On March 12, 2014, I accompanied a group of leaders from the National Dental Association to Capitol Hill to meet with interested members of Congress who ex- pressed an interest in developments in Tennessee related to Medicaid utilization. The President Dr. Allison Riddle Fletcher, Executive Director Mr. Robert Johns, General Counsel Derrick Humphries, Past President Dr. Hazel Harper, and publicist Mr. Roman Holton held meetings with Congresswoman Donna Christian Christensen (D-USVI,) Congress- man Steve Cohen (D-TN), Con- gresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), and Con- gressman Jim Cooper (D-TN). It was probably the most productive day of lobbying we’ve ever done, with unprecedented face time with Members and Health Care Administrators on the Hill.
It was during these meetings that I realized the very current relevance of the National Dental Association. Sometimes the lines between the history of civil rights and the relevance of civil rights gets blurred, especially for our younger professionals, but at no time in history is the relevance of the National Dental Association more apparent than right now.
Minority professionals are in the midst of a subtle onslaught of discrimination which is becoming more evident each day. There is a current case where a majority dentist who had made enemies in a State Board was being persecuted by that Board and by other stakeholders in a case of criminal negligence. He rented space out to a minority dentist, and immediately that dentist was targeted by the same individuals in exactly the same manner until he was forced to break his lease and vacate the premises. In states where minor- ity dentists are not well organized, successful dentists are being unfairly targeted because of their affluence, and worse of all, minority dentists are being targeted if they “over utilize” Medicaid funds and are seen as too successful in their optimization of the system.
In this fight, the only consistent advocate for equality, justice and fairness is the National Dental Association. When we mentor our youth and tell them the history of the first one hundred years of the NDA, we would be remiss not to emphasize the fact that the NDA is more relevant now than ever. Imagine being discriminated against because of the color of your skin and being kept in subjugation and poverty because of it. Then imagine being discriminated against because of the color of your skin and being too successful, living in communities where you once could not. In response to the question, ”Where do you live in Tennessee?”, posed to me by a member of Congress, I gave my address. The immediate response was, ”Oh! The affluent neighborhood!”
During our recent forays onto Capitol Hills in affected states, we were repeatedly told, “If your people don’t show up here in significant numbers, they will not make any headway in political disputes related to discrimination. Now is the time to emphasize that fact in our SNDA sessions, and with our children. Unity is still strength. It’s amazing that they have to be taught how to organize to handle the new “affluence”, in the same way we taught them how to peacefully tolerate the old biases. Pay your dues to the NDA. The NDA has paid its dues for 100 years.
Robin R. Daniel, DDS
Member, NDA Board