ATLANTA--In its 96-year history, the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting has never closed its doors early. And, it's only missed one year.
In 1931, when Dr. Hinman died, the meeting was cancelled and renamed in his honor. But, Hinman was forced to close early this year. On Friday, March 14, a tornado not only surprised Atlanta, but damaged extensively the Georgia World Congress Center and Omni Hotel at CNN Center, as well as other downtown buildings.
Up to that point, the meeting was on track to boast of another record-breaking attendance. By Friday evening, the meeting had 22,676 dental professionals registered for the first two days of Hinman. Dental professionals filled the Congress Center and Omni Hotel to experience the complete evolution of dentistry featured at the 2008 meeting.
As one of the largest dental meetings in the country, Hinman offered more than 200 courses and more than 900 technical exhibits this year. The 2008 educational program featured everything from an early 20th-century dental office complete with re-enactors and a new Hinman Digital Desktop to some of the most ground-breaking topics in dentistry today.
The meeting offered 78 nationally renowned clinicians and leaders in the field of dentistry with more than 22 speakers new to Hinman, nearly 70 participation courses, numerous course formats, and an enhanced and expanded auxiliary program.
Tornado closes doors early
Just prior to the tornado hitting downtown the evening of March 14, many Hinman attendees were attending alumni receptions, the auxiliary reception and other Hinman-hosted and affiliated events. The storm was over in minutes, but the aftermath resulted in damage to the GWCC and Omni that prevented Hinman from being held the following day.
"It's unfortunate that we had to close the meeting one day early, but with the damage to the facilities and the safety of our attendees and exhibitors our primary concern, we were left with no alternative," said Dr. Dan Dunwody, III, general chairman of the 2008 Hinman Dental Meeting. "We are just relieved that there were apparently no serious injuries to our attendees and exhibitors. Given the damage to the infrastructure downtown, it was nothing short of miracle that there were so few injuries to the thousands and thousands of people in Atlanta."
Member dentists of the Hinman Dental Society and the full-time staff worked through the night Friday to communicate the news of Hinman's early closing. In addition, they manned an information booth in the Omni Hotel South Tower and established a hospitality area where Hinman presenters could have breakfast and lunch prior to making arrangements for an early departure.
Each of Hinman's 78 speakers were contacted by his or her host or another Hinman member who immediately checked on the speaker's safety and helped him or her relocate hotel rooms, if necessary, and get early flights departing on March 15. Several hosts even welcomed speakers into their Atlanta-area homes when the speakers' hotel rooms were deemed unsafe for them to stay.
The Georgia World Congress Center was closed to people over the weekend while the state fire marshall and his team of assessors inspected the building. Many Hinman exhibitors waited through the weekend to determine if they could re-enter the GWCC to conduct move out of their booths. Hinman's technical exhibits were housed completely in Building A, the hardest hit of the three GWCC buildings.
"I'm proud of how the Hinman volunteers and staff really pulled together as a team to keep attendees and exhibitors informed, help them make flight arrangements and ensure they had access to lodging and food until they could leave downtown Atlanta," said Dr. Dunwody. "We appreciate the Hinman members' efforts to make this happen and we are grateful for the understanding and support of our attendees and exhibitors."
Hinman's educational programs
Hinman's educational programming offered everything from biomimetics and nano-biotechnology to digital impression device and disturbing trends in esthetics.
The March 13 schedule featured 64 courses and workshops, including two courses given by Dr. Gordon Christensen, a unique panel discussion on esthetic dentistry, CPR courses, a Pankey Institute course, and many more clinical and practice-management courses designed for the dental team. On March 14, Hinman offered more than 85 workshops and courses, featuring topics ranging from biomimetics and forensic odontology to digital orthodontics and implants for the general practitioner.
With more than 9,000 dental assistants, hygienists and office staff registered for Hinman, many courses were designed with this audience in mind. Dr. David Martin Reznik's "Right Words, Right Time, Right Way" course attracted 886 professionals and Dr. Peter Jacobsen's "The Art of Dental Therapeutics: Over-the-Counter Dental Products" course drew at least 1,342 registered attendees. Dr. Mitchell Gardiner's "Clinical Documentation and Dental Malpractice: the Best Defense in Court is Your Record Keeping" course captured the attention of 956 professionals.
"Despite the early closing, I believe the 96th Hinman Dental Meeting set the bar even higher for continuing education programs," said Dr. Dunwody. "During the first two days of the meeting, we accomplished everything we set out to do and continued to prove to attendees why Hinman is where dental professionals want to be."
Hinman pledges $1 million to two dental schools
The excess revenue from the Hinman meeting not only supports the operations of its annual meeting, but makes it possible to support dental education throughout the Southeast. This year, the Hinman Dental Society pledged $1 million to two southeastern schools of dentistry.
Dr. Robert Towe, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Hinman Dental Society, made the announcement during the keynote session on March 13. Hinman will provide the University of Alabama School of Dentistry a $500,000 gift to fund the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting Endowed Professorship in the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry. In addition, Hinman will provide the University of Tennessee School of Dentistry a $500,000 gift to establish the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting Fellowship in General Dentistry.
"Hinman is honored to be in a position to provide $1 million over the next five years to two very prominent schools of dentistry," said Dr. Towe. "As a non-profit organization, the Hinman Dental Society is committed to supporting dental education and the success of the annual Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting allows us to do so at a very significant level."
During the presentation on March 13, the deans of both schools accepted the donations and each expressed gratitude.
"Hinman's impact on the college has been enormous. In its 13th year, the Hinman Student Research Symposium would not be possible without Hinman's generous support. And, this fellowship will provide much needed support. We are grateful for everything Hinman does," said Dr. Mark Patters, interim dean of the University of Tennessee School of Dentistry.
"I want to express my extreme gratitude. This endowment affords us the opportunity to add another outstanding faculty member to our staff," said Dr. Huw Thomas, dean of the University of Alabama School of Dentistry.
In addition this year, the Hinman Dental Society awarded scholarships and gifts totaling more than $250,000 to 89 dental, dental hygiene, laboratory technician and dental assisting students at 37 colleges and universities located throughout the Southeast, as well as dental education groups and clinics.
The students selected for scholarships were named "Hinman Scholars." Typically they receive this award on Saturday of the meeting, but this year resulted in plaques and checks being mailed to the students.
For additional information about the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting, visit the Web site at Hinman Dental Society or contact Sylvia Ratchford, executive director, at (404) 231-1663.
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