A Message from SDDS President Dr. Babak Bina
It is an honor and privilege to serve as your president for 2021.
As I was preparing my message, I decided to review the past presidents’ messages from the past 10 years. I noticed a common theme in all the messages: none of us appreciated the value of becoming active in organized dentistry until a great mentor and someone special guided us to the path with his or her mentorship. My story is very similar to those who came before me. For years I was very skeptical about organized dentistry and took two legends of organized dentistry, Dr. Anthony DiMango and Dr. Howard Lieb, 15 years to convince me to attend my first meeting. As I started to serve in different Second District Dental Society (SDDS) committees such as the district claims, dental health planning, dental benefit programs and CE committees, I began to realize how much was being done behind the scenes for our profession. I witnessed firsthand how many people volunteered their time and energy to protect our profession.
Last year our great nation was hit by one of the worst pandemics that we have experienced throughout our lifetimes: COVID-19. As the number of COVID-19 cases continued to increase our country came to a halt. At the national level, then ADA President Dr. Chad Gehani and his team worked day and night in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop guidelines to keep us and our patients safe in our practices.
In New York, which was one of the worse hit states in the country, hospitals were rapidly filling up with COVID-19 patients. Businesses began to close down and like countless other businesses, non-emergency dentistry was deemed to be a non-essential service and we were all forced to close our offices. As the director of the general practice residency program at NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn, I witnessed our dental residents and attending staff in the hospitals serving in any capacity that they were asked, such as triaging patients in the emergency room, running arterial blood gas labs, carrying ventilators and oxygen to different units within the hospital or simply just working tirelessly day and night while struggling with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). This was true in every hospital that has a dental residency program.
Additionally, I received daily calls from our local dentists and former residents asking how they could volunteer their services. We are grateful to SDDS Executive Director Mr. Bernard Hackett and SDDS Immediate Past President Dr. Paul Albicocco, who acknowledged the shortage of PPE in the hospitals. They asked our members to donate their PPE to those hospitals where they were desperately needed. The various dental societies set up drop off locations for this purpose and our members generously donated their time and supplies. We thank our members for their generosity in helping with this crisis. We are all in agreement that dentistry, just as medicine, is an essential service for the well-being and health of our patients. We all saw articles in The New York Times, CNN and other media outlets regarding the increase in cracked teeth during COVID-19 due to increased stressors and anxieties.
On June 10, 2020, The New York Times published an article titled, “How’s the Economy Doing? Watch the Dentists” in which it was noted that in March and April as states closed businesses to slow the spread of the virus, dentistry accounted for nearly a 35% loss in all healthcare jobs, even though its workers account for just 6% of the healthcare industry. With a gain of a quarter of a million jobs within just a few weeks of reopening, dentistry led the rebound for the entire healthcare industry. We are grateful to our leadership for conveying this message to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
At the state level New York State Dental Association (NYSDA) Executive Director Dr. Mark Feldman, then NYSDA President Dr. Payam Goudarzi and our own Dr. Craig Ratner, who was then NYSDA president-elect, worked tirelessly lobbying for the reopening of dental offices in New York City quickly and safely. Their efforts paid off on June 1 when, because of their hard work, dentists were given the green light to open their offices before the city entered Phase 2 of reopening.
Many of our members experienced a shortage of PPE supplies upon reopening and once again, our leadership at SDDS recognized this shortfall and procured PPE from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and distributed it to our members at no cost as a member benefit. Our SDDS board members volunteered to provide these desperately-needed supplies to our members.
In October 2020, results of a new survey by the ADA indicated that due to safety policies and disinfectant practices already in place for decades in dental offices, less than 1% of dentists nationwide tested positive for COVID-19, despite being among the highest risk due to the aerosols our work generates and the close contact with patients. The ADA further noted that dental health is important not only for one’s teeth but also because dental infections can lead to other problems, including heart disease. They then concluded that even during a pandemic, it’s still safe to go to the dentist.
Although I am hoping that this is the last pandemic we will ever face, I know for a fact we can always rely on the ADA, NYSDA and SDDS to support and guide us through our careers. So, the next time anyone asks what organized dentistry can accomplish, just refer them to the year 2020. As the director of the one of the largest residency programs in the country, I am in a unique position to have direct contact with hundreds of future dentists entering our profession. It is my goal to promote and instill the values of being involved with the organized dentistry. For the past several years, I have been successful with having all my residents become members of SDDS. Furthermore, I encourage them to attend board meetings, instilling in them the benefits of organized dentistry. Although COVID-19 has currently stopped us from having meeting in persons I am planning to invite residents to attend our Zoom meetings. I am hopeful that it will not take them 15 years to fully understand the value of organized dentistry, as it took me. In doing so, I am hoping that we can secure the future of Second District Dental Society with fresh, intelligent minds who can continue on our path to take dentistry to new heights.
Babak Bina, DMD
2021 Second District Dental Society President