Dr. Durbin's Installation Address
Nov. 13,2022 – Itasca, IL:
Good afternoon colleagues, friends, and guests, I would like to start by congratulating the Jubilarians who are celebrating 50 years in the dental profession. Congratulations and thank you for paving the way for the rest of us. I would also like to thank Ken Rawson, the President of the Illinois State Dental Society, for taking the time to come up to serve as the Installing officer for our meeting today. Ken, I look forward to working with you and the ISDS Board and team in the next year. And finally, thank you to Tom and Sara Schneider for a great year as President and First Lady and for your service in putting our members first these past five years.
My past history as a leader in organized dentistry includes serving as an ISDS Trustee, Chair of an ADA Council, Chair of an AAO Council, President of Dent-IL-PAC, Chair of the CDS Foundation, Chair of the AAO Donated Orthodontic Services Board, President of the Illinois Society of Orthodontists and for the past 5 ½ years I have served on the Board of Trustees of the American Association of Orthodontists. But here today, I finally get to be installed as the President of my Component, normally one of the first rungs on the ladder of organized dentistry involvement!! The pathway to this podium was a long one, but it was well worth the wait, and I am grateful for your trust and confidence as I become your President in 2023. I began my journey in organized dentistry as President of the Academic Chapter of the Chicago Dental Society when I was a D-4 at UIC. Who remembers the Tri-School party headlined by The Burs or the G.V. Black Fun Run through Lincoln Park? This was my first introduction to some of the pillars in leadership of the CDS. I met Wally Lamacki who demonstrated what it was to be a statesman of our profession. I will never forget seeing Jeff Socher dressed in a full-length mink coat getting out of his Porsche at the GV Black run. Who knew that some 30 years later I would be driving in Jeff’s Porsche to attend CDS Foundation meetings together? Little did I know then what a difference organized dentistry was going to make in my life. Much has changed since the November day in 2005 when I stood on a stage similar to this and was installed as the Director of the CDS Northwest Suburban Branch. The Midwinter Meeting was still held in the Lakeside Center and had not transferred to the West Building yet. The meeting was still four days long and Sunday was spent giving McCormick Place visitors directions on how to get to either the dog show, the motorcycle show, or the South Building. Meeting attendees were told to “go across the walkway, turn left, and go up the escalator to the courses”. The CDS Foundation did not yet exist, and we did not have a new dentist director on the CDS Board.
While so much has changed since 2005, much remains the same. The CDS Midwinter Meeting was and continues to be The Respected Leader in Dental Scientific Meetings and the reason behind that excellence is right here in this room. The professional staff of the CDS under the direction of Dr. Randy Grove continues to maintain and improve upon this standard of excellence. In fact, CDS staff continuity is so strong that many of the team members I met for the first time in the late 1980s and continued to work with as a Branch Officer in the early 2000s are still employed by the CDS. . . a true testament to the working environment that has been created at 401 N. Michigan. As many of you know, Randy will be stepping down as Executive Director at the end of May. I would like to take this opportunity to allow us to show our appreciation for Randy’s service to the CDS and its members over these many years.
The other constant is all of you, the volunteer leadership of the CDS, ISDS, and ADA. You, my friends and colleagues, are some of the most talented individuals I have had the privilege to work with. Your passion for our profession and the patients we treat exemplifies servant leadership. And to think, you even practice dentistry in your spare time! Our profession is founded on the rigorous educational process that we all participated in. And while I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for that, it enables us to break down the most difficult problems to their core elements and develop solutions that move our profession and its associated organizations forward. More importantly, we have developed lasting, life-long relationships with each other. Is there another organization in your life where you can walk into a room of 300 people and confidently say that you have worked with or know everyone in that room? We are truly blessed in this dental community, which is why I continue to feel so confident. As we move forward during these challenging times, I know that the CDS will remain relevant to our profession. In February, 2020 we celebrated “2020 – A Kaleidoscope View” under the leadership of Terri Tiersky, and while we may have started to hear about a SARS outbreak overseas, no one could imagine that a few weeks later we would close our offices for 9 weeks as this novel coronavirus began to spread. And we certainly did not expect to see the 2021 Midwinter Meeting go virtual, or that the 2022 meeting would still be in recovery mode. Fortunately, under the combined leadership of our professional team and CDS Board members over the years, the CDS had adequate financial reserves to meet our operational expenses and help weather the storm. And while we were the envy of every membership organization as we had low dues and limited reliance on dues for our revenues, we now face a significant challenge in restoring Midwinter Meeting revenues to pre-pandemic levels. Recently the CDS Board and professional team met to take time to develop our strategic priorities moving forward. Thank you to those who completed surveys sent to members, non-members, and exhibitors to assess the needs of our dental community and form a basis for our discussions. We identified five areas of emphasis related to membership, communication, diversification of revenue sources, leadership development, and finally and maybe most importantly, our crown jewel, the Midwinter Meeting. The Board and professional team at CDS are in the process of further defining the objectives and developing action items that will drive the CDS in the next 3-5 years.
Our biggest member benefit and the main driver of revenues has been and continues to be the Midwinter Meeting and our other educational offerings, such as Regional Meetings and webinars. The CDS must continue to be the main source of education for members from so called “cradle to grave”. Regardless of employment or practice modality, we are all lifelong learners who must continually expand and update our knowledge. The CDS has the opportunity to fill the continuing education needs of all dentists which can spur growth in the future. I saw this in action this past year when four of my son Peter’s recently graduated dental school classmates came from Michigan and completed three days of courses at Midwinter. They all recognized the opportunity for first class CE just a few hours from home and they now plan to be life-long learners at the Midwinter Meeting. So, at this time I humbly ask for your assistance and patience as we reimagine the Midwinter Meeting and we continue to engage our attendees and exhibitors in ways that might look different from the past. I ask for your help as we tackle declining membership numbers and watch our CDS market share precariously approach 50%. As our colleague Joe Hagenbruch quipped at a past meeting, “If we ever needed a dozen so we would be a-buzzin’”, it would be now! We must engage our younger colleagues and serve as mentors to them, just as we were offered guidance by our own mentors during the formative years of our careers. Remember how good it felt to be tapped on the shoulder and asked to come to a meeting or to serve on a committee? Please consider delivering that same message to a younger colleague and welcome them into our CDS family. I am confident that the CDS professional team and the CDS Board are committed to seeing us through these challenges. I’m sure we will all see that light at the end of the tunnel and that there will be clear skies and not a freight train heading in our direction! No one stands at this podium without the support of others, and I would like to take a few moments to express my gratitude to those who guided me along the way. To Dr. Grove and the team at 401, thank you for answering questions, emails, texts, and calls on all matter of subjects over these many years. Your patience and diligent responses have eased my preparation for this upcoming year. I look forward to continuing to work with you next year. To the Presidents I have served with: Ron Testa, Tom Machnowski, John Fredrickson, Joe Unger, Larry Osborne, Darryl Beard, Cheryl Watson-Lowry, Terri Tiersky, Dino Nicholas, and Tom Schneider…I have learned about leadership from each of you, taking notes on how you handled difficult situations and how your leadership carried the CDS and the ISDS forward. A special shout out to Ron Testa who taught me painful lessons about parliamentary procedure in my first year as a CDS Director but also gave me the opportunity for the first of many single yay or nay votes on my part over the years. I never saw these as failures, but rather times that the Board just hadn’t caught up to my line of thinking yet!
To past and present Board members I have served with. . . I wish I could give each of you the name recognition you deserve for putting up with me but know that I truly treasure your continued friendship over all these years. Each of you has played a role in my development and I am proud of the many major decisions we have made together in the interest of our profession and patients.
To those who saw something in me that I may not have seen myself, including Al Shapiro, John Schmeda, Milt Salzer, Ian Elliott, Todd Cubbon, Rich Holba, and Hugo Bertagni. Thank you for your confidence in me and for giving me opportunities to grow as a leader and as a person. To my many friends in the Members Group, where I learned to be a better leader from some of the brightest minds in CDS. You continue to inspire and influence me to this day, and I look forward to seeing my Members Group brother Phil Schefke take this stage in 2025, when he is installed as president of the CDS.
To the General and Program Chairs for the 2023 Midwinter Meeting, Kevin Patterson and John Moore, thank you for your many hours of virtual and in person scouting to develop a program that will make all of us proud! The myriad of learning opportunities offered will make it difficult for our attendees to decide which programs to attend. I am truly grateful for your time and talents, and especially for our friendship.
To my friend Loren Feldner, who Renee and I first met as 17-year-old incoming freshmen at Loyola University in 1980 where he was the student leader at our freshman orientation. Loren gave me so many opportunities to serve in advocacy and I liked nothing better than to be at his side in DC as we crisscrossed Capitol Hill evangelizing on behalf of dentistry and our patients. Well, maybe I did like talking about snowmobiling with him a little more! Loren is not here in person with us today, but I can certainly feel his spirit in this room.
To Spencer Pope and Randall Markarian, my two orthodontic colleagues who play so well with others in multiple sandboxes! Every time I think I have too much on my plate, I think of you two and realize that I am ready for another helping! Thank you for being amazing statesmen for our dental family.
To my good friend and referring doc Phil Fijal, who I first met in 1990 when I bought my practice in Des Plaines. Phil and I have had multiple opportunities to serve together, but some of the best memories were made on the rides to Springfield for ISDS Board meetings when 3 hours and 15 minutes went by in a flash as we solved all the issues of organized dentistry. Phil, you are an excellent leader and I have learned so much from you. Thank you.
To Terri Tiersky, who I served with on two CDS Boards and who helped plan the 2011 Midwinter Meeting for Ian Elliott. You led the CDS through the darkest days of the pandemic and you were an example for all leaders to emulate. More importantly, you were an excellent sounding board for any number of crazy ideas I had, especially in regard to governance. We spent many MWMs in the Presidential Suite anxiously wondering if we would ever get the chance to ascend to the Presidency of the CDS and today, Terri, we can say we did it! Thank you for your friendship, it means so much to me!
I would like to recognize my long-time practice partners Drs. Mark Cannon and Joe Tylka, and the newest member of our professional team, Dr. Priya Katwala. I would also like to recognize some of my team members who are here today- Juli, Jackie, Sowmya, Sahana, and Marlen, as well as Karyn Bayer, our Long Grove office manager.
Thank you for your patience as I made last-second changes to the schedule to accommodate my meeting commitments and thank you for all you have done to help me grow professionally.
I have shared my story and expressed my gratitude toward those who have helped me on my pathway to leadership, but the two people who were most influential in helping me look outside myself and see the difference a spark can make were my parents, Ron and Mary Ellen. They exemplified what it means to be true servant leaders in a community. We lost my dad in 2015 to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease, but I am honored to share this day with my amazing mom. Some of you may know this story already, but in 1996, while serving as the Executive Director of the People’s Resource Center, a social services agency in Wheaton, my mom established a free dental clinic at the PRC. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the dental community in the Chicago area, the clinic addressed the growing dental needs of those who did not otherwise have access to dental services. The clinic closed for a period of time but reopened in 2013 as the CDS Foundation dental clinic, with many of the same volunteers who had worked at the previous location. What an amazing example of what can be done when talented individuals work together as a team! Thank you, Mom, for your guidance, wisdom, and unconditional love all these years.
I am grateful that some of my family members are here today, including my sister Jennifer and her husband Mike, my Aunt Sheila, Renee’s sister Kathy, a dentist, her husband and my snowmobiling companion, Ken, also a dentist, and their daughter Gina.
I am pleased to have my two children here with us. My daughter, Kristen, a fourth-year resident in pediatrics, adult, and child psychiatry at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, and my son and future boss Peter, who joined my orthodontic practice in Des Plaines in June. He is joined by his wife Casey, and they just celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. I am so proud of the young adults you have become, and I love you very much.
Finally, to my wife Renee. Thank you for your understanding and guidance over these many years as I progressed to this stage. You have been the rock of our family as meetings took me away from home on too many occasions. You have made sacrifices to support my involvement, such as when you flew to Philadelphia on a Saturday afternoon for the ADA meeting and the CDS Board dinner, only to fly back home Sunday morning so you could be home in time for Kristen or Peter’s football, hockey, or softball game. I’m proud of you for embarking on your own journey as an amazing leader in organized dentistry. After 34 years of marriage, you of all people know what makes me tick and I would not have been able to grow personally during this time without you. I love you.
In closing, the challenges we face as leaders moving forward, will require all of us working as a team. The solutions to many of these issues start in this room. They start with the boards of the ADA, ISDS, and CDS, all of which are represented here today. They start with our professional teams at the three organizations who are committed to ensuring the needs of dentists are identified and appropriately addressed. And finally, they start with the committed volunteers who selflessly give their time and talents to the profession we all love with the common goal of ensuring the brightest future for our newest members. We have all been privileged in our professional lives and this is our opportunity to continue shepherding our profession forward. I look forward to the opportunity to continue being a part of this process next year. I know some of you might be disappointed to hear that there will be no dancing today at our Installation reception, but I can promise you that there will be ample opportunities to “Get Down On It” at the Midwinter Meeting Dinner Dance in February and Renee and I hope to see all of you on the dance floor.