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Dr. Nathan Russell: Supporting WSDA Services is a Win-Win

"Building non-dues income streams and reducing our reliance on dues revenues will require a diverse range of services that provide meaningful value to our members."
RussellDr. Nathan Russell
President, WSDA

I’m excited about the changes taking place at WSDA. We are a strong association, having earned credibility in the halls of Olympia and respect among our peer state dental associations across the country.

But, as the investment advertisements always point out, past results are not indicative of future performance. We can’t get complacent.

Business management experts talk about “strategic inflection points,” moments when an organization faces a choice: Continue doing things the way they’ve always been done and gradually become less effective, or make fundamental changes designed to position it for greater success in the future.

I believe that WSDA is at one of those points. Our choice to pursue new ways of doing things was overwhelmingly endorsed by our House of Delegates and has been a primary focus of our board and officers over more than a year. The result of this work is a well-conceived strategy of reducing our association’s reliance on dues revenue, as summarized in this issue’s cover story.

A successful transition will make WSDA a more attractive option for dentists at every stage of their careers, help grow our membership, and position us to do an even better job in representing our profession and advocating for improved oral health outcomes in the years ahead.  Building non-dues income streams and reducing our reliance on dues revenues will require a diverse range of services that provide meaningful value to our members.

One of the first lessons I learned when I began my dental practice is that there’s a lot more that goes into success than clinical excellence in caring for patients. First and foremost, you need to recruit and retain a great staff. Then you need to call on a team of professionals who can help keep your practice physically and fiscally viable, including experts in real estate, construction, legal, and accounting services.

Another challenge is navigating the ever-growing web of regulations that local, state, and federal governments impose on dentistry. Someone once told me that government regulations are “a necessary evil.” For the life of me, sometimes I can’t say whether they’re more necessary or more evil!

Regardless of where you come down on that question, there’s no arguing that dentists face a complex maze of regulatory compliance, from HIPAA to workplace safety to infection prevention. We face continuing education requirements for ourselves and our clinical staff, as well as other training specifications for all of our employees. And, like any small business owner, there are payroll taxes, property taxes, business and occupation taxes, and income taxes that must be filed and paid.

Of course, not all WSDA members bear all these burdens. While I’d wager that dentistry still has a greater percentage of private practices than what we see in other health care professions, we also recognize that our members practice in a wide variety of settings, including dental service organizations and public health clinics (the focus of another story in this issue).

Every WSDA member will eventually benefit from some of the value-added services we are offering to our members, whether that is in helping them reduce the costs to maintain their license, to provide insurance protection for themselves and their families, or to comply with the myriad regulations we face.

Our success in implementing this strategy will go a long way in determining the long-term health of WSDA and its ability to work on your behalf. Your decisions, in turn, will go a long way in determining our strategy’s success. So, I hope you will support the direction we are headed by enrolling in WSDA-sponsored programs – and encouraging your employers and associates to do the same. You will not only receive high quality services specifically tailored to the needs of dental professionals, but also will be helping create a path for WSDA to reduce its dues and improve our membership experience.

With your help, we can make WSDA membership more cost-effective and attractive for all dentists in the state – and create a stronger organization for our profession and our patients.

This article originally appeared in Issue 2, 2024 of the WSDA News. The views expressed in all WSDA publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions or policies of the WSDA.