ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership

After what seems like a whirlwind of a year, I graduated from the prestigious and highly competitive ADA IDL (Institute for Diversity in Leadership) Program in December. I am going to put down my thoughts on the experience I’ve had before other things come along and I forget! Memory can be fickle.

Writing things down keeps you accountable and helps you remember the good times. 

Timeline and Application

I was notified about my acceptance in the IDL program around August of 2022. The program commenced in December and lasts a full year. I had applied for two years prior to getting selected. There are lots of highly qualified candidates who apply each year, so your application has to stand out amongst the crowd. And your nominators have to make a strong case for you.

Who are your batch mates?

I had close to 40 people in my cohort; dentists and specialists from all over the country. Their backgrounds were diverse. Some were from academia, others from private practice, group settings and community health. Most were heavily involved in organized dentistry and had already served on committees at their local dental societies or state associations. Few were recent graduates with outstanding profiles. A commonality I can draw was that each brought a unique passion to dentistry. Everyone had a dream, or a vision that they were trying to accomplish. IDL is the perfect stage to help you make that dream a reality. People with strong convictions are the ones who ultimately get chosen to participate in this program. 

What the year looks like

The year consists of three in-person workshops in Chicago at our beautiful ADA headquarters and monthly virtual meetings. All meetings focus on teaching you different skills in business, communication and leadership. For example, we were once taught how to negotiate with vendors using an elevator pitch, to bring costs of our project down. We were also taught how to concisely voice our opinion in a minute or less. Most lectures have a foundation in highlighting diversity. 

We are taught by experts in their field, many of whom are business school professors from Northwestern and Duke. All in-person sessions are completely reimbursed by the ADA, inclusive of flights, hotel and food. There are few associations that go above and beyond for their membership, and the ADA is a strong example.

What is expected of a participant

Each participant is tasked with identifying an issue, or our choice, in the profession that can be translated into a year long, and potentially continually evolving project. Mine was to address the gap in access to care faced by patients with Special Health Care Needs. Many general dentists get little/no training in treating this population in dental school. Upon graduation, most refer these patients out to dental schools or hospital systems. Nearly all hospitals have a minimum wait time of 6 months to see patients.

It is not sustainable for our healthcare system to service every patient with comprehensive and timely care if most of us are referring patients to a few limited, over strained systems around the country. If only some additional work could be done by each of us, the burden would lessen and more patients would receive care. This is also a growing population and is an additional stream of income for all private practices offering general dentistry services. My project was to help general dentists with little/no training in this field to begin accepting these patients in their private practice. We can achieve this goal by educating them on the various comorbidities, medical complexities and dental needs of this population and show them how other GP practitioners modify their day to day to service these patients.

I decided to put all of this information, that I’ve been compiling long since before the program began, in an evidence based, scientifically researched book. The book will be made available to all general dentists and to members of the public who are expecting to receive care from their general dentists as well! 

IDL provided lots of resources to help make this massive project a reality so quickly. I have written a book before and know how long it can take to publish. It took me 2.5 years to complete and publish Persevering. This one took only ½ the amount of time, thanks to lots of ideas from the IDL. I’ll write a few of them below.

How the IDL helps

  1. Working with experts in the field. While I may have been working in this field for a while, I am not an expert. Working with clinical experts and educators across the country to help refine the educational modules was helpful. 
  1. Recruiting a dental student to help with administrative tasks such as editing, transcripts, and scheduling interviews was huge. If I had to do that alongside my day job, conduct interviews and write the book, I would have never been able to accomplish this in 1 year. 
  1. Learning how to offset costs by working with dental equipment companies and other vendors. Publishing a book requires financing. By working with key vendors and sponsors you can learn how to offset these costs in return for marketing on their behalf. This technique was taught to us by IDL. 
  1. Our book will succeed only if more people were to find out about it. A good way to make this possible is by networking within the dental community. Luckily, the IDL is perfect for this as it brings together many influential people under one roof. One of the instructors had me create a QR code at the end of my presentation. The QR code allowed attendees to sign up to my book mailing list. A simple yet fantastic idea to create a buzz instantly. If you attend a presentation of mine in the future, you can bet it will feature a QR code! 

My book is due to be published by Summer of 2024. We have a couple rigorous months ahead of us for editing, marketing and publishing. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from some fantastic people thanks to the ADA.

Walking into our headquarters made me proud to be an ADA member and be part of a community which supports newcomers and helps us thrive. 

Having an opportunity like this, will help you advance your career and see what lies outside the box. You will make connections that will last years. I hope you choose to apply for this program after reading this post. Please let me know if you need any help in doing so!

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