|Welcome to 2021 and the unique challenges we face in this new decade which has brought with it a variety of unique events and challenges including the continuation of a worldwide pandemic.
Those in the dental profession seem to be doing an excellent job of protecting their staff and patients from the spread of the disease. It has become abundantly clear of the need to integrate oral health into overall health among health providers, and especially our patients. The link/association of oral diseases, i.e. periodontal disease to diabetes, heart issues and behavioral issues continue to emerge.
To help respond to this compelling need my friend and colleague, Dr. Tony Hashemian, and I have created a 501C3 nonprofit organization Global Smile Health. Together, we have created DrHealthyMouth – www.DrHealthyMouth.org to help raise the oral health literacy of current and future patients while educating the dental team. This team includes dentists, hygienists, therapists dental assistants along with medical colleagues about the importance of knowing the social determinants of health, which are potential health and social service professionals in communities available for collaboration.
Healthcare providers need to expand the use of shared health records and fully utilize the oral health team to build trust and demonstrate empathy toward their patients. Patients want to know dental providers not only care about their teeth but about their overall health as well. As I remind my colleagues, it’s not just about teeth, but the person attached to the teeth, their family attached to the patient and the community attached to the family.
Below a brief video about my new project “Dr.HealthyMouth.” Please check it out.
As we all try to stay safe and healthy while the pandemic continues to grow in the U.S., Dr. Jack continues to provide virtual webinars, videos and lectures for the dental industry. In his current role as Mayor elect of Jerome, AZ – he becomes Mayor on November 10th – he has the opportunity to participate in Yavapai County leadership meetings to learn and contribute.
Dr. Jack just completed a one hour webinar on “Public Health Is Essential for Oral and Overall Health – Especially Now,” in collaboration with colleagues for the upcoming Greater New York Dental Meeting that will be virtual this year. We all know that dental care is essential and safe so it needs to continue to be a priority for everyone in order to maintain overall good health.
With Covid -19 numbers increasing, please wear your mask in public, maintain social distance, wash your hands and avoid group events – especially indoors. The number of new cases will continue to increase into 2021.
Please stay safe.
In a surprising election outcome, as Dr. Jack was seeking re-election to the Jerome Town Council, he emerged with the most votes making him the presumptive Mayor Elect. He will take his seat as Mayor at the November 10th Town Council meeting.
The town of Jerome has felt the effect of the terrible pandemic with the number of tourists -the town’s major source of revenue – reduced significantly. It seems to be improving slowly as people are happy to leave the high temperatures of the Phoenix metropolitan area to cool off in the mountains of Central Northern Arizona.
Dr. Jack has been busy participating in a number of projects to promote the necessity and safety of visiting a dental office/clinic. Dental offices are very safe as dentists and staff members practice infection control and prevention regularly in their offices. Now they have added additional protocol in place to further enhance the safety of the dental experience.
To help policy makers and elected leaders not give in to the fear of going for a dental visit, Dr. Jack created a ninety second video with his good friend Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, a physician and former state health director during the same time as Dr. Jack. The video was sent to Governors and other leaders and was very well received.
There will be other opportunities for Dr. Jack to provide advice and guidance to other health professionals and patients during the next few weeks. He will keep you posted.
Stay healthy and safe and please wear a mask when in public – they do work – maintain your social distance and wash your hands often.
In order for dental practices to succeed during the pandemic and have patients return, dental offices need to be sensitive to their fears. This can be done by following the CDC/ADA recommended safety procedures including interviewing patients on the phone prior to setting up their appointment, scheduling them when no other patients are there, or just one or two at a time, separating them in the waiting area. Common practices should include taking temperature when patients arrive, making sure operatories are sanitized between patients and so forth.
This “new” commitment to safety, and the increased awareness of oral health being a determinant of overall health, provides an opportunity for all oral health providers to be a positive force in improving the health of dental patients. For example, now dental practitioners have the opportunity and the responsibility to educate their diabetic patients on sound nutrition and A1C testing. Please check with the insurers to see if they are willing to add this as reimbursable procedures. It is possible to move in that direction to succeed now and into the future.
While still at home, Dr. Jack has been working with a few innovative groups, creating webinars, publications and advice for oral health providers and dental industry companies. It is becoming more common for this activity from our professional organizations and dental schools due to COVID-19, and will continue to be the norm over the next few months, as dental offices continue to open and make changes to comply with the new safety requirements.
Dr. Jack continues to contribute and urges all healthcare professionals to reassess their practices, especially when it comes to improving the overall health and safety of dental patients and staff.
The new decade has begun in a very unexpected fashion. We are dealing with a viral pandemic, an economic catastrophe and millions of health care providers facing issues they never anticipated.
As a consequence of this pandemic, most of my speaking gigs have been cancelled or postponed with the exception of an international webinar for Colgate. The webinar I created was on integrating oral health into primary care, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out over 4,000 live viewers watched it. For those who are interested, here’s the link to their Webinar page: Colgate Webinar.
While we all try to manage our personal lives with many families staying home, some travelers stranded and jobs evaporating – we must try to use this difficult time to rethink and possibly reorganize our health care system so it provides a means for providers to work more collaboratively, payers – including insurers – must work to promote prevention and the integration of overall health care while reducing costs – while still making a profit, Healthcare should be about promoting health and not greed.
The separation of oral health/care from medical care years ago has continued to promote a siloed approach with separate health records, payment mechanisms, and a real lack of collegial collaboration of providers who are still very provider-focused rather than patient-focused. To meet the needs of patients, providers should consider opening their offices open during lunchtime, as well as on occasional evenings and weekends, in order to be more patient-centric.
In addition, the expansion and reimbursement of tele-health procedures will increase the access of care to rural, elderly and isolated patients. The innovative discussions among health industry leaders – including, manufacturers, distributors, providers, educators and payers – need to address how the health professions can do better and be more efficient and equitable by consolidating. Potentially, dentistry could become a specialty of medicine. Harvard School of Dental Medicine started in their Medical School, and continues to this day, to incorporate the first two years of basic sciences side-by-side with medical students. I would not be surprised if in this decade we witness dental education and practice blending with medical education and practice.
We need to put the mouth back into the body and treat it as a specialty of medicine. Some specialties of medicine include – ophthalmology, cardiology, neurology, etc. – why not include oral medicine? This idea isn’t new – it just needs to be more seriously evaluated. Dr. Don Giddon, DMD, Ph.D former NYUCD Dean and Harvard faculty has been promoting this idea for decades. This is food for thought as we all try to make the best of a difficult situation.
As I sit here in Jerome, Arizona I am trying to focus on not catching this disease while doing what I can as a public health provider and a community leader. I realize that this is a generational moment that could not have been imagined or predicted. Here in Jerome, a town of 457 people, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arizona is being called upon to thrive while shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and wine tasking rooms, are closed and jobs are evaporating. I marvel at the generosity of a local restauranteur who opened the doors of his restaurants to distribute the remaining food for free to locals. Other healthy citizens are preparing food for those that are unable to leave their homes and the town shuttle driver is donating his time to bring food from nearby markets.
Those of us in the dental field are asked to not provide “elective” dental services – which has a significant financial impact on our practices and clinics. I wish that organized dentistry would work with our other health care professionals to see how dental personnel – dentists, hygienists, therapists, community health workers and assistants can be integrated into the overall health/medical environment. We need to work with the health insurers/payers to develop reimbursable ways that tele-health can be an effective means to provide needed services to our patients without them coming to our offices/clinics. We need to adopt reimbursement opportunities allow those with special needs – those with autism, down syndrome and other conditions to receive “elective” dental care during this time that is draining our health care resources.
Like everyone else, I too have had to make some significant adjustments to my calendar and travel plans. The Senior Dental Leaders program in London – at which I was to be a speaker – was postponed for a year. Additional speaking and meeting engagements in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Nantucket and Israel were all postponed for up to a year. While an inconvenience, these changes are not nearly as impactful as the significant effect the pandemic is having on so many.
Unfortunately, the strain on our health system and each other will get worse before it gets better – but it will get better! Please work together as leaders – though that may not be your personal aspiration – to engage our colleagues, elected officials and payers so that we can be part of the solution in creating a meaningful, responsive, caring health care system that adequately pays our providers while not over charging our patients for the care they need.
Please be safe as we all go thru this difficult time. Thank you for listening and for all you do to be part of the solution.
The year started with Dr. Jack receiving needed eye surgery on his left eye in an effort to clear his blurry vision as a result of scare tissue built up over the years of prior eye surgeries. It has been a slow but steady recovery.
A week after the surgery, another significant health issue emerged, Dr. Jack experienced a minor stroke. The reality proved to be not as bad as the initial concern. Dr. Jack was admitted to the Verde Valley Medical center where he received comprehensive care and began treatment to minimize the stroke’s effect. He was fortunate that the main issue was a slight loss of balance and memory while all other functions, ie, speech, cognition, etc. remained normal. He continues to improve as his physical therapy, acupuncture and appropriate medications are all helping in his recovery.
While all this was going on, Dr. Jack was contacted by the Arizona State Supreme Court. He was asked to become a public member of their Attorney, Discipline, Probable Cause Committee. This Committee oversees all the attorneys in Arizona and makes recommendations for discipline after reviewing investigations conducted by the State Bar following complaints about the attorney’s actions or behavior. It is a very high honor for Dr. Jack and the appointment is for three years.
As the weather moves from winter to spring, visitors plan to visit Dr. Jack and Jamie in Jerome.
This is the second year that Dr. Jack led the Public Health Symposium which consisted of four panels of national healthcare leaders. The panels focused on current issues and ideas for a healthier country, and the discussions included all health professionals working in a collaborative manner.
The program started by reviewing emerging trends among providers, payers and regulators that will influence the future of healthcare. David Gesko, from Health Partners, identified areas of focus that will be part of the dental practice landscape in 2030, including the integration of oral health into primary care. Dr. Allen Finkelstein discussed how reimbursement will continue to be a key driver for practice success. Physician educators Drs. Hugh Silk and Patricia Braun showed how the collaboration of medical and dental providers and insurers is essential for achieving improved health and health equity by 2030.
The panel looked at the opportunity to improve global health equity brought together private and non profit examples.These included the growth and impact of Dental Service Organizations, global oral health care mission trips and care for the homeless. Steve Thorne, CEO and Founder of Pacific Dental Services (PDS), described their successful practice model and how “service” is an integral part of their culture with PDS sponsoring programs in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Fiji. Also on the panel was Dr. Othman Shibly, University of Buffalo dental faculty, who recently returned from two service trips to the Middle East where he provided dental care to thousands of refugees. Dr. Kris Volcheck, CEO and Founder of Brighterway Institute in Arizona, provides services to the homeless, veterans and boys and girls clubs.
The Panel on Special Needs brought home the critical issues facing the over 60 million Americans with disabilities, including those with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD). The panel included global leaders, Drs. Rick Rader and Maureen Perry and Chairman of the US Disabilities Council, Neil Romano.
The fourth panel brought together non-dentists who have demonstrated the critical role physican assistants, nurses, dental hygienists and dental therapists play in improving oral and systemic health through collaboration. Kudos to nurses Dr. Judi Haber and Erin Hartnett, physician assistant, Dr. Rand Danielsen, dental hygienist Anne Battrell, and dental therapist, Drew Christianson, for their team approach and meaningful presentations.
This interactive and collaborate conference provided the opportunity for Dr. Jack to visit with old friends, classmates from dental school and some ASDOH graduates.
October was an incredibly busy month for Dr. Jack and the Town of Jerome as well. Mid-month, Kaleidoscope Week brought together a gathering of artists, students and locals to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock for a celebration at Spook Hall to raise money for Jerome’s Humane Society.
The next day, Dr. Jack and Jamie participated in a kaleidoscope making class taught by Steve Hopkins, and Randy and Shelly Knapp. Dr. Jack succeeded in making his first Kaleidoscope. The gathering of artists, students and locals culminated with the Humane Society (JHS) fundraiser Brunch that brought hundreds of people to the beautiful outdoor event to celebrate, enjoy great food and raise money for the JHS.
After all of the activities in Jerome, Dr. Jack drove to ATSU to teach a Public Health class with Dean, Dr. Don Altman, for the ATSU Physician Assistant students. After Dean Altman discussed basic public health, Dr. Jack focused on the skills needed to be a successful health care provider in the emerging healthcare system. These included, integrity, service and leadership. It’s always a pleasure for Dr. Jack to visit the campus.
The next day, Dr. Jack as Board Chairman for the Brighterway Institute joined dear friend, Dan Perkins, and other Aegis Publishing leaders and Brighterway Board members in a meeting to discuss a potential collaboration. Later in the week he returned to Jerome and he and Jamie participated in the Jerome Fire Department fundraising costume party. It was an incredible event that literally completely filled Spook Hall. It was a night filled with amazing costumes and music by the Naughty Bits.
The month wound down with Dr. Jack participating in the AZ Public Health Association annual meeting. It was another opportunity for him to visit with many old friends and colleagues – sharing breakfast and catching up with Dr. Bob England was a special treat. Lastly, Dr. Jack made a quick visit to California to visit with more friends and colleagues at Bien Air in Irvine. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about their innovative products.
Thanks to their generosity and commitment to service, the Pacific Dental Services Foundation Mobile Dental Clinic spent Friday, September 20th in Jerome providing free dental care to 26 people. Eighteen volunteers provided the comprehensive care including four dentists, three dental hygienists and five dental assistants. The patients were truly appreciative of the quality of care provided.
On Thursday, the 26th, the Jerome Fire Department celebrated their annual “picnic” thanking the citizens for their support and honoring firefighters. Due to pending rain, the event was held in the firehouse and was very well attended. There was plenty of delicious food at the potluck, and the Jerome Ukulele Orchestra provided the musical entertainment.
Dr. Jack is busy preparing for the the second Public Health Symposium he will be leading at the upcoming Greater New York Dental Meeting, December 3rd and 4th at the Javits Center in New York City. There will be four panels of world renowned leaders addressing critical issues relevant to all healthcare providers and educators. Admission is free to dental students and residents. Please check their website for details.