Heraclitus, the esteemed and prolific Greek philosopher once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” A prime and perfect example of this adage comes to us in the form of 2020! This certainly was a year of change. We lost many great individuals such as Kobe Bryant, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Chadwick Boseman…the list goes on. We have had many scares such as the Australian wildfires of January, being pushed to the brink of war in February…oh and this little ailment that might have caused some news…
COVID-19 has transformed from a respiratory ailment to one that can lead to anosmia, nausea, fever and fatalities. Because of the very real health ramifications, COVID-19 has shut down travel, upended societal norms and caused an indelible mark on the profession of dentistry. Many of us, yours truly included, attempted to see patients through teledentistry means so that our patients would not clog up the emergency room with dental issues and become susceptible to needless exposure. Slowly, yet surely, we are learning not only how to survive with this virus lurking amongst the population, but thrive as well. A multitude of pathways have now emerged to ensure success in present-day dentistry.
Being a dentist, you’ve had to overcome the proverbial odds- you have had to work harder than most! Often being the first to show up and the last to leave, a dentist will sacrifice time with friends so that we can cram in one more limited exam, extract the abscessed tooth after hours or even offer to come in on the weekend to “open and med” a “hot” tooth. But this dedication did not just magically appear overnight...when you were in D1, everyone knew that you were going to hit the books. When you were in D3, everyone knew that you were going to be a successful practice owner and up until 5 minutes ago, you had thought that owning a practice was the only sure-fire way to be a success.
Business tycoon John D. Rockefeller has gone on record stating that, “If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” Honestly, this paradigm should be taken to heart as we venture forth in our new post-COVID world. Maybe instead of having a major high-flying practice with the fanciest laser or cutting-edge equipment (see what I did there), success will be defined as a multi-avenue income based on a series of dental jobs such as teledentistry, dental insurance reviewer, restorative associate professor or associate dentist. Please note, these sentiments are not to detract, to denigrate or to deride the pathway of practice ownership as a viable career path. It is a path, a financially very sound path - but, it’s not the only path!
This is not to say that traditional pathways and programs have completely raised the white flag. Our very own American Dental Association’s lobbying team have still conducted the proverbial “good fight”, albeit remotely, advocating for positive changes that help dentists and patients alike. Over the past few years, of which I have been fortunate enough to have assisted with, the ADA has promoted the amendment of the McCarran-Ferguson Act (passed into law in 1945). This correction, initiated in 2019, would allow the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department to enforce the full range of federal antitrust laws against health insurance companies engaged in anticompetitive conduct.
This face was highlighted through the COVID-19 lens, as during the past months, we all have either experienced reduced patient loads or have been forced to close. Congruently, insurance companies were still expecting payment of premiums without any benefits rendered. This law would allow the federal government to conduct oversight of these and other insurance company practices and promote accountability by changing this outdated antitrust law, while not interfering with the states’ ability to maintain and enforce their insurance regulations, antitrust statutes, and consumer protection laws. It should be noted that with the help of Virtual Lobby Day of the ADA 2020, the House passed H.R. 1418 (The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act) on September 21, 2020 by a voice vote which means that no recorded vote was taken. Now, we anxiously await news from the Senate.
As we bring this year to a tumultuous end, it is important to take stock of what is important. You have your health as well as family and friends to appreciate and consider. You have done something great – you survived a year of craziness! Who knows what 2021 will bring? An Earthquake? A Tsunami? Or perhaps, the recognition, from the community at large, that oral health is linked to overall health? A boy can dream…
Dr. Amir Kazim
Stock photo credits: Stadtratte/iStock/Getty Images Plus, George Panchatouris/Moment/Getty Images