Looking toward the future

Oct. 21, 2009
Angela Swatts, new president of the American Dental Assistants Association, talks about the changes ahead for the ADAA as it expands to meet the needs of its members.

By Angela M. Swatts, CDA, EFDA
President, American Dental Assistants Association

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Angela Swatts, and I am the new president of the American Dental Assistants Association. I was installed just last month at our annual convention in Honolulu. I have been a dental assistant in many capacities over the last 25 years, including chairside, office management, educator, and dental laboratory manager.

I am truly honored to be the president of the ADAA. I am in line with 85 dental assisting professionals who have gone before me as president, who have helped make this profession what it is today. These leaders were willing to look at the profession of dental assisting to see where we came from and where we want to be. They pitched in along the way to see these changes through. It is with great appreciation that I thank them and enthusiastically look forward to working on the changes we need now.

If you don’t know us, let me introduce the ADAA, the nation’s oldest and largest association for dental assistants, and the one that gives a face and voice to the more than 250,000 dental assistants in the United States. Members are dental assistants who are clinical, administrative, educators, sales reps, and insurance workers. The profession has changed to include all of these areas, and the ADAA welcomes these areas too.

Times are changing and changing fast. I see change all around us with the use of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and online education. We now learn and communicate in a much different manner than we did 85 years ago, when Juliette Southard founded the ADAA. In fact, we learn and communicate differently than we did just five years ago.

As an association, are we ready for this? Yes. We are changing and expanding to meet the needs of our members in every way, and to help those seeking dental assisting continuing education. Are we prepared to meet the needs of all dental assistants, in all capacities? We will be with your input. We cannot simply tread water as professionals or a professional association and expect to adequately meet the needs of the dentist and the dental consumer. We face different obstacles than those of our predecessors, such as a sea of online CE, new classifications of dental assistants, fierce legislative issues regarding dental assisting duties, and the fast-paced and ever-changing development of product and equipment technology. As a dental assistant, you can’t expect to face this on your own, but with your participation, ADAA can help you through.

After 20 years of membership, I still enjoy attending my local, state, and national meetings for education, fellowship, and networking. However, because there is another generation who views things differently, we must be proactive and connect with all these dental assistants, so ADAA participates in Facebook and Twitter in order to be in touch with as many fellow professionals as possible. We offer a weekly online newsletter called "24/7," and an interactive Web site for your convenience.

So, I ask you, how can we be better? How can we provide for those who still like personal interaction and are the foundation of what we stand for, while meeting the needs of the future generation that will carry this association into another 85 years? Our goals remain the same: education, membership, and legislation. My challenge is to determine the best way to apply these principles in today’s ever-changing environment. We cannot be left behind. As the ADAA president, I am committed to lead the ADAA and the dental assisting profession on this quest of adapting to a changing generation of membership and professional needs, in order to guarantee our place as the one and only association dedicated to the advancement of the profession of dental assisting ... past, present, and future.

Join me in making this happen. Contact me at [email protected].