For Immediate Release
Date: Apr 20th, 2010
Contact: Dr. John Thompson
Getting It Right!
Bipartisanship is just an historical word used in both state and federal governments as if it still existed. Gridlock is the more appropriate term used to define our current political process. Our dental profession has essentially used political process as our governance for the last 150 years and it has become more complicated with time. This profession does have factions that have sometimes found themselves in diametrically opposed positions. On occasion I feel that we seek some conflict and high drama as an outlet for pent up frustration, but most of the really great dental oratory is unleashed when government seeks to interject its business into our business.
When I interviewed Kentucky Board of Dentistry Executive Director, Brian Bishop last June he gave an indication that such an event was at hand. Brian said, “I am looking at all parts of the practice act and how it is working. Right now our administrative law is disjunctive and cumbersome. There are parts of this act that were written in 1946 that describe dentistry. Can it be streamlined so that any dentist can understand it? I think that is part of my job.” It was still a surprise to the KDA Executive Board when in August the Board of Dentistry submitted a draft proposal for a complete rewrite of the Kentucky Dental Practice Act to be submitted to this legislative session. To say it hit the fan like an over ripe pumpkin would be an understatement. In spite of his invitation to join the drafting process, the consensus first reaction was, “there was no way this can be worked out in time, we can’t do this, and we don’t need to open this can of worms to start with. We want nothing to do with this!”
You know it is very hard to shove toothpaste back in the tube once it is out there and the Board of Dentistry had no intention of backing down on its intention of streamlining the practice act. A great commendation must go to Dr. John Creech, Dr. Mike Johnson, and Dr. Ted Logan who on their own began to attend the working sessions of the board of dentistry as they continued the drafting of the legislation. The very presence of prominent Kentucky Dental Association Executive Board members and Mr. Mike Porter at least gave us ears and a voice even if we had not officially joined the table. They were not alone at these meetings. There was representation from the Kentucky Dental Hygiene Association and both of our great dental schools and dental public health. No one wanted to do this, but no faction was about to sit on the sidelines and let the board of dentistry do this in a vacuum.
I decided to attend the November 21st Kentucky Board of Dentistry meeting as a spectator. It was the first time I had been to the new offices, but far from the first time I had seen a board in action. It was obvious that Dr. William Boggess, board president, and our Kentucky Board of Dentistry had been doing its homework with regard to rewriting the practice act. There was not complete agreement, but the depth and honesty of the discourse was impressive. I was especially impressed with the insight that Mr. Alan Francis, the consumer appointee to the KBD, brought to the table. He never once suggested how dentistry should be practiced, but he seemed a master at organization and the perception of leadership. It was completely obvious to me that this board had prepared a document that had so much more that we should be able to agree on than to argue over. It was far from perfect, but well within a negotiable range. I quickly discovered that this was just my opinion.
The Kentucky Dental Association has a great deal of very capable diversity at the table when the Executive Board goes into session. The KDA Board met that same afternoon following the KBD meeting that morning. What I discovered was that some of us that attended both meetings came away with different impressions of the practice act draft. I was actually reminded of the old poem of the three blind men that went to see the elephant, each having a completely different impression based on the part they had felt.
Instead of going over the entire draft during that meeting, Executive Director, Mike Porter, attempted to define the specific areas where problems had been identified by himself, John Creech and President Mike Johnson. This process met with opposition and it was decided that the review would be done by the board using e-mails and the KDA would go to the KBD working sessions with executive board designated representatives. We had, however reluctantly, officially joined into a dialog that would develop a new dental practice act.
It was Henry Ford that said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” I have no idea what the draft revision number was when I returned from South Carolina in mid January, but the draft that was waiting on my desk was so close to a “keeper” that I knew serious negotiations had been going on as the rest of us enjoyed our holidays. As Kentucky dentists we have a serious debt of gratitude to Dr. Mike Johnson, Dr. John Creech and Mr. Mike Porter for their attendance and persistence in these negotiations. They found the common ground that has allowed the board of dentistry, the Kentucky Dental Hygiene Association, our schools of dentistry, dental public health, and our association to produce what would become House Bill 256. They did this while seeking consultation and gaining approval from the members of the Kentucky Dental Association’s Executive Board.
Our common effort HB 256 was assigned to the Kentucky Legislature’s Health and Welfare Committee chaired by Rep. (You guessed it!) Tom Burch. Burch was traditionally successful in delaying, amending, retracting, delaying and ultimately preventing an up or down vote on the agreed language that would have taken it out of committee and to the floor of the house. This means that the genuine effort of the entire profession died in committee after negotiations that went on until the last hour of the last day. What will be carried forward is the draft document that can be resubmitted for future legislative approval. Unfortunately our profession has had to go through multiple legislative battles for many years because of this one representative’s narrow minded personal issues.
What should be so gratifying to dentists, hygienists, educators, public health and the board of dentistry is that our political system can work. The Kentucky Board of Dentistry was going to drive this legislation, but they opened the door for all to be involved. The Kentucky Dental Association could have mustered the lobby to oppose and likely defeat the action. Instead our association chooses to take the chance and commit the effort to achieve an agreement that could benefit all. The same must be said of ULSD, UKCD and our colleagues in dental hygiene. This profession came together to produce a new dental practice act that all can live with going forward. I wish the same could be said at the level of state and federal government where decisions being made today will affect the practice of dentistry well beyond the scope of our dental practice act. Our profession’s leadership took the time and made the effort at getting it right.