July 17, 2010
Greetings. On behalf of the California Dental Association I want to congratulate you on reaching this milestone at this fine institution. I also would like to acknowledge your parents, family and friends and those of you who have filled this auditorium because I know that without your love, support and encouragement achieving this milestone would be so much harder if not impossible.
This ceremony is a wonderful tradition... A chance to pause and consider how much you have accomplished before this next step on the road to becoming a professional. It is also a great time to reflect on the values that brought you into dentistry.
You are now entering the realm of clinical dentistry where you can truly help people to improve their health ---a high calling indeed. We can accomplish so much working with people one on one. You will have the rare opportunity to be a role model and a catalyst to effect positive change in others.
I want to spend a brief time on the importance of community, service to the public and what I refer to as "the big picture". Accompanying National Health Care Reform has been a conversation from coast to coast about unmet patient needs. Dentistry is not exempt from this conversation.
In California chronic state budget deficits has resulted in the legislature ending safety net adult dental services for all but emergency procedures. Patients throughout the state are forced to go to hospitals to seek emergency treatment that could have been avoided through routine care. Although our dental delivery system cares well for 70% of the population our data shows that 30% are not receiving adequate care.
In California that's a lot of people --- over 10 million that are considered underserved.
The most at risk are children living in poverty, the working poor, people with disabilities, the frail elderly and ethnic minorities. We can and should do better. The barriers to care are many and the solutions complex. The California Dental Association is taking the leadership in addressing this issue and we fully understand that if we don't speak up others will speak in our place.
What can you do? While your focus is clearly on school, as it should be, keep informed about this issue. It will be at the forefront for many years to come. Stay involved ---it's your future.
Read the CDA Update, our monthly newsletter and reference our website at cda.org for an expanded presentation under the heading Access. Let your student representatives to the CDA House of Delegates know your views.
Embrace your practice rotations through the community clinics and understand the intent of the Pipeline Project and Homeless Connect and the benefits of your participation.
Learn about the Student Loan Repayment Grants for practicing in underserved areas.
Think globally but act locally. Consider making personal contacts and alliances with service organizations in your own home community. You can become a valuable community resource on this important issue. As healthcare professionals, we have a societal obligation to be advocates for the poor and underserved.
Thank you for this opportunity to talk to you today and again on behalf of CDA congratulations on this most worthy achievement in your lives.