“This is a reprint of an interview with ADAA President Stephen E. Spadaro conducted by the Dental Assistant Journal. The interview deals with the creation of a new category of membership in the American Dental Assistants Association. The ADAA House of Delegates will consider action on this category at their meeting in October in Honolulu.” President Spadaro, the next issue of the Journal will carry a bylaw change proposal that is bound to cause a great deal of discussion and raise many questions from ADAA members. Would you please tell our readers what to expect?Spadaro: We’re inviting this year’s delegates to the Annual Conference to consider a big change in our organization’s make-up. Specifically, we will present a program that creates an additional form of membership in the ADAA.The ADAA has always had a number of membership categories. What makes this one special?Spadaro: This will be called an “eMembership,” and will be for those who choose to affiliate with ADAA via the Internet and receive their information and certain limited benefits through the virtual world. We want to reach out to the vast underserved population of dental assistants in America who are not currently affiliated with any professional organization. We invite them to join the ADAA in this special way at no cost. They can enjoy certain privileges through this affiliation while they learn about the ADAA and consider future traditional affiliation.Will you change your traditional membership?Spadaro: No, traditional members, referred to in our proposal as “professional or sustaining members,” will continue to enjoy all their current benefits and will retain their exclusive rights to hold office at the local, state, and national level. We hope to add more and better benefits for this level of member too.What will the eMember receive?Spadaro: eMembers will enjoy a special online edition of The Dental Assistant and one hour of free online education each year. They will be entitled to link to the employment referral service www.dentalworkers.com, the ADAA online job board. There will be a discussion board for new eMembers and the privilege of participating in certain member services such as credit cards, life and medical insurance, and hotel and rental car discounts. They will also be able to manage their membership records online and print out an eMembership card. There are e-newsletters planned for special interests such as students, educators, administrators, and clinicians. Some of these are already available to our present members.What do you have for the “professional or sustaining member”?Spadaro: A whole lot more. “Professional or sustaining members” will continue to earn a rebate for their states, hold office at any level, and serve as delegates at the annual conference. They will get four hours, or approximately $60 worth of free CE each year, with no grading fee for online education. They’ll also have first shot at online education before it is made available to anyone else. And they’ll receive a hard copy of the Journal as well as the e-Journal, with an archive search tool not provided to the eMember. One of the most important member benefits that will be continued and strengthened is the professional liability insurance and the accidental death insurance, which comes as part of the annual member dues.That sounds like a pretty solid financial benefit package.Spadaro: It is, and there are additional benefits as well. Student members have access to ADAA scholarships, and professional or sustaining members have exclusive access to members-only content on the ADAA Web site. Plus, they will enjoy all the member benefit discount programs offered to every category of membership, as well as message board capability for professional or sustaining members only.We don’t want any current members to feel overlooked. Sustaining members will be recognized with life or 25-year seniority pins and certificates and free Journal service at retirement, an invitation to participate in the fellowship/mastership program, and an opportunity to enjoy the networking, camaraderie, and lifelong friendships built from personal interaction with their professional association. To brighten the picture, there will be periodic bonuses for new and renewing professional or sustaining members, such as seniority pins, discount coupons, and incentives.Why are you calling the new category “members”? Aren’t they really more like “associates”?Spadaro: Not really. We call them eMembers because we value their relationship with us and we want them to know that they are included in our organization, not peripheral to it. Because they chose to become part of the ADAA, we will provide them with certain member benefits in recognition, such as a limited version of the Journal online and reduced prices for CE, although not as reduced as those enjoyed by active or traditionally based members.How does this membership — with no apparent revenue for the national or state organizations — benefit the ADAA?Spadaro: We foresee many benefits at all levels, principally from non-dues revenue in the area of continuing education and special events. The old adage “strength in numbers” has never been more truthful. Although states won’t receive dues for eMembers, they’ll receive the contact information they’ll need to invite new eMembers to lectures and meetings and to demonstrate the value of traditional membership. After states have established contacts, what happens next?Spadaro: These contacts will provide opportunities for states and locals to reach out and recruit eMembers as active members and gain revenue from the eMembers who participate in events and CE. Don’t forget the strength in numbers when it comes to legislative influence. Your state’s eMembers can be counted when talking with legislators about dental assistants’ concerns. Have students been overlooked?Spadaro: Not at all. We strongly believe that students are our future. We plan to provide all students with professional liability insurance and all the benefits our professional members receive at our deeply discounted student rate. In addition, we will retain our generous discounted dues structure for the first three years of a student’s professional or sustaining membership after graduation. We want to keep those students happy and participating.Where can we find more information on this proposed change?Spadaro: I’m here to help and so are all district trustees who support this effort. Write me at [email protected], or contact your district trustee.What’s the bottom line with this proposed change? Is this just a numbers game?Spadaro: There are 250,000-plus dental assistants in the United States. It is the duty of the ADAA to work toward educating all dental assistants in order to support the dental team and provide optimal dental health to American consumers. We can do this only if we reach out beyond the faithful core of those currently counted in our membership. We need to contact these dental assistants and attract them to the ADAA so that we can offer them education, and in turn educate them about our member benefits in order to attract them to professional or sustaining membership participation. As our numbers grow, we will attract the recognition and respect deserved by a strong profession represented by a strong association. As our numbers increase, our voice will be strengthened, our outreach and resources will grow, and the goal of improved oral health for all will move closer to becoming an achievable goal with ADAA doing its part.We feel that we’re going back to the roots of the ADAA’s formation by Juliette Southard, who reached out to everyone in every way possible to grow dental assisting as a profession to be respected and regarded.Thank you for taking the time to discuss these developments, President Spadaro.Spadaro: Thanks for the opportunity to speak out. I look forward to hearing from our members.