Dr. Durbin's Farewell Address

One year ago, I stood before you and accepted the responsibility to lead the Chicago Dental Society in the upcoming year. As I waited to deliver my President-elect speech, I experienced a flood of many emotions.

Relief, that the long wait was finally over, and I would have the opportunity to be the president of my component society. Trepidation, as I thought about the impending change in the Executive Director position with the retirement of Dr. Randy Grove and the work that would be necessary to find a suitable replacement. Excitement as I thought of the future of the CDS and the many opportunities we would have to serve the needs of our members and our patients. Anxiety related to the financial position of the CDS and the ongoing success and future of the Midwinter Meeting. Anticipation as I thought about hitting the ground running in working with the Board, our volunteers, and our amazing professional staff to move the organization forward. And lastly, apprehension that I would somehow fail our members and especially those whose shoulders I had stood on as I progressed to the presidency.

After assuming my duties on Jan. 1, I quickly found that all these emotions started to fade as the reality of the tasks at hand became apparent. In a nutshell, the board got busy.

We approved a new strategic plan that set the guideposts for the CDS moving forward over the next three to five years and beyond. Our focus on membership, communications, the Midwinter Meeting and our other educational programs, financial diversification, and leadership development is critical to the future success of the CDS, and these will be the areas the Board will direct resources to and the team will address operationally.

Board meetings have been revamped to allow more strategic discussion with input from our key senior staff members about the future of the CDS and less time spent reporting on what has occurred in the past. The Executive Director Search Committee, chaired by Dr. Phil Schefke, carefully vetted and interviewed many candidates before deciding that Heather Nash was the best person to manage the operational challenges that would be necessary to accomplish our strategic goals and objectives. Heather has proven to be everything the search committee and Board thought she would be as she prudently evaluated the CDS and its operations, while remaining respectful and supportive of our current team.

Due to the hard work of Kevin Patterson, John Moore, the team at CDS, and our many member volunteers, the 158th Midwinter Meeting was a huge success, outperforming budget and projections on attendees, exhibitors and exhibitor income, course income, registration, and sponsorships. The success of the Midwinter Meeting resulted in the first budget surplus for the CDS. A gigantic step in the right direction as we continue the recovery from the pandemic.

As I reflect on the past five years as an officer, I am also proud of the many important achievements accomplished by the board in that time period. Several achievements of note include a reimagination of the Midwinter Meeting planning process with a focus on attendee and exhibitor satisfaction and the formation of the Dental Meetings Committee, which has been tasked with the planning of not only the Midwinter Meeting, but our other educational programs as well. We added a New Dentist Director to the Board with full voting rights, which has given a voice to our members who are critical to the future of the organization while also allowing the Board to be more reflective of the diversity of our membership. We made a transformational gift to the CDS Foundation, ensuring its success in the future and enabling it to garner larger donations from donors who understand that the CDSF is successful and will be here for the long term. None of this would have been possible without the leadership of the presidents I served with, Cheryl Watson-Lowry, Terri Tiersky, Dean Nicholas, and Tom Schneider. I would also like to thank them for continuing to call on me at board meetings for the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth times!

I am grateful for our CDS Board this year. Thank you for your preparation, commitment, and openness to change. We have made great strides this year, and I know Dave Lewis will do an excellent job as he assumes his presidential duties on Jan. 1.

As always, none of this would be possible without the professional team at the CDS headquarters. You quietly work in the background with a simple goal to make our members and volunteers happy and the MIDWINTER MEETING a success. Presidents, officers and boards come and go, but you are the true foundation of the organization. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge each of you by name: Heather Nash, Barry Ranallo, Lennoree Cleary, Mohammed Adil, Lisa Girardi, Nathan Pease, Joanne Girardi, Lisa Hosely, Cheryl Mora, Angie Powell, Rachel Schaefer, Sarah Robinson, Stephanie Sisk, Joe DeRosier and Tom Long.

As you listen to these names, you realize how small a staff we have at CDS and yet these individuals are performing monumental tasks for the benefit of our society and its members. Heather, thank you for your help and guidance over the past several months as we both navigated the ups and downs of our positions of Executive Director and President. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you and I am confident that you will continue a successful tenure moving forward. I would also like to thank Dr. Randy Grove who taught me so much about the CDS and leadership over the many years I worked with him. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the long-time service of Barry Ranallo. Barry will be retiring (Dec. 31) after 29 years of dedicated service to the CDS. Barry has been instrumental in the financial success of the CDS, and he has been a cornerstone in the growth of the Midwinter Meeting. Barry will be back in February to assist at the Midwinter Meeting, so he hasn’t departed yet, but let’s all show him our appreciation for all he has done for the CDS.

As everyone who has served in this position knows, our involvement takes a toll on our practices. Last minute changes to the schedule, numerous days off to attend meetings, and ill-timed phone calls during the afternoon rush are the norm. Thank you to my staff members in Des Plaines and Long Grove for your patience and understanding this past year. A special shout out to my son, Peter, who has capably stepped in during my many absences. I look forward to getting re-acquainted with all of you in January.

Finally, I would like to thank my friend, confidante, and wife, Renee who has been a sounding board for any number of ideas as well as a huge support when things didn’t go as planned. Renee, thank you for being with me every step of the way and I look forward to spending more free time with you in the near future.

While the unofficial theme of my year may have been “It’s All About Me in ‘23”, there certainly will be More in ’24! With that, I bid adieu with gratitude to everyone in this room and I am eager to watch our next set of leaders take the CDS to new heights. Thank you.