Dr. Lewis' Installation Speech

Seeing you all here today is awe-inspiring. . . and humbling. If you’d told me when I graduated from dental school that I would be standing here now, talking with you, I’d have said that would be just about as likely as The Cubs winning the world series. And, I would not have offered better odds, even after they DID win in 2016. I’m so happy to welcome you all. Thank you for being with us this afternoon, to celebrate and recognize those who’ve served our profession and our patients.

To the Jubilarians: Continue to shine as examples of the dedication dentists show to their colleagues and communities.

To the outgoing Academic Chapter Student officers, CDS Branch Presidents and Directors, and CDS President Dr. Mike Durbin: Thanks for your years of service. You’ve all spent time asking “Why?” and “How?” as you brought CDS forward.

Mike, we have truly felt the impact of your experience in and passion for organized dentistry at multiple levels. You’ve given us a master class in leadership.

Mike and Renee: We are so grateful for you both being in the right place at the right time and making the CDS even better.

Congratulations to the incoming Academic Chapter Student officers, CDS Branch Presidents and Directors, and CDS officer Dr Mark Ploskonka. We still have challenges to face, but I’m confident we’ll create a future that we can all be proud of.

Special thanks to ISDS president Dr. Richard Bona for installing me today. I’m proud to serve during Rick’s term as we have been friends many years and members of the Independent Dental Organization leadership group.

I can’t thank the CDS staff enough. They are truly professionals at what they do. And the sense of family that Dr. Randy Grove and Barry Ranallo had in place for years is carrying over with Heather Nash now leading the team.

Many thanks to my wife Chris. Your support and reassurance kept me in the “yes mode” while I’ve contemplated service. She’d remind me that I’d have more opportunity to grow with each new position. While I was attending meetings, she was working full time and keeping up with our two daughters. To Anne, Kathleen, and your families: I’m so proud of you! Chris, I never could have gotten to this point without your persistent encouragement, boundless love, and faith in me. I love you dearly!]

I think of my physician father often and his professional dedication, while my mother faced the challenges of raising five of us kids. My sister Janet is here, and I know that she remembers. I asked Dad once why he spent so much time at the medical society meetings, and he replied, “If I don’t do it, who will?” It was so Dad!

Those words would stay with me, as I chose a career in dentistry. So, after UIC College of Dentistry, I had a terrific experience in the Illinois Masonic Special Patient Care Program. My time there was special also, as we learn to appreciate life more when caring for those who are not as fortunate as we are. And my greatest luck was meeting my wife to be, Dr. Chris Culp, who was one of my co-residents.

I also had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Paul Fischl in dental school, along with his father Dr. Richard Fischl who served as a CDS President in the late 70’s. The Fischl family was pivotal in my introduction to the CDS and all the opportunities it offered. I began working part-time as an associate in a private practice downtown, spending time with the Illinois Masonic dental program, and teaching at the UIC dental school. Then, I learned that Drs. Paul Justen and Dave Dooley were looking to bring another dentist into their practice, which I joined. Eventually, I moved up to Glenview with Chris and Anne to join Colonial Dental Group full time. I practiced for 36 years there with a wonderful team who made each day with our patients meaningful for me and for them. Some of these folks are here today. As Dr. Alex Quezada joined the practice, over time he took over sole ownership, allowing me to spend more time on CDS duties.

The leadership bug bit me when I became a charter member of the Glenview Sunrise Rotary Club in 1988. My fellow Rotarians encouraged me to serve on committees and eventually as president. It was my first real experience with organizational leadership, And I am forever grateful to those who helped me with it. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self”. Ask me sometime about the Rotary 4-Way Test. I strive to live by it every day.

I was drawn to organized dentistry right in the building where I practiced. My mentors include Drs. Paul Justen, Bernie Grothaus, Ken Yonan, and John Parzakonis. Each of them served as CDS President. There was always someone encouraging me to get to a meeting and stay involved. The more I was involved, the more I felt like an “ambassador” for the CDS. I was happy then to support those who led, as my young family and practice took up most of my time.

Then, just when I least expected it, Dr. Susan Doroshow kickstarted me up to the next level of volunteerism by asking me to serve as her Program Chair with Dr. Mark Humenik as General Chair for the 2015 Midwinter Meeting. I was ecstatic and thoroughly enjoyed scouting speakers, developing friendships, and helping to assemble the best program we could for the CDS membership. Again, serving as a CDS “ambassador”, what more could there be?

But the North Suburban Branch needed a member to follow Dr. Astrid Schroetter as the CDS Director. After a long phone call with a very patient Dr. Schroetter and further encouragement from Dr. Doroshow, I took another leap of faith. It was a much larger leap than I expected, and I learned so much. After my three years as director, I had thought that this would be my last stop for sure.

I’m grateful that the Independent Dental Organization supported me to go up the CDS officer ladder. They saw something that was not obvious to me, that I had potential as a leader. More recently preceding me as CDS officers from IDO were Drs. Doroshow, Imburgia, Nicholas, and soon to follow Dr. Ursitti. They have all been mentors to me. In forming the 2024 MWM team I was very fortunate to have Drs. Yendis Gibson, General Chair, and Dave Williams, Program Chair, join me, along with many other IDO members for whom I have the highest regard. As Dr. John Gerding reminded me, “Never say never,” there will be a right time. I had the time now and I hoped that I could make a difference with their support.

As I’ve shared my journey and how I’ve arrived at this point, I hope that you can see the opportunities that CDS membership offers in the way of networking, mentorship, volunteerism, and leadership. It’s opened doors that I never would have gone through had I not become a member.

You all have this opportunity. Start by being an “ambassador” for the CDS and watch the doors open.

The sum of all our efforts supporting each other has made the CDS and the profession of dentistry as wonderful as they are today. Our goal is to make the profession even better for the public we serve and for ourselves as healthcare providers. As a mission to fulfill the goals of the CDS Strategic Plan, I call you all to action as “ambassadors” of the CDS to actively support the following:

First, membership growth: The CDS Board is laser-focused on growing our membership and embracing our growing diversity. Now is the time to be more involved in supporting our profession no matter what mode of dentistry you practice. Remember to “just ask” a colleague who’s not currently a member to join you at a branch meeting. Help the CDS engage current dental students earlier in their career, so they realize the value of membership.

Second, the Midwinter Meeting: We need to sustain and build the value of the Midwinter Meeting. It’s the crown jewel of the CDS and brings in over 8 percent of the CDS income. You might be surprised that currently less than half of CDS members attend the MWM. Invite them to participate.

Third, leadership: We need to foster interest, growth, and access to leadership opportunities within the CDS and beyond. Mentor a member.]

Considering my Springfield heritage, a quote from Abraham Lincoln seemed appropriate: “The best way to predict the future is to create it”. To that end, I am humbly your servant leader. I will do all that I can to enable a future that our members can continue creating well beyond my year in office. I hope that you will take the time to challenge yourselves and give back to the profession. Become an “ambassador” and volunteer when the time is right for you. I remain another member dentist just like you, who volunteered time when able to do so, with the hope that together we create a future that will be exceptional for all of us and our patients.

And remember to always ask yourself, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

Thank you and “Let’s do more in ’24” by creating our future with the CDS and the Midwinter Meeting.