The Time is Now — We Need You!

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!

Code of Ethics Spurs Public’s Decision in Choosing Dentists, Survey Says

By David Burger, Senior Editor at the American Dental Association

ADA member dentists are unique in that they have something that other dentists don’t: a Code of Ethics.

Patients like that, according to the results of a new study commissioned by the Association’s Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs. Nearly 70 percent of patients are more likely to choose an ADA member dentist knowing that those dentists follow a Code of Ethics, the study showed. The survey also showed that nearly 75 percent of patients said that simply knowing that a dentist was a member of the ADA would influence whom they selected as a dentist.

The ADA has long believed that the ADA’s “Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct” elevated dentists’ reputation in the community, but didn’t have proof, said Pennsylvania dentist Dr. Linda K. Himmelberger, chair of CEBJA. “We were hoping to find it was a differentiator for the public,” Dr. Himmelberger said. “That is what the survey pointed out.”

The May survey was conducted among a Census-balanced, nationally representative sample of 1,000 people, with a 3 percent margin of error. Respondents were asked to read a description of the ADA Code before responding to a final question.

The survey tested whether public knowledge of the ADA Code and its fundamental purpose of putting the interests of patients first would resonate with the public and might result in channeling patients to ADA member dentists. Members of the ADA voluntarily agree to abide by the ADA Code as a condition of membership in the Association.

“CEBJA wanted to know if the ADA Code would help us with ADA’s membership goals,” said Oklahoma dentist Dr. Doug Auld, vice chairman of CEBJA.

The findings included:

  • Sixty-seven percent of respondents knew if their dentists were members of the ADA.
  • Two in five consumers believed that ADA dentists hold themselves to a higher standard than other dentists. After learning about the Code, the number increased to 53 percent.
  • Patients aged 35-64 were more likely to be influenced by the Code when choosing a dentist, while people in the 18-24 age range were considerably less influenced by the Code.
  • If people believe they are already going to an ADA dentist, the Code will likely influence them to look even more strongly for another ADA member the next time they are in need of a dentist.

Some of the findings pleasantly surprised Dr. Himmelberger and Dr. Auld.

“What impressed me was that 69 percent of patients, knowing that we had a Code, were more likely to go to a member dentist,” Dr. Auld. “I didn’t think it would be that high. I was surprised.”

“The public does feel very strongly about their dentists being members of the ADA,” Dr. Himmelberger said. “Seventy-five percent is a big number.”

Dr. Himmelberger said that member dentists should promote the findings and share them. “There are ways they can work the Code and the fact that they are ADA members into their daily interactions with their patients to increase the patient’s awareness of the Code and how it guides the way their dentist treats them,” she said.

She recommended that dentists should print out the ADA Code and have copies of it in the waiting room. Dr. Auld said that members also should have the ADA Code posted conspicuously in the office.

They also recommended that members should either post the Code on their websites or post an existing video about the Code, available at ADA.org/en/about-the-ada/principles-of-ethics-code-of-professional-conduct, on their sites.

Printed copies of the Code are available upon request by contacting the coordinator of CEBJA, Earl Sewell, at 312.440.2499 or sewelle@ada.org.

The Code can be viewed at ADA.org.

Burger D. Code of Ethics spurs public’s decision in choosing dentists, survey says.  ADA News. Posted July 15, 2015 at http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/july/code-of-ethics-spurs-publics-decision-in-choosing-dentists-survey-says?nav=news. Copyright @ 2015 American Dental Association.  Reproduced with permission.

5 Ways to Reduce Embezzlement Risk

By Julian Dozier, CPA, ABV, CFF, CFE, Thomas Howell Ferguson P.A. CPAs​

You work hard in your practice, enjoy spending time with your patients, and do your best to manage your office staff and bookkeeping. While you’d rather be spending time on the medical side of your practice, you understand the importance of being involved in the business side of your practice. No one wants to think their employees would steal from their company, but every organization faces the risk. So, do you have a sound system of internal controls in place to mitigate the risk?

Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of employee embezzlement:

1. Conduct background checks. Your employees may have access to your financial information, bank accounts, prescription pads and expensive medical supplies. Be sure to conduct background checks before hiring any employee, and make it your policy to update those checks at least every two years for financial personnel.

2. Segregation of duties. Financial tasks should be assigned so that no single employee is responsible for authorizing transactions, maintaining custody of assets and resources, recording transactions and reconciling accounts. While it’s best for all four of those functions to be segregated, be sure no single employee is responsible for more than two of them. As an example, if an employee can authorize payments to vendors, they should not be authorized to add vendors to the accounting system, print and sign checks, or reconcile the bank account.

3. Oversight is important. The perception of detection can be as important as any other internal control your practice puts in place. If employees know their work is being checked, and that the bank accounts are being reconciled and verified, they are less likely to embezzle.

4. Know your bank account. For assets like cash that — when there are poor internal controls — can be embezzled quickly and easily concealed, you need to do more. Receive each monthly bank statement directly (unopened) and review it for unusual or unexpected activity. Ask questions. Know where your practice spends its money and who is authorizing those transactions. Quickly spotting unauthorized bank activity is critical to minimizing your risk of embezzlement.

5. Get outside help. Find a local certified public accountant (CPA) to conduct periodic checkups at your practice. Your CPA can help you design internal controls, implement best practices and conduct random checks to see that your employees are following approved policies and procedures.

Julian Dozier is a CPA with the accounting firm Thomas Howell Ferguson P.A. He specializes in forensic audits and litigation support related to for-profit and governmental enterprises. His certifications and designations include Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF). For more information, please visit www.thf-cpa.com/what-we-do.

My Computer Has a Pop-up That Says it Has a Virus … What Do I Do Now?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

Every once in a while, you may get a pop-up on your screen claiming your computer has a virus and to remove it, you must call the number shown immediately. I have come across a number of people who will look at a pop-up like this on their computer and do one of two things:

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Do exactly as it says.

I am mystified that some may do as the pop-up says, but we have been conditioned to this type of behavior. The criminal element realizes that, so they craft malware. Malware, although technically not a virus, is software that pretends to be useful, but is in fact malicious — thus, the name. Most anti-virus programs are built to stop the bad viruses … not so much the malware.

Malware most often is installed  because we choose to do it. It may come in the form of an extra toolbar on our browser, a coupon program or some other seemingly helpful software. We open the door and let it in, and then it takes over. I have known people to blindly call someone and give them access to their computer remotely and even their credit card information based on malware (or, as we call it “scareware” or “ransomware”)! I recommend you take the computer to a professional and get their opinion. If you opt to try and fix it yourself, a couple of programs that are helpful are Malwarebytes and HitmanPro; both can help eliminate your problem.

Please do not choose to ignore it. That will only make it worse, that much I can promise you.