We All Need Each Other


Dr. John O'Keefe

Holiday fervor is in the air! In the malls, holiday music plays and we are beckoned to partake in the jolly traditions of the season. I find this appeal to tradition comforting and heartwarming. Equally heartwarming was the articulation of traditional human values expressed by the recipients of CDA's annual awards, during a ceremony held in Ottawa in November.

At this event, Dr. Nicky Leung of Richmond, BC, received the CDA Award of Merit; the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program, represented by Drs. Miriam Rosin and Michele Williams, received the Oral Health Promotion Award; and Mr. Tom Clift of St. John's, Newfoundland, received the Special Friend of Canadian Dentistry Award. All honorees spoke movingly about how much they enjoy serving their respective clientele, and how, when giving is done in the right way and for the right reasons, you receive far more in return.

For Dr. Leung and his wife, providing volunteer dentistry to vulnerable patients in developing countries, often at risk to their personal safety, is a religious calling. Drs. Rosin and Williams described how they are part of a large team dedicated to reducing the impact of a horrible disease and lauded the dental profession for being so actively engaged in the same struggle.

Mr. Clift has now retired from his long-time career as the owner of a dental supply company in Newfoundland. He spoke of setting up his company in 1949 when there were just 16 dentists in the entire province. Even though Mr. Clift was entering a tiny market that already had a well-established supplier, he was undaunted by the challenge. His business credo from the very beginning was to provide excellent service to his clients. He knew that by supporting individual dentists and their organizations, often in difficult times, he could inspire loyalty in his customers.

One of his earliest clients was Dr. David Peters, pictured with Mr. Clift on the cover of JCDA. Dr. Peters, who served as CDA president in 1972–73, travelled from St. John's to Ottawa specially to see Mr. Clift receive his award. He told me he wouldn't have missed seeing his longtime business associate and friend being recognized by CDA. I find this mutual loyalty and dedication very admirable, and it certainly can serve as an aspirational example for relationships between the dental profession and industry.

This relationship came to mind recently when I was facilitating a group conversation with dentists. I asked my colleagues if they would pay attention to industry-sponsored continuing education materials. The participants responded in shocked unison that they would not, as the purveyors had something to sell. Yet, we often turn to industry sources to sponsor our various continuing education activities.

Our expectations that industry will readily continue to sponsor events and publications, handing over funds and "keeping quiet in the corner," may breed ill feelings among our industry confreres. Unless the representatives of industry perceive true return on their sponsorship investment, they may find new ways to reach individual customers. I can envisage a scenario where sponsored events will change drastically and cease to be presented in their current format, unless there is a new understanding between industry and our profession about what constitutes good value for all parties. I am hopeful that this new understanding will be achieved.

As we enter the holiday season and take a well-earned break from our routines, I hope that we can all reflect on how lucky we are to be part of a very privileged sector in a very privileged country. As expressed so eloquently by our CDA award winners, we truly gain so much by providing a valuable service to all in society, especially to those with the least. There is more that unites dentists, dental industry representatives, hygienists, assistants and laboratory personnel than divides us when we dedicate ourselves to serving the public by improving oral health. We truly need each other to work to our maximum potential. May you have a joyful and restful holiday season.


John O'Keefe
1-800-267-6354, ext. 2297


On the JCDA cover, Vol. 76, No. 6: Friends in Dentistry: Mr. Tom Clift and Dr. David Peters of St. John's, Newfoundland.

Photo: www.tecklesphoto.com