Re: Falling Short in Organized Dentistry: A Call for Increased Diversity


We received several letters and online comments to Dr. Ernest Lam’s Guest Editorial, published in JCDA Issue 4, 2013. Dr. Lam’s call to encourage and mentor diversity in organized dentistry clearly sparked a reaction—often quite heated and animated—from our readership. Below are condensed versions of some of the viewpoints we received.


Our Readers Respond

We don’t need affirmative action in Canada.

“But to elevate people to positions of power on the basis of ethnicity or gender,   rather than capability, does not satisfy the obligation to appoint only the best candidates…”


Dr. Donald Mulcahy
Strathroy, Ontario


Organized dentistry is facing significant challenges—diversity in leadership roles is not one of them.

“The field of dentistry is undergoing challenges that threaten to destroy most of the incentives we in the past considered important lures leading us into the profession. You’re interested in painting the boat while it’s sinking.”


Dr. Michael Christensen
Kenora, Ontario


Organized dentistry volunteers are hardworking and dedicated. Their colour, gender and ethnicity are irrelevant.

“All organized dentistry that I am involved with in Canada has no colour or gender. It comes from the heart as everyone volunteers.”


– posted on


Volunteers are hard enough to find even without having to consider diversity.

“All of these organizations will tell you that volunteers are hard to come by.

No one is turned away. Maybe Professor Lam has a list of young women and/or visible minority volunteers that are willing to step forward...”


– posted on


Diversity matters. Success in organized dentistry requires leaders that represent dentists with shared historical, cultural and family values.

“With diversity comes a complexity of cultural differences concerning ethics, morals and professionalism. The ability to provide a cohesive mutually respective representation of these differences and their inevitable diverse influences on the profession is the true future challenge for organized diversity.”


Dr. John Hardie
Ottawa, Ontario


Response from the Author

As a university professor, I have come to expect a certain amount of criticism for my academic work; experimental design and data analyses can always be improved upon. However, I was a bit shocked by the verbiage contained in some of the online comments and letters JCDA received in response to my Guest Editorial.1

Organized dentistry is facing significant challenges, including a lack of diversity in its leadership positions. It is true that fewer dentists choose to volunteer their time and energy to help move our organizations forward.  Time is a valuable commodity, which is why organizations need to invest time to mentor young professionals and encourage them to participate.  Indeed, my initial involvement with the Royal College of Dentists of Canada came about because I was asked to join by a senior colleague. I’ve gone on to volunteer my time with several organizations in a variety of capacities, so I have witnessed firsthand the hard work and dedication of my fellow volunteers.  Good volunteers are hard to find, so when we find them we should nurture and promote them—whether they are a woman or a man; Chinese, South Asian or Caucasian. 

I found it surprising that some people would dismiss the possibility that the “best candidate” could actually be a woman or an ethnic minority. Why is this so difficult to fathom in 21st century Canada? I am particularly troubled if such views actually came from a member of our profession.

I have had the privilege to teach many bright and enthusiastic young women and ethnic minorities in my career.  Many have now graduated and are practising in small towns and large cities across Canada as general dentists and specialists.  I am still in contact with many of them, so to answer one online critic...yes, I do have a list!


Dr. Ernest Lam


  1. Lam, E. Falling short in organized dentistry: a call for increased diversity. J Can Dent Assoc. 2013;79:d100.