New President Doug Torbush on How the GDA Can Help Members Succeed

Dr. Doug Torbush walks the walk. His thriving practice in Conyers, in the Northern District, is 25 years old. His marriage to Debbie, an accomplished school psychologist and leader in the dental Alliance spouses’ organization, is 37 years old. At Emory dental school in Atlanta, Dr. Torbush was the class president for all four years. He has played competitive tennis for 30 years, serving as team captain nearly every year. Dr. Torbush claims to enjoy porch sitting, but it is difficult to determine when he has the time—he and Debbie are both committed volunteers at GDA and Alliance events ranging from the Georgia Mission of Mercy to TeamSmile to oral cancer screenings at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Dr. Torbush has served on an impressively long list of district, GDA, and ADA committees and councils, all the while managing his stuffed schedule with a ballpoint pen and a small notebook filled with neatly lettered notes. Dr. Torbush also took the time in June to address several questions posed to him by GDA Action. Here, he talks the talk about corporate dentistry, the Affordable Care Act, GDA governance, the association’s 2015 legislative agenda, and what he admires about his GDA.

GDA Action: What are the ADA, GDA, and district services you value most? Are they different from the services you valued as a new dentist?

Dr. Torbush: As a new dentist, one of the most valuable resources I utilized was the availability of continuing education that was offered on both the district level and at the GDA annual meeting. The quality and variety of programs offered was excellent and helped me to develop and improve my practice. The meetings also served as a way for me to meet other local dentists, share ideas, and discuss issues that affected us in our various practices. It was through these meetings that I developed the sense of a dental community and the opportunities and services that existed in our tripartite system.

The service I value the most now from the ADA, GDA, and district relates to their advocacy on behalf of my patients and profession. While these organizations provide a range of valuable services ranging from multiple forms of insurance protection to practice management ideas and solutions, they all have the common goal of helping us as members succeed.

GDA Action: The ADA is tackling declining membership by launching the Power of Three campaign. This initiative puts the member first and the organization second—that is, the ADA envisions that a member dentist should receive the same level of value and service regardless if they seek assistance at the district, state, or national level. One facet of the Power of Three emphasizes eliminating services that may be duplicated among the three levels. How do you see the Power of Three impacting Georgia dentists?

Dr. Torbush:
One goal of the Power of Three is to offer the right mix of services and benefits to its members. For our Georgia dentist members, our GDA insurance programs have provided a source of non-dues revenue, which has helped to provide a zero dues increase for our state for many years. The ADA recognizes that many states like Georgia already offer multiple services that are beneficial to our members, and wants to avoid duplicating services that may intrude on our individual member benefits.  The ADA feels that if a state like Georgia has a benefit that they are successful in providing to their members, the ADA should step aside and support that state in their efforts to achieve the overall ADA goal of helping every member succeed.

GDA Action: Do you see a value in focusing certain membership outreach efforts on dentists employed by corporate dental practices? What services can the ADA, GDA, and districts offer these dentists?

Dr. Torbush:
Dentists that elect to practice in a corporate dental environment are still dentists. They have chosen to practice in a group practice setting rather than the traditional solo practice setting. Studies by the ADA show that the various group practice models in existence are increasing and exceed the growth of solo practices. Factors such as the enormous student debt our younger dentists face, the ready availability of patients, and the ability to practice dentistry and allow a Dental Management Organization or Dental Service Organization take care of the business aspect of dentistry can be appealing. We should still extend the opportunity for membership in the GDA to dentists regardless of the business model they currently practice.

The GDA also is exploring offering new business services as a means to providing additional value to all of its members. This could include launching a payroll services organization. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, and long term care opportunities are already currently available to our members through our GDIS insurance program and the GDA’s association with UBS Financial Services. The ADA even has a life insurance program for its members. Our members also can benefit from a variety of GDA endorsed programs, ranging from credit card processing through TransFirst and electronic claims processing through ClaimX to web site services from Officite and business services from Bank of America’s Practice Solutions program.
Whether a dentist is in a solo practice, a large group practice, or in the corporate environment, being a member of organized dentistry provides a great deal of overall value. Our membership efforts should be inclusive of all dentists, regardless of the particular organizational model of dentistry they currently practice under. We will only increase our membership by informing any potential member of the benefits and services available that belonging to the tripartite bring. Each of us should invest the time to serve as a membership ambassador for our organization and serve as a resource for any potential new member. That is my theme for the coming year: “Invest the Time to Make a Difference.”
    
GDA Action: Georgia Dental Insurance Services, like so many insurance agencies across the country, faces numerous challenges as the company strives to remain competitive in the medical plan market. How is this GDA subsidiary repositioning itself to better serve dentist members, their family members, and dental staff who need ACA-compliant medical plans?

Dr. Torbush:
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance plans in many states, including ours in Georgia, must undergo changes to stay competitive. We listened to our members and our existing GDIS coverage plans were re-examined by our new Executive Director Frank Capaldo. Frank brings to our organization a great deal of insight into the insurance industry which will be invaluable in bringing to our members a selection of cost-effective plans. We are looking into providing changes in several GDIS benefits, such as offering Medicare supplemental coverage and “skinny” plans which offer pricing and benefits for healthy individuals who either do not want or need the “Cadillac” plans currently being offered by the GDA. Our goal is to provide choices that will enable our members to pick a fully compliant ACA plan that fits their own particular current lifestyle and budget.

GDA Action: Share with us how GDA dentists can participate in legislative activities in Atlanta so the GDA can continue to make an impact under the Gold Dome.

Dr. Torbush:
The dental profession is highly regarded under the Gold Dome for our attentiveness to the issues and concerns that affect the citizens of Georgia. Your GDA staff monitors all the bills being introduced throughout the legislative session to evaluate what impact each bill could potentially have on our patients or our dental practices. The GDA staff presents insight into these issues and voices our concerns or support to our elected officials when we are not at the Capitol.

Our GDA LAW Day event is designed to give the dentists of Georgia an opportunity to discuss these relevant issues with our elected representatives. We meet every week during the legislative session and by our involvement, provide continuity in our message throughout the legislative session. Many states can only enlist their dentists to attend a single day during their state legislative sessions.
We also have a superb Contact Dentist program, whereby every legislator is assigned a GDA member dentist to serve as their contact. This program has proven to be an absolute success due to the number of dentists that invest their time to make this program work. Many crucial votes have been changed at the last minute due to the information provided to the legislator by their Contact Dentist.

I strongly encourage every member to invest the time this year to attend at least one LAW Day event. Contact the GDA to find out the dates for the LAW Days or visit www.TheToothParty.com so you can arrange your schedule to be at the Capitol. You get a great breakfast, hear the issues facing dentistry, and then have an opportunity to speak with legislators. You even obtain CE credit for this service as well. Your presence at the Capitol during the legislative session is extremely important and does make a difference to the legislators, as they recognize and appreciate your commitment. We need to invest the time to present our message to elected officials and keep them properly educated on the issues affecting our patients and profession.

It is also important for our members to be committed to our GDA Political Action Committee (GADPAC). The GDA understands that the
campaigns for elected office require a great deal of financial support. Our GADPAC is a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose funds are distributed to support the campaigns of local, state, and national candidates friendly to dental and patient related legislation.

GDA Action: Has the GDA Governmental Affairs Committee identified issues important to the profession we may see addressed under the Gold Dome during the 2015 legislative session?

Dr. Torbush:
The Governmental Affairs Committee will meet multiple times throughout the coming year to discuss concerns and issues that will be facing our profession. Last year was an election year, and because of the change in the time that the primaries were held, the overall mood of the legislature was to complete the session as quickly as possible. This would give many of them that had opposition the necessary time to raise funds and campaign for their re-election.

One way the GDA can help dentists is by supporting legislation to allow a tax credit for dentists who are willing to practice in a rural or underserved area. Additional legislation that might be considered would be a loan repayment program for dental students who agree to practice in underserved areas.

Medicaid and the myriad of issues that accompany that program will also be discussed. In the past the GDA has discussed the possibility of a single administrator for the Medicaid program as well as allowing for eligibility beyond the month-to-month program currently in place. Our staff constantly monitors this program and will certainly keep us informed of potential changes that may occur.

We also need to be vigilant when it comes to lesser trained entities and non-dentists seeking to potentially have a negative effect on the quality of dental care provided to our Georgia citizens. All patients deserve a dental home that will provide for their overall oral health care under the guidance and supervision of a dentist. Creating multiple levels of care is not the answer to serve our patients.

It is important that our patients and the public in general realize that good oral health is essential to the overall health of the individual. The dentist has the extended training and diagnostic expertise needed to oversee and provide for the overall care and safety of their patients. We need to continue to be the trusted source that provides answers to the public, the media, and our legislators on the issues of how the oral health care is and should be delivered to the patients of Georgia.

GDA Action: Executive Director Frank Capaldo holds the view that association advocacy does not just mean having a strong presence within the State Legislature. Advocacy to him also means communicating dentistry’s messages effectively to the media and the public. What public relations initiatives will the GDA pursue during your year?

Dr. Torbush:
Frank is absolutely correct. We as an organization need to put forth our own message rather than responding to reports generated by the media or other special interest groups. I have heard ads on the radio and seen ads in magazines and on TV that promote a particular dental office and their services. The public is being “educated” by a select group of offices that has decided to pursue that marketing strategy. The GDA should invest resources into developing a marketing plan that seeks to educate the public on the importance of establishing a dental home. The public needs to be more informed by our organization of the benefits to their overall systemic health that is a direct relationship to their oral health. The GDA should be seen as the best source of information for the citizens of our state.

Our Patient Protection Task Force and Public Relations Committee met in late June to investigate and discuss several areas that dentists can explore that will raise the dental knowledge of the Georgia consumers. Their goal is to develop several initiatives that will serve to boost the health literacy of our state population about the importance of obtaining and maintaining their oral health.
    
GDA Action: What could be done to address the reported increase of people having to be seen in the Emergency Room for their immediate dental care?

Dr. Torbush:
One idea could be to establish a coordinated effort between the Emergency Rooms and local dentists who are willing to provide emergency or palliative care for those patients that seek their dental care via the ER setting. Hospitals cannot turn away patients in need, yet their treatment in most cases is not definitive, generally being limited to antibiotics and pain medications. The source of the problem has not been addressed, so the potential for repeat offenders exists.

If the ER had a listing of local dentists who would be willing to provide treatment, then those patients being diverted from the ER setting would more likely receive definitive dental care to address the problem. The patients could receive education about the importance of their oral health and the need to establish a dental home. This education, if supplied to all of the family members, could possibly reduce the number of children that miss school due to dental related problems.

GDA Action: Let’s talk about your views on GDA governance. I understand that you would like to see some changes in how the district presidents-elect serve on the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Torbush:
I believe the role the presidents-elect serve as Board of Trustees members is critical to our organization. They are charged to act on behalf of the organization between the House of Delegates meetings. That is an enormous responsibility. For some of the presidents-elect, their first encounter with the Board of Trustees will be at that very first meeting in August, yet they will be asked to vote on issues that day that are critical to our organization.

My proposal would be to have the vice presidents of each district attend with their respective president-elect the first Board of Trustees meeting in August, the Presidents Elect Conference in the spring, and the final June Board of Trustees meeting of their vice presidential year. This exposure to the workings of the Board of Trustees will serve as an adjustment period for these dental leaders prior to their year as voting members of the Board of Trustees.