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October 2013
Volume 34, Issue 9

Executive Director of AAP Reflects on Past, Shares Plans for the Future

With a little more than a year on the job under his belt—a position held previously for more than 25 years by Alice DeForest—the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) executive director, John M. Forbes, MBA, offers a fresh perspective and a unique blend of experiences to an organization that recently began a year-long celebration of its first 100 years.

“I bring a different lens to this organization,” says Forbes in an interview with Compendium. New to dentistry, Forbes’ career includes positions with Fortune 50 companies as well as medical startups and global nonprofit companies. Just prior to assuming his current position, he was chief operating officer and associate executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Forbes says dentists have had to take a different look at their practices, too, to learn to make smarter decisions as a result of the economic challenges of recent years, as patients—many of whom lost dental insurance along with their jobs—needed to conserve scarcer resources. “In large part because of the economic impact of the recession, restorative dentists and the specialists to whom they refer their patients have had to adjust and improve ways of running their practices. They have learned to become better marketers, to improve processes, and to collaborate more effectively with their fellow dental practitioners.”

Forbes notes the importance placed on those collaborative relationships at the AAP 2013 Spring Conference, titled “A Team Approach to Managing Implant Complications.” The conference demonstrated how restorative dentists and periodontists can save time, money, and aggravation—both their patients’ and their own—through co-management of patients. “We need to ensure that dental professionals work together—when placing dental implants or not—and that they have the right knowledge and capabilities to support existing treatments, and adopt evolving clinical options based on scientifically proven methods,” he says.

Raising Awareness

The AAP executive director discussed the steps his group has taken—in cooperation with national and international organizations—to raise public awareness of the association between periodontal disease and other medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. “Given the size of our membership and the number of patients they see, there are numerous opportunities to not only provide treatment, but to also inform them of the importance of periodontal health.”

Forbes notes what he calls the “yin and yang” of oral health awareness. “The public is supposedly more knowledgeable about the need for good oral health—for example, flossing, annual comprehensive periodontal evaluations, brushing—but there are clearly gaps, because we still have a significant amount of disease,” he observes. “In fact, the AAP’s work with the Centers for Disease Control indicates that nearly half of US adults aged 30 and older has periodontal disease, so there is work to be done in improving awareness of what is becoming a growing public health issue.”

To help minimize these gaps, he says, the AAP has teamed up with the Partnership for Healthy Mouths and Healthy Lives, a coalition of some 30 organizations working with the Ad Council to spearhead a highly visible public awareness campaign to improve oral health literacy.

In keeping with its goal to raise awareness of the specialty as well as to commemorate the organization’s 100th anniversary, a series of events, which began with the AAP 2013 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia September 28-October 1 and will continue throughout 2014, are being held. “The activities will offer an opportunity to pause and reflect on all that has been achieved during these past 100 years and realize what great potential we have to build onto that rich history,” Forbes explains.

Managing the Changes

Looking forward, Forbes says, a goal for the AAP should be to manage the changes occurring throughout healthcare and to strive to stay relevant. “To adapt to change in the dynamically evolving healthcare space, it is important for us to be adept, flexible, and to continue to learn and embrace these changes.”

Another important part of advancing the AAP towards the future, Forbes suggests, is to become an authoritative voice in periodontology on a global basis, reaching out to other partners to carry the message of oral health and periodontal health. “In addition to educating the public and supporting our members, we aim to establish collaborative relationships with other dental organizations, the commercial sector, and international societies.”

Forbes continues, “We have a great team here at the AAP in Chicago, and we will be an even greater team in the future. One of my hopes is to consistently deliver value to our members, so they feel valued and that they are receiving the resources to help advance their practices, their knowledge, and their service to patients.”

— Ellen Meyer, Compendium editorial staff

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