Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays, the next president of the ADA, addressed the association on Thursday during the Opening General Session of its annual conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital just a few days before she formally takes its reins. As president elect, the 37-year ADA veteran has spent the past year working with current president Dr. Maxine Feinberg.
“I’m so excited to be with you in Washington, DC,” Dr. Gomez Summerhays said. “Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving you as your president.”
“Working with her has been really great,” Dr. Feinberg said. “I know you’ll be in good hands. She’s one of the most talented and thoughtful leaders I’ve ever met, and I know that she will continue to move our association forward.”
After graduating from the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California, Dr. Gomez Summerhays served as a lieutenant in the US Navy Dental Corps in San Diego. She also is a former trustee of the ADA’s 13th district in California and a former president of the California Dental Association. In fact, her deep roots in the Golden State led her to consider some other roots.
“Many of you know I’m a native Californian. Also native to California are the giant redwoods, which are the largest and tallest trees in the world,” she said. “Now you would think that the giant redwoods would extend very deep into the soil. But in reality, their roots are very shallow, and they intertwine with each other in the grove to provide a strong network of mutual support. So like the giant redwoods, our success and futures are intertwined.”
With this sense of community in mind, Dr. Gomez Summerhays wants to make ADA membership growth a top priority, with increasing numbers of female dentists, foreign-born dentists, and dentists serving in the military joining the association. She also wants to expand membership among dental students and prepare them for the changes in the profession since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
These new members would be in good company too, as Dr. Gomez Summerhays said that the ADA comprises the finest dentists, staff, and volunteers in the world. As these practitioners build a strong ADA for the 21st century, the association will strive to keep American dentistry the gold standard for the globe, she said.
“For 156 years, the ADA has been guided by the same principles: unity of purpose, compassionate care, scientific pursuit, and excellence, and today, those principles are still at our core,” she said. “We will preserve our core principles, protect the doctor-patient relationship, protect professional autonomy, and keep our educational standards high and our ethics strong.”
This weekend, the ADA House of Delegates will vote for a new president elect who will take up the office when Dr. Gomez Summerhays’ term expires in the fall of 2016. Until then, she will remain committed to her mission of championing the profession and improving oral health.
“That’s what this is all about: being the best that we can be,” she said. “We have an incredible opportunity to make a difference.”