Editor’s note: The Georgia Dental Association (GDA) has been a tremendous friend of the DCG over the years, funding scholarships, hosting ‘Lunch and Learn’ seminars, sponsoring programs and demonstrating its support in many other ways as well, including by contributing a $10,000 grant for the 50th Anniversary celebration. Past GDA presidents were recognized at the anniversary reception. This article features the observations of DCG alumni who have served as GDA presidents over the years. Those not included are Dr. Michael
T. Rainwater, the 132nd president, who is deceased, and Dr. Andrew R. Allgood, the 126th president, who was convalescing from surgery when the article was written.
If you’ve ever contemplated the impact of DCG graduates on oral health care in Georgia and beyond, it’s easy to focus on the college’s outstanding 2,800-plus alumni.
But another number is impressive as well: nine.
That’s the number of DCG alumni who have served as president of the GDA since its professional office opened in Atlanta in 1975. The association, which counts 3,300 members, exerts tremendous influence in improving oral health in Georgia and promoting the highest standards of education, advocacy and professionalism. No Georgian has gone untouched by its efforts, and the association helps advance oral health care nationally and internationally as well.
The fact that so many DCG alumni have overseen this effort speaks volumes about the quality of their education, according to Dean Carol A. Lefebvre. “We are extremely proud to be so well-represented in organized dentistry, knowing that our values and professionalism have extensive ripple effects in legislation, education, community service, best practices and every other component of our profession,” she says. “We educate the best dentists in the world, and I am so proud of the alumni who have extended the reach of their expertise by participating in organized dentistry.”
Here are their stories, in the order in which they served:
Dr. Edward J. Green (’83),
“I had worked as a chemical engineer for several years before I pursued a dental career. Being a people person as well as being attracted to the hands-on component of dental treatment, I felt that dentistry would be a good fit for me. After graduating from DCG, I started a general-dentistry practice from scratch (Edward J. Green, DMD, PC) in my hometown of Albany, Georgia. I now practice with my daughter, Erica, also a DCG alumna, and absolutely love working with her.
“I served as president of the GDA from 2004-05 and was the first African-American president. I learned early on that while we may be technically prepared for the demands of dentistry, our profession is shaped by individuals who may or may not be familiar with what we do. Dentists need to have a voice in that process. I had been associated with GDA mentors since dental school, so serving came naturally to me. I focused on service to the profession, increasing membership and increasing diversity. We also took on some hotly debated issues, including Georgia’s use tax on dentists’ purchases (such as through the internet) not subject to a sales tax. We weren’t successful in defeating it, but were successful in expressing our concerns and ensuring it applied to every profession and not just dentistry.
“As president, you get to know most dentists in the state, and we tried to play a part in assisting them in many ways. One thing I learned is that we’re more successful working together, functioning as a total group. Students work hard to obtain their degrees, but that’s not the end of the road. In order to protect one’s profession, you’ve got to be engaged and be of service. Every voice matters.”
Dr. Richard Weinman (’76),
137th GDA President
“I was encouraged by my family to become a dentist and start a family tradition. I always knew that dentistry was my only career choice.
“Immediately after graduating from DCG, I joined the general dentistry practice of my uncle, Dr. Melvin Weinman, in Buckhead. I have always believed in the importance of continuing education and earned a fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry. Over the years, I have been able to expand the scope of services I offer my patients.
“In the 1990s, I was asked to serve on the Executive Council of the Northern District Dental Society, and after our first meeting, I was hooked. The planning, the debates, the ability to help better our profession and the opportunity to make so many new friends has been very rewarding.
“My main goal as GDA president was to strengthen our legislative presence so we would be in a position to better serve our patients. I attended every LAW Day (GDA-sponsored sessions to teach dentists about the Legislature) and legislative reception in the state. I developed relationships with many of the legislators. The most challenging issue of my term was the Georgia Board of Dentistry’s attempt to disallow feedback or testimony on any potential new rules. With the help of members throughout the state and key legislators, we were able to stop that.
“I actively support dentists’ participation in organized dentistry and regularly implore DCG students to be active in the GDA. The way we practice is constantly being challenged by insurance companies, the legislature and corporate dentistry. We must be able to discuss these changes and influence their final outcome or prevent changes that harm patient outcomes. I have seen the power of organized dentistry. It has made all the difference in how we practice and in the quality of our care.”
Dr. Michael Rogers
(Orthodontics Residency), 138th GDA President
“I have always enjoyed working with my hands, and my family dentist, Dr. Henry Harbin, inspired me to go into dentistry. I earned my dental degree in 1969 at Emory University, served two years as a captain in the U.S. Army, then completed my orthodontic residency at DCG. I probably would have attended DCG for my dental degree, but it opened in 1969, the year I graduated. I like creating beautiful smiles. A lot of happiness occurs over and over in orthodontics. For example, I recall one of my first patients was a minister who told me, ‘My church members always asked me why I never smiled. Now I can, and this helps me relate to people in a totally new and different way.’
“When I became GDA president in 2007 and president of the American Association of Orthodontists in 2012, I felt that I was doing my duty ‘to pay it forward.’ I first noted the importance of service when I was a delegate to the GDA House of Delegates in 1982 and president of the Georgia Association of Orthodontists in 1984. My realization was that we as dentists make the decisions regarding our profession and the best interests of our patients, or other will make them for us. The GDA always works closely with the Georgia Legislature and with the American Dental Association to design the overall picture of how dentistry is practiced in America.
“A particular point of pride during my tenure was a GDA resolution to fully support the new DCG building, as well as a $50,000 GDA donation to the building fund.
“I think all dentists should understand the importance of organized dentistry. Today’s students have a very bright future and hopefully will also realize the importance of paying it forward and passing down to others what dentistry has made possible in their lives. And the rewards are great: the GDA sponsors many continuing education programs that improve dentists’ practices and open the doors to many, many friendships. That’s very meaningful. You make friends not only in Georgia but all over the world, and the training makes us better dentists.”
Dr. Donna Thomas Moses
(Periodontics Residency), 139th GDA President
“At age 4, I was faced with the overwhelming decision of which ring to select from the dentist’s treasure chest following my dental visit. My father whispered into my ear, ‘I know how you can have every single ring in the entire treasure chest: You can become a dentist!’ I have wanted to become a dentist since that very moment!
“I graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry in 1990 and completed my residency in periodontics at DCG in 1992. I opened a solo periodontics practice in Carrollton, Georgia, in 1992 and have enjoyed 26 years providing care to my amazing patients.
“Dr. Howard Jones was one of my referring dentists when I moved to Carrollton, and he helped me understand the importance of organized dentistry. I learned that involvement in organized dentistry empowered me to best protect my patients and my profession. Without organized dentistry, you have a limited, weak voice in patient care and patient protection. Legislators can change the way I practice dentistry with the single stroke of a pen. Without organized dentistry working to educate our legislators, patients are left to seek advice from insurance companies and other entities who do not hold their best interests as their top priority. Advocacy is just one aspect of organized dentistry that makes involvement an absolute necessity for me.
“My mission as the 2007-08 president was to educate grassroots dentists, create and empower future leaders in dentistry and protect the patients we serve. Involvement in organized dentistry is not an option if you are passionate about your profession and your patients’ best interests. Involvement empowers my voice to be heard not only in Georgia, but in Washington, DC, where I can help to ensure that the dentist remains the leader of the dental team. Organized dentistry is the most vital means we have to protect the doctor-patient relationship. Being a dentist is an honor I do not take for granted and is one of the greatest blessings in my life.”
Dr. Michael Vernon (’77),
143rd GDA President
“I joined the practice of Drs. Charlie Norwood, John Jopling and Ronald Bowers in Augusta after graduating from DCG. Even though I enjoyed the surgery side, my passion was the creativity and art of restorative and cosmetic surgery. I come from a family of engineers, and I love engineering smiles. I now practice general dentistry with Drs. Katherine Boone and Chris Moldovan in Augusta.
“The influence of Dr. Norwood (who served as a U.S. congressman from 1995 until his death in 2007) was important in my involvement in organized dentistry. I recognized the importance of steering the profession, and I appreciated my predecessors’ efforts to shape the profession and stave off outside influence that could adversely change the way we practice.
“My emphasis as GDA president was developing leadership in dental organizations, particularly through the creation of Leadership GDA. I’m very proud to see it still strong and growing and to see the leaders who have developed from it. I also inherited the Georgia Mission of Mercy (GMOM) and hosted our first one a couple of months after I became president. We were able to help many people and involve many members and their staff. A side benefit was that it showed the community and our legislators the unmet need and barriers to access. In 2017, we hosted our fourth GMOM in Augusta’s James Brown Arena in Augusta.
“Who knows better than dentists what is necessary to treat the dental needs of the state? Only by being part of the process will dentists have a say in how they practice and the model in which their patients are treated. We need the numbers of GDA membership to stay strong to make our voices strong. Dentistry is changing, and we can’t just watch it happen.”
Dr. Ben W Jernigan Jr. (’76),
148th GDA President
“I have been practicing in Decatur, Georgia, for over 40 years within a few miles of where I was born. I started my dental practice from scratch, and it has evolved into a very busy and fulfilling practice. I feel I am part of our Decatur community and enjoy taking care of my many friends there.
“I became involved in organized dentistry when I was invited to a meeting. It became very meaningful for me to realize some of the aspects and issues of dentistry that do not involve direct patient care. Also, I developed friendships with other dentists that I would not have made otherwise.
“Being president of GDA was a highlight of my career, representing a culmination of years of involvement, learning the issues of our profession and being a part of solutions to problems. It was also an honor to be acknowledged by my fellow dentists around the state. My main goal was to try to keep our association moving forward and increasing the number of dentists who join GDA. My theme was ‘Better Together,’ and I emphasized what dentists can do as an association that we cannot do as individuals. One of our enduring projects was greatly increasing the presence of GDA on the DCG campus through ‘lunch and learn’ seminars.
“I believe it is critical for upcoming dentists to be involved with organized dentistry. There are so many forces affecting our practice that if we don’t make ourselves heard as a unified voice, we will lose the autonomy and respect we have earned over the years.”
Dr. David Bradberry (’88),
150th GDA President
“To ensure longevity and growth of the GDA, my focus as president was sustainability of the association. Together with the board, house and district leadership, we looked at new initiatives to aid our leaders in finding, cultivating and training leaders for the future.
“We created a district toolkit and expanded our spring conference into a robust District Leadership Conference in order to better equip our incoming leadership for success.
‘We also began development of our 2021-25 strategic plan. We held member roundtables and conducted a membership survey to ensure our association continues to meet the needs of our member dentists. We also reached out and are working with affiliate dental associations to invite all dentists to join us in charting a wonderful future for all dentists of Georgia.”