President’s Message August 2020

“Diversity and Inclusion in a Time of Healing”

As if 2020 could not get any crazier and more unpredictable, our country is now facing a time of civil unrest with protests and riots after the death of George Floyd. I know we are all struggling to understand what has unfolded over the past few months. Some of the feelings that I experienced were ones of confusion, sadness, and mistrust. Why does injustice and discrimination continue to occur in our country? The ADA and TDA made statements regarding dentists using this time to heal together and to help heal the community. Healing comes through feeling and expressing the hurt and pain and working through it by engaging in honest conversations with one another. We as CADS members can use this time to listen, learn, and innovate as we continue to embed equity, diversity, and inclusion into the core of organized dentistry. This also means gaining a better understanding of the very barriers that create unnecessary and systemic differences so we can work to remove them.  

How would you define diversity and inclusion? Do you know the difference between the two terms? To be completely honest, I did not know the difference until I became more involved in organized dentistry. Someone told me an easy way to remember the difference: 

Diversity represents “Going to the dance” and Inclusion represents “Being asked to dance”. 

Another way to think about diversity is that it is the who and the what: Who is sitting at the table, who is voicing an opinion and who are we tracking from the traditional characteristics and identities of gender and ethnicity, and sexual orientation and disability—inherent diversity characteristics that we’re born with. Inclusion, on the other hand, is the how. Inclusion is the behaviors that welcome and embrace diversity.

What can we as CADS members do to acknowledge diversity and inclusion in our own society? Introducing yourself or sitting next to a new member at a CADS General Meeting? Mentoring a dentist that is a different race/ethnicity than you are? I truly feel that acknowledging diversity has importance and impact on all levels in organized dentistry. As our profession becomes more diverse, we need to strategize ways to be more intentional about attracting diverse members, being inclusive and developing them as leaders. It is essential to have leaders that are reflective of the general membership.

 I am an alumni of the 2012 American Dental Association’s Institute for Diversity in Leadership (IDL) Program which is a program that is designed to enhance the leadership skills of dentists who belong to racial, ethnic and/or gender backgrounds that have been traditionally underrepresented in leadership roles. A few years after I completed the IDL Program, I was appointed to serve two years on the ADA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I learned about what the ADA is doing to bring more diversity and inclusion to organized dentistry. We reviewed demographics of all ADA Councils and Committees, specifically looking at the percentage of new dentists, women, and dentists of color. We also hosted the Diversity Summit Presidents’ Group which are the Presidents from the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD), Hispanic Dental Association (HDA), National Dental Association (NDA) and The Society of American Indian Dentists (SAID) to listen to their perspective, feedback and information related to their association. The most interesting meetings were hosting educational sessions for the ADA’s Board of Trustees and discussing solutions to incorporate inclusion at all levels in organized dentistry. The last few years I have missed being on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, so I was thrilled to be invited by the ADA to participate in a panel discussion at the Greater New York Dental Meeting last November. This was for the Diversity Summit Presidents’ Group Event to discuss the topic of diversity, inclusion and equity in dental education, workforce, and patient care. 

I realize now how much I enjoyed my time on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the experience of networking with diverse dentists from across the country who share my perspective. As President of CADS, I plan to incorporate what I have learned as one of my goals this year and I look forward to sharing that with you. 

Let us continue to stand strong, speak up for what is right, and help heal our community!

Shailee Gupta, DDS, MPH

CADS President 2020-2021