100 Years of ADEA: Dr. Richard W. Valachovic


Richard W. Valachovic, D.M.D., M.P.H.

Clinical Professor and Director
NYU Dentistry Center for Oral Health Policy and Management
Interim Chair, NYU Dentistry Dept. of Epidemiology & Health Promotion

Dr. Richard Valachovic’s era of leadership as ADEA President and CEO (from 1997 to 2019) was a time of great expansion and evolution within the organization and dental education. The Association’s name changed from the American Association of Dental Schools (AADS) to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) to reflect its growing, diverse membership of dental schools, allied dental education programs and advanced dental education programs. But the change wasn’t in name only. During those years, ADEA created four additional Centralized Application Services, the ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (ADEA CCI) and many other pioneering programs.

In the Q&A below, Dr. Valachovic reflects on the strides ADEA made under his leadership and what he anticipates in the organization’s future.

Q. ADEA experienced exponential growth during your tenure as ADEA President and CEO. Why do you think this growth was necessary for the organization?

The aspiration for ADEA since its founding has been to be “The Voice of Dental Education.” I was appointed in 1997 as the CEO of the American Association of Dental Schools (AADS) as we were known then. The focus of the association was primarily on dental schools. But the dental education community was more extensive, including not only allied dental programs, advanced education programs and dental corporations, but also all of the individual faculty, staff, and students in those institutions. Growth of the association was necessary if we were to be the voice substantial enough for us to be effective as an advocate on Capitol Hill, with our colleagues in organized dentistry and other health professions, in our relations with the international dental community, and so many other partnerships.

AADS became ADEA in 2000 to emphasize the expansive nature of our membership and we recruited more existing and newly forming academic dental institutions and programs to join ADEA. We implemented the “Open Membership” program in 2005 to provide free individual membership to any faculty, staff or student in an ADEA Institutional Member, which resulted in an increase in the number of individual members from less than 1,000 to over 20,000 in two years.

Q. Also, during your tenure, you were credited with spearheading the transformation of ADEA into an association that embraces dental schools, allied dental education programs and advanced dental education programs. Can you share some ways that ADEA was able to facilitate that transformation?

The transformation of ADEA into an association that truly represented the entire dental education community required much more than simply increasing the number of members. We needed to engage all of our members to provide them with opportunities to benefit from participating in the work of ADEA. Here are some examples of these initiatives. Programming and events at our flagship meeting, the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition, were expanded, resulting in a three-fold increase in attendance, and the other 50 smaller ADEA meetings each year provided opportunities for networking and learning. The leadership education programs, such as the ADEA Leadership Institute and the ADEA Allied Dental Faculty Leadership Development Program, provided opportunities for hundreds of faculty members to expand their skills and impact. All of the ADEA communications strategies were enhanced to provide information to our members and opportunities for them to interact on a regular basis. Additional mechanisms for members to participate in ADEA councils, sections, and committees were developed. By creating more pathways for all members to engage and interact, the transformation of the association to one that delivered on the promise of member value was realized.

Q. You've been a big champion of interprofessional practice (IPP) and interprofessional education (IPE) with other health professions and within dental education. Have you been happy with the evolution of IPE in dental education so far, and how do you see it developing in the future?

The separation of dental education and practice from the rest of the health care establishment began in the years after the Civil War when leading dental educators unsuccessfully attempted to establish departments of dentistry in medical schools. This resulted in the independent development of 22 of the current 71 Commission on Dental Accreditation- (CODA-)accredited dental schools by 1900. The silos of the education and practice of the various health professions continued into the current century.

An initiative in Washington, DC, that began in 2009 among a group of us who were CEOs of associations of schools of the health professions promoted collaboration that will prepare the next generation of health professionals to learn and practice in an interprofessional way. ADEA was one of the founders of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), creating opportunities for the major health professions to meet and prepare for the future. Dental educators at all levels have been actively engaged in the IPEC and in IPE activities at their home institutions. The transformation of health care from a siloed to an interprofessional structure requires changes in culture and tradition that will understandably take time to occur. I am encouraged by the progress thus far and am optimistic about the future of IPE and IPP, and dentistry’s willingness to continue to be a leader in this transformation.

Q. You oversaw the creation of ADEA Commission on Change and Innovation in Dental Education (ADEA CCI) while ADEA President and CEO. What kinds of change and innovation did the Commission help facilitate?

The ADEA CCI began in 2005 when the ADEA Board of Directors made a significant commitment to a long-term initiative to address challenges of curriculum reform in contemporary dental education. The Commission began in earnest in 2006 with an Oversight Committee that included broad representation from various ADEA constituencies, the American Dental Association, the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, CODA, higher education associations and others. A portfolio of initiatives resulted over the next 10 years, including a number of white papers and surveys, the creation of a CCI Liaisons Group, the development of abundant courseware, including MedEdPORTAL, the introduction of the ADEA Competencies for the New General Dentist, the start of the Institute for Teaching and Learning and the Institute for Allied Health Educators and a number of new strategic alliances.

The impact of the Commission’s work was impressive. When the ADEA CCI began, 86% of dental schools reported using a discipline-oriented and lecture-based curriculum. A decade later, nearly 80% of dental schools were using the ADEA Competencies, nearly half had an integrated curriculum and nearly all provided community-based experiences for their students. The work continued as ADEA CCI 2.0 beginning in 2017.

Q. Which of your accomplishments in relationship to ADEA and/or dental education, in general, are you most proud of?

My mantra throughout my time at ADEA was “The Relentless Pursuit of Strategic Alliances.” It was my desire to pursue every opportunity that I could to enhance the position and ability of ADEA and the dental professions to improve oral health in North America and throughout the rest of the world. The accomplishments I am most proud of are a result of this approach during my 22-year-long tenure at ADEA in collaboration with the hundreds of leaders with whom I was fortunate to work. Here are examples:

  • We developed effective working relationships with organizations representing organized dentistry, other schools of the health professions, higher education and internationally.
  • We brought all of the constituencies in dental education under one tent, including the name change from AADS to ADEA, the implementation of open membership and the development of new networking opportunities.
  • We developed a portfolio of innovative leadership education programs.
  • We focused on educational policy and research to provide the underpinning for our work.
  • We created four Centralized Application Services to support the efficiency of admissions at our institutions and promote the dental professions as attractive careers.
  • We were recognized as an authority on diversity in our professions and were successful at securing millions of dollars in grant funding to support our efforts.
  • We expanded the impact of our advocacy efforts on behalf of our members.