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{ outreach in action } by Paul Roberts • Foundation & Outreach Director The Art & Science of Advocacy I


t’s quiz time. You can select all that apply for your answer. My an- swer will be revealed later in this column. Who do you think has the most influence over the profession of dentistry as you experi- ence it day in and day out? Is it the five members of the Missouri


Dental Board who license providers and follow a mission to protect the public? Is it the web of insurance companies with their minutiae of regulations and the complex flow of claim reimbursements? Is it the dental schools who produce and train the next wave of providers? Is it health policy groups and others who work to control the narra- tive on issues of essential service, access, workforce and more? Maybe it’s the 34 senators, 163 state representatives and the five executive offices that make up Missouri state government. Or perhaps you have a write-in answer to my question?


Whatever your answer choice, you would be correct to some degree. All these organizations have some sway over your practice life. They are powerful, complex entities with strong leaders who direct policies and dollars. Their influence is far-reaching. Crippling change can seemingly come out of nowhere. It’s imperative that the profession of dentistry be an astute and respected player in this space if it expects to have a voice and stand up for itself.


There’s one common tie to all these options—advocacy. To advocate, according to the dictionary, is to plead for, support or recommend on behalf of another. The ‘another’ in this case is you the member—you are the heart of MDA’s advocacy efforts. When you are engaged, re- sponsive and supportive, the heart beats stronger. A healthy member- ship is a sign of unity, and large numbers are hard to ignore. And, while advocacy is always rated a top benefit of membership, how does it actually work?


Advocacy is both art and science. Artists are fewer, but their world revolves around relationships. Relational influence comes from consistency. I see you, I hear you, I respect you. You have a seat at the table. This influence is worth more than gold. The MDA has worked hard to build this over time. Many volunteer members and various staff have put in untold hours to be informed at the front lines. MDA’s contracted lobby firm, Gamble and Schleimeier, has been with us for decades and understands dentistry well. They are artists. The cumula- tive result has largely been successful legislative agendas that both protect and enhance you as a provider.


On the science side, it’s simpler and open for wider participation. In the church world they call it nickels and noses. It’s not any different in dentistry. You might call it dollars and dentists. Money speaks in advocacy. It opens a door for dialogue. It’s how you get noticed. You know who your patients are, and elected officials know who their donors are. Likewise, dentists get noticed and heard. When members


26 focus | SEP/OCT 2020 | ISSUE 5


attend Legislative Day or host a fundraiser or send an email, it makes an indelible impression of unity, caring and professional insight.


Ready for my quiz answer? The one with the most influence over the profession is you. Yes, you—working in public health. Yes, you—on the verge of retirement. Yes, you—doing your thing in your small rural practice. Yes, you—in large, multi-doctor groups. Yes, you—prac- ticing in DSOs. Your dollars. Your time. Your engagement. They are invaluable to the future of dentistry. Let this be the year you partici- pate in keeping MDA advocacy efforts strong.


Why is the Foundation and Outreach Director writing about legisla- tive advocacy you might ask? Because they’re one in the same. Who wants to join a poorly represented group? When things get heated (can you say pandemic), you want strong, connected, agile repre- sentation. Your livelihood depends on it. I believe this has been the MDA’s finest hour. However, more vigilance is required. Membership matters more than ever. My role has expanded on the science side of advocacy by helping the MODentPAC raise and track donations for elected officials. It’s critical you speak with your currency. In this election year alone, the PAC has given more than $70,000 to a wide range of candidates who will lead and influence. We must continually replenish the PAC fund. You can do this through your 2021 dues as well as participating in fundraisers like the “text to give” competition we hope to stage during the week of House of Delegates, November 2-6, as this is your last chance to donate before the current PAC year ends November 14.


Help us stay strong in advocacy. Your support is valued by all and will be recognized in the next Focus issue. Keep acing your quizzes and remember the influence you have on the profession you love. f


Contact Paul at paul@modentalmail.org. Read his blog, The Week That Was, at modental.org/blog.


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