By Dr. Christopher J. Cowell
Volunteerism … it’s the lifeblood of any healthy organization. Without it, we don’t have anything. With it, we have the potential for anything and everything. So why do I volunteer in our dental association? It all began with how I was raised. I was brought up understanding that it is part of my duty to be an active participant in the areas of my life that have meaning; it was expected. Not everyone feels that way, and I get that. We all have busy lives that pull us in many directions. But, why did I choose my profession to be a major area of service in my life? Good question.
Maybe it’s because I feel like there is a sense of urgency or security; or, simply because dentistry is a field that I understand well. Perhaps it’s as simple as: I enjoy volunteering. I have a need to see my profession become the best it can be and, like many dentists, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I like having problems to solve. I also like the relationships that I have made with my dental colleagues. I can honestly say I have forged strong friendships with some great people while volunteering for our profession.
But, I think the most important reason I volunteer is because there is a need. There is a big need for us to make dentistry a great profession. Throughout the 17 years that I have been involved in organized dentistry’s tripartite, I have seen many areas of how our profession is shaped and assimilated to work in our society. There have been many threats to how we do our job. Through collaboration, our leaders in the dental field have come up with truly groundbreaking ways to help our society and combat these threats. Throughout all of them, it took people who cared enough to get involved and make a difference.
The biggest thing I want to impress upon my peers is when it comes to raising your hand to volunteer, take time to find one or two things that you like doing to help make a difference. Not everyone likes to serve on a board or travel for a weekend meeting or be involved in topics that bore us. Service to our profession can mean so much more than that. There are so many ways we each can get involved at a small level to collectively put our efforts in a forward motion. Something as simple as going to an affiliate meeting to show support and be a part of the body of organized dentistry. It can be volunteering your time to assist association staff — anything, and any amount of time, shows support to our profession.
Thinking about how I may help inspire others to become involved at any level, I recall two situations in my life that have helped shape me in making decisions. The first came about when I got to know a politician I met in Tallahassee, Rep. Joyce Cusack. I met her at the FDA’s Dentists’ Day on the Hill. She was a new legislator from my town and in our meeting I heard her use the phrase, “I am here to make a difference.” That phrase has always stuck with me. I would always leave my conversations with her saying, “Keep making a difference!” The second inspiration I got was through my parish priest, Fr. David Suellau. When he really wanted to make a difference and motivate the congregation, he would end his sermon with the phrase, “Think about it, pray about it and why not do something about it.”
So, my charge to you, my colleagues, is: Our profession needs you in whatever way you can help; think about it, pray about it and why not do something about it to help make a difference in our profession. The time is now — we need you!