Seeing the light

I’ve written in the past of how important communication is in the dental practice. The pursuit of improving all methods of communication is predicated on having something to communicate in the first instance.

In this month’s article I have decided to concentrate on the current status of the IDA, how it needs to communicate with its members and, more importantly, how what the members want the Association to do on their behalf needs to be determined. This was born of a chatroom session on the IDA website dealing with the apathy among the membership involving, at most, six members.

By the time you read this, the election to decide the fate of the master of modern day communications, Barack Obama, will be imminent. Will he succeed in his quest to attain the presidency of the USA? We will eventually discover if substance will triumph over style. The IDA can learn from him and other leading figures. We need not only the substance to attain what we want to achieve but also the style to attract and retain the younger members we require to drive the change that is necessary to keep the Association viable.

While not wanting to question or criticise previous officers of the Association, I do feel that the reason younger members are not joining or participating in officer roles is that they perceive some of the past officers as having pursued their own agendas, as well as their views of what they felt the Association/profession should be.

I know that was the way I felt when I joined in 1996. It was also the reason I departed the Munster branch Committee in 2003, to allow a fresh approach.

I firmly believe that the job of serving as an officer on a committee or council should be to reflect the views of the membership as a whole, rather than a desire to influence members or lead them to one’s way of thinking.

The apathy of the general membership can be seen in the current dearth of applications for roles in running the Association. Granted, time is needed to devote to this and in today’s world that is in short supply. However, without the time invested by those previous officers I’ve mentioned, we wouldn’t have grant in aid as we have currently in the PRSI scheme. This has also been quoted as part of the reason why younger dentists don’t join or participate as they ‘have it too good’. It is not so long ago that we had parity between PRSI and medical card fees, and many younger members may be unaware of this.

Previously we’ve had presidents, as I have written, who have followed their view of what the Association should be. This is only my opinion, but I believe it should be tested by a detailed investigation of what the membership wants.

In order that we can better serve the membership, it is vital that we ascertain exactly what the members want or what the proper goals of the Association should be. This is especially true for the general dentists, who form the bulk of the Association. In the current climate where we can’t negotiate with the Government, failure to provide these goals does, I believe, put into question the future viability of and necessity for an association at all.  

Finally, I believe that we need to attract younger, charismatic leaders who will encourage new members to join and participate in the running of the Association. In my time Art McGann, Declan Hollywood and Gerry McCarthy were of the type I’d like to see, and I’m sure they wouldn’t be offended by my writing younger versions need apply!

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