Conversations with a Dental Leader

Conversation with

Dr. Terri Tiersky

2020 President of the Chicago Dental Society

I hope that as a profession we can continue to provide quality care to our patients and the public that we serve, and that we can maintain our autonomy as professionals without intrusion from outside influences.

You became the President of the Chicago Dental Society in February 2020, and lead the organization through 12 tough pandemic months. How did you move CDS forward and adjust your expectations in this role?

Actually I became the President of the Chicago Dental Society January 1, 2020.  We thankfully were able to have a successful Midwinter meeting right before the pandemic hit.  Beginning in March we had to adjust everything in our lives including how we conducted business as a Board.   Initially, our main concern was making sure that our members were kept informed on protocols, how to obtain much needed PPE (which at that time was in very short supply),  how to obtain aid if needed during the time we were forced to close our offices to all but emergent needs, and several other issues that we were faced with due to the onset of Covid-19.  My expectations were dramatically altered due to the pandemic, and I tried to deal with everything  to the best of my ability.  There was no precedent and therefore no playbook for this type of occurrence, that's for sure!

How did you reach out to CDS members when would normally meet them at in-person events?

As a Board, we conducted all of our meetings beginning in March of 2020 via Zoom.  For our members, we  hosted our regional meetings on Zoom and we maintained a steady flow of communication with our membership through email blasts and social media postings on various sites. I think that  we were very successful in our efforts.  With that said, I believe that nothing replaces the face to face experience and I look forward to the time we can get back to once again meeting in person.

You were the third female president of CDS in its 157th-year history. What hope do you have for the future female dental leaders in the industry?

I was actually the 4th woman to serve as President of CDS. With more than half of the dental school enrollment now being female, I think it goes without saying that we will see more women stepping in to leadership roles in organized dentistry.  My hope is that women are not deterred from getting involved, and from what I am witnessing I think that my hope is becoming a reality.  We have thankfully come a long way since my graduation from dental school!

Tell us more about how your became a dentist and member of AO.

I was a political science major at the University of Illinois panning on heading to law school. I changed that path my junior year and took the science classes needed to get in to dental school.. The rest as they say is history as they say. I ended up going to law school after I became a dentist and although I have never practiced law, I believe that education helped me tremendously in my leadership roles within organized dentistry. As for becoming a member of AO, I was a student member and attended a mentorship brunch. I met Milt Salzer at that brunch and a few years later I got a call from him because he was looking for an associate. I worked for Milt for 12 years, and have now been a member of AO for nearly 35 years. Anyone who knows Milt knows how important membership in AO is to him, and he instilled that in me as well. Not only that, but in a sense AO is responsible for me getting my first job out of school and for that I feel blessed!

Did you have a mentor during your dental career? What can you tell about the impact this person had on you.

My father was a dentist and I think that is probably what got me interested in the field. I am thankful that this is the path that I chose.

You are a provider for the AO-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program. Please share why you decided to get involved with this program.

How could anyone hesitate to get involved in this wonderful program? There really was no question in my mind whether or not to get involved. When Laurie Gordon told me about the program, I was ready to volunteer.

Do you have advice for a young dentist to grow in their career?

I would advise all young dentists to stay true to themselves and their ethical principles.  I would also urge them to get involved in our profession beyond just treating patients at the office.  Involvement in organized dentistry has been one of those fulfilling aspects of my life and I have made life long friendships because of it, as well as feeling as though I have had a voice in the future of out profession.  I encourage everyone to have a voice on our profession.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing dentistry (besides the pandemic)?

I hope that the future of dentistry includes small to medium size practices that allow the owner some autonomy. I see the financial burdens of the young dentists as a huge challenge to this, and I think that this has, and will continue to have a huge influence on future practice models. Additionally, the ongoing challenge of battling with the insurance industry is not something that I see getting any better. We must continue to fight for our autonomy and the future of our profession.

Besides dentistry, can you share some of your personal passions or interests?

I love to travel, but of course that has been non-existent this past year. I try to workout on my days off from the office, and so that in a sense has become a passion. I have also been getting more involved in my community now that I have more time on my hands as a Past President. Does eating good food and enjoying nice wine count as a passion? If yes, then add that to my list. :)

What are your hopes for the dental industry?

My hope is really pretty simple and straight forward. I hope that as a profession we can continue to provide quality care to our patients and the public that we serve, and that we can maintain our autonomy as professionals without intrusion from outside influences. Change is inevitable...My hope is that with such change comes a positive future for dentistry.

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