Hello fellow GHDS members! As I begin writing my last article sitting here in the Oval Office (actually, it is an oval-shaped table in my breakfast room), I cannot help but reflect on what a crazy year this has been. It was a year which started out with incredible disbelief and fear, slowly morphing into resignment of our situation, learning how to adapt and do business in new, more hi-tech ways, having to cancel or drastically change the nature of events we had planned for the year, and finally ending with the hope that next year will be much more positive, incorporating improvements based on new things we have learned through our hardships. 

Speaking of next year, we have an amazing group of leaders poised to begin working on June 1st who will be guiding us in new and interesting directions. Led by our soon-to-be President Dr. Dath Collins, we will be in excellent, capable hands, and I have high hopes for all the endeavors, events and programs we will be involved in next year.

Despite our circumstances, we were able to accomplish key projects, begin some new initiatives, and maintain our connections with one another. With our new Executive Director at the helm, we were able to rewrite our By-Laws, making them up-to-date, more relevant, and in line with the TDA By-Laws, which was quite an endeavor. Most of our new initiatives, however, involved the use of technology, which we learned to employ this year. Our new e-newsletter “The Bite” is a lighter version of our Journal, updating us each month in fun and innovative ways, and linking us to our website, which will make it easier to sign up for events.
Other projects that stand out in my mind are the new and inventive ways we have connected via Instagram and Facebook, learning more about each other through social media, using video technology to advertise events, highlight members’ accomplishments, and to generally get to know one another better. The staff managed to morph many of our CE courses from in-person to virtual platforms. And, through our new local GHDS Benefits Program, members are now given opportunities to save on many products and services ranging from scanners, CE courses, to restaurant discounts. 

2021 is a legislative year for the state of Texas. The State Legislature has been able to conduct business and, although we were not able to travel to Austin for TDA Lobby Day, we met virtually to learn about the issues facing our members this session. As an update, the TDA has been testifying and providing support to the House and Senate in many areas, some of which include a fair computation of unemployment taxes for employers in light of the pandemic, COVID-19 liability protection of health care workers, including dentists and their employees for claims surrounding pandemic disease and disaster declarations, and teledentistry legislation that will uphold the current standard of care for dental treatment. We look forward to hearing the outcome of these efforts. Thank you for supporting ADPAC and DENPAC so that our voice can continue to be heard and our profession protected.

I am also grateful for the few chances we had to gather in person this past year. We were able to hold one in-person General Meeting in November, several New Dentist events, and a very successful Hi-Tech Fair at the offices of OMSH, an oral surgery group which includes Dr. Shelley Seidel, our incoming President-Elect. I look forward to our upcoming in-person events as we begin to venture out again. I would love to see some of you at our Installation Banquet, our New Dentist CE Panel, both in May, and of course, our Star of the South Dental Meeting on July 23-24. 

May is the time for transition, and many of our new UTSD graduates will be joining the ADA/TDA/GHDS. We all welcome you with open arms and look forward to your contributions to our local dental society.  Join a committee, volunteer at some of our service events, and bring your fresh ideas and motivation to the table! We are always grateful for input from our newest members. 

Finally, it is with mixed emotions that I realize that my tenure as your President is coming to a close. As I pass the gavel on to our next President, I will cherish the memory of working closely with friends and colleagues for the betterment of our profession, all of whom have a similar spirit of volunteerism and a strong sense of ethics. From our resilient and hard-working GHDS staff and dedicated group of Board members, to our innovative and motivated Committee Chairs and Members, and finally to the dedication of all of our Society members who were able to maintain their membership and contribute in the face of personal and professional hardships, I am truly humbled by all of you and sincerely thank you for your positivity and motivation. 

Thank you all for this opportunity to serve you and the GHDS this past year. I look forward to a bright future as we gain traction and move into a post-pandemic era with new leadership, full of possibilities and new ideas. The sky is the limit for organized dentistry and for our profession! 

Kathy L. O’Keefe D.D.S., M.S.

Greater Houston Dental Society