Pride Institute “Best of Class” Technology Award 2015
Seven years after its inception, the impact of this initiative on the dental community as a whole continues to gain in significant ways.
Inside Dentistry (ID): Dr. Shuman, tell our readers a little bit what the “Best of Class” program is all about. What was your vision that led you to create this program?
Lou Shuman (LS): The mission of the program was to create an award system that would truly create a significant impact to both the manufacturing community and the practicing dental community at large. I wanted a program in which the the judges involved were the most respected leaders in the space, and I wanted the voting process to not only be incredibly rigorous, but also transparent—I wanted everyone to know how the winners are selected.
One of the reasons why I created the program was because the cost of technology started to skyrocket. As the leadership team formed, together we decided we wanted to create a “go-to list” of the products that every dental practitioner should have in their operatories based on the fact that, individually, we’ve already spent a full year comparing all of the various technologies, and, as a team, we’ve come to a consensus that the winners are indeed the “best of class;” that they are significantly better than all others in their respective categories, and therefore they would be of great benefit to any dental practice.
ID: What is the judging process like? Who are the key opinion leaders that make up your team? And what are the criteria that a technology must meet to be considered for this award?
LS: I was very fortunate that Paul Feuerstein, John Flucke, Parag Kachalia, and Marty Jablow—all recognized experts in dental technology—agreed to a unique process where we would define what technology would be and they would conduct hands-on research over the course of an entire year. The number of hours the panel puts into this program is incredible. They’ve been researching, they’ve been at meetings, and we’re all in discussion with each other constantly. It’s not like everyone just shows up on voting day and casts their votes; they’ve been in deep research all year long.
The rules are uniquely different. If there are categories where a technology isn’t heads and tails above the rest or a product isn’t significantly more impactful than any other, then there won’t be winners in those categories. I didn’t want to be forced to pick winners by category just because we had the category. The technology really has to differentiate itself, and it has to be recognized by a majority vote that it is truly “best of class.” That’s the key. It could be a new technology that could create its own category. At the end of the day, this list should be looked at as the ultimate integration into a practice with the benefit of the doctor, the team, and the patient. These are the products that this leadership panel feels should be integrated into every practice, and these panelists are the experts in their fields.
ID: How does a manufacturer of a dental technology benefit from winning a “Best of Class” award?
LS: Nothing makes me happier than to see a company with a total annual budget of $30,000 holding the same exact award as a company with $2 billion in revenue and a marketing budget in the millions. To me, that is the most emotional thing, to see this little start-up company that one of the tech leaders found stand side by side with a giant dental manufacturer.
One of the things that means the most to me is to have that expertise of the panel and how seriously they take this because they know that there’s a very significant impact to winning this, so they want to make sure there is a clear differentiation on who they choose. They are brilliant and they work so hard reviewing these products and technologies, and as a team they are in essence saying to the entire practicing dental community not only are these the products that everybody should be purchasing for their practice, they are also telling the manufacturers, “these are the products you should be looking at because they have differentiated themselves from you.”
ID: In what direction(s) do you see the program going in the future?
LS: One thing that has changed over time has been the actual definition of technology. That is the way we start every year when we sit down. What does technology mean? In the beginning it is easy to look at technology as some sort of technological machine, but chemistry can play a role in technology—as in the composition of a material. It can be a material if we feel like there is a technological purpose behind it, so we’ve expanded our definition of technology as we start to see products introduced into dentistry that sort of force us to focus on that. Technology can mean the handpiece, but it can also be the way engineers deliver composites.
What excites me and what is special to me after all these years is to have all of the dental journals recognize its importance, its integrity, and the fact that it is becoming a tradition on an annual basis. I can’t even put into words what that means to me when it started with me trying to meet with two editors-in-chief for lunch and they didn’t show up—I ate by myself. A lot of people appreciate that I kept going and going. I have never and will never alter this focus.
As far as the future goes, I have an idea that I am developing with the panel and the American Dental Association for next year’s Annual Meeting, and that is to not only have the booth for each of the winners at ours—like we do now—but possibly create a “Best of Class” operatory where all of the winning products are integrated into a space that the attendees can visit and explore, with the dental chair and the handpieces and the machines and all of the products—to try to integrate them in a way that is unique and that we haven’t done before.