dr. Thomas Hart, program coordinator for the conference and chair of the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, said the conference is important because it will be the first time renowned genomic experts have come together to discuss pressing issues related to genetic testing in the context of dentistry. Dr. Hart is also the director of the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center.
“They will discuss significant changes in our understanding of genomics and how genes contribute to disease,” Dr. Hart said. “Additionally, they will discuss the issues that the dental community needs to understand to develop and implement safe and effective genetic tests to improve clinical care.”
Dr. Hart added that many challenges dentists face in incorporating genomics into clinical practice are shared by clinicians in other areas in medicine.
At the conference, “we will see that we are not alone in facing these challenges, and that by working together and sharing experiences we will succeed,” Dr. Hart said.
The conference includes a keynote presentation from Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University, who is a leader in genomic/genetic research. Other speakers include Dr. John Barnard, Ph.D., head of biostatistics at the Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Teri Manolio, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Genomic Medicine at the National Human Genome Research Institute; Dr. Robert Wildin, M.D., chief of the Genomic Healthcare Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute; Dr. Cecile Janssens, Ph.D., professor of Epidemiology at Emory University; and Dr. Debra Regier, M.D., Ph.D. and incoming director of genetic and genomic education, Children’s National Health System, which provides pediatric health care in Washington, D.C.
The Task Force on Design and Analysis in Oral Health Research, which is funding the conference along with the ADA, has a mission to foster and promote sound research design and analysis and to encourage dialogue between stakeholders in oral health research, said Dr. Sebastian Ciancio, director of the task force and professor and chair of the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics at the University at Buffalo.
Dr. Ciancio said planning for this conference was initiated following a 2014 ADA Annual Meeting program that obtained input from the community of oral health practitioners regarding the application of genomic technologies and genetic testing in dental practice.
“The purpose of this conference is to bring together renowned genomic experts to discuss research on genetic associations with disease and the use of genetic tests for disease,” Dr. Ciancio said. “This conference will provide background information for developing a framework for guidance which can be used to inform and assess the design and analysis of genomic studies of oral diseases.”
Registration for the conference is expected to open in August. More details about registration will be available later this month.
To view the most up-to-date agenda for the conference, visit taskforceondesign.org and click on “Meetings.” Then look for “Navigating The Sea of Genomic Data.”