Volume 10 • 2023 • Issue 1

Dr. Lynn Tomkins president@cda-adc.ca Greater Equity inDentistry When I was in dental school at the University of Toronto, I was one of 20 women in a class of 120 and most of us came from similar socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. In 1980, as the CDA Student Governor, I became the first woman to sit on the CDA Board of Governors, now called the CDA Board of Directors. As the Canadian population has become more socially, culturally, racially and ethnically diverse over the last 40 years, the diversity of dental students has also increased dramatically. Currently, about half of all students at Canadian dental schools are women. Unfortunately, diversity among the leadership in our professional associations has lagged. In 2008, Dr. Deborah Stymiest became CDA’s first woman president in its history. I’m now the second woman to serve as CDA president and Dr. Heather Carr will begin her tenure as CDA president this April. Why does it matter that the leadership of our professional organizations in dentistry become more diverse? I believe that the survival of our organizations depends on it. People join associations because they want to be a part of something that they can identify with, something that reflects their own values and aspirations. We need to foster the emotional ties that will keep dentists connected, engaged and active throughout their careers. If dentists don’t see themselves reflected in the leadership and culture of our organizations, they won’t be engaged. Membership in organizations predicated on exclusive access to services is transactional in nature; a competitor with a better deal can lure members away. Loyalty comes from a sense of belonging, a feeling of shared experience and vision for the future. I think we can do a better job of seeking out and mentoring future leaders of all genders and backgrounds and encourage them to put their names forward for leadership roles. We should help them develop the skills and confidence that will take them on the path to leadership. We should actively work to be inclusive and reflect the diversity of our country and profession. We must stay relevant in a fast-changing and competitive environment. Recently, I’ve been considering the larger implications of diversity and equity in a world where so many people suffer because of discrimination and intolerance related to their gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, race or ethnicity. In the news, we see women persecuted in some countries because of their clothing choices. We see ethnic groups forced to flee their homes in fear of violence. Equity can only exist when human rights are respected. As a health care provider, I also reflect on our moral responsibility to speak out against human rights abuses. As a dentist, my main concern is people’s oral health, but health and well-being is impossible if human rights are infringed upon. I see an opportunity for dentistry to expand its area of influence to defend health and human rights and to demonstrate our care not just for teeth, but for people and communities. Ending on a personal note, I would like to ask those reading this column to consider the following: What is the responsibility of an individual dentist, as a university-educated citizen and leader in the community, to speak out on the wider issues of social justice and human rights? What is the responsibility of the organizations that represent dentistry to do likewise? If we are to achieve true diversity, equity and inclusivity in this world, I believe we have an obligation to speak out and speak up whenever we encounter injustices at home or abroad. From the President 7 Issue 1 | 2023 | CDA atWork