PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE 

Jacinto W. Beard, DDS, FAGD, FICD

 

I was recently invited to address the Ohio State Dental Board at their annual retreat. Having been a past Ohio State Dental Board member from 2010 to 2014 it was really great to meet the newest board members and catch up on the lives of those I served with while on the board. Given the opportunity to address such a prestigious body tasked with protecting the public, and enforcing the Ohio State Dental Practice Act, I pondered on which topic I would choose to speak on. Many topics came to mind such as: Midlevel providers, The Federal Trade Commission’s recent rulings, opioid epidemic, and the list continues. We are not short on dental issues. But, the one topic I felt most compelled to speak on was the value of Diversity. Why Diversity? Simply stated, diversity stops “Groupthink.” For this message, I’d like to share an overview of my presentation to the Dental Board.

Groupthink is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). It is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of leaders in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision making outcome. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making. The journal Psychology Today states that groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to follow leadership without question and strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus.

I was not challenging each of the board members to become rebel rousers or antagonists. It is paramount within any well-functioning organization that there be order and civility promoting proper decorum in all that we do within the profession. What I am challenging us all to do, is to seek out the diversity among us and embrace it as a positive; a possible contribution to recognizing the value in alternative thought that humanizes us even more.

The problem with groupthink is that it creates insensitivities to unique circumstances, thus, it serves to perpetuate systemic and systematic inequities. Groupthink feeds our insecurities and biases; sometimes unknowingly, sometimes innocently, but always impactful to another. Before excellence and equity can manifest in an organization, the awareness of how systems and procedures impact individuals must matter.

For a moment, let us consider, how do we really feel about issues facing our profession:

Can dentists who primarily accept Medicaid, really practice within the standard of care and be profitable? Is Corporate dentistry a sound business model or an affront to our private practice ideology? What does the term “Mid-level provider” really mean?

On its face, including diverse perspectives sometimes feels uncomfortable, even threatening. In reality, so does change, but we live in an ever-changing world. We all have taken biology at some point in our lives. Consider an Ecosystem and how diverse it is with plant and animal life in harmony with its physical environment. Researchers say ecosystems with higher biodiversity tend to be more stable with greater resistance and resilience in the face of disturbances and disruptive events. A variety of different organisms adapting to an ever changing ecosystem is what creates balance, and allows the ecosystem to thrive.

It is important for us to remain open minded to perspectives outside of our individual world views. Particularly as leaders of our field, (and I consider every one of us leaders) because leaders are responsible for those under their care, and society at large. I am proud to be a part of the Columbus Dental Society, an organization that embraces diversity. The willingness to do so creates balance within our group. I want to encourage each of us individually and collectively to continue to embrace diversity. Strive to be diverse in our make-up, and welcome diverse thought when appropriate. Reject “Groupthink” in order to better the profession and protect the community in which we serve.

Thank you for a moment of your time and the opportunity for us to think about lifting our consciousness toward inclusiveness. I truly believe it can only serve to make us better.

Have a wonderful summer!