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Dr Gerhard Konrad Seeberger is running for President-elect of the FDI World Dental Federation. He is the Speaker of the General Assembly of the FDI World Dental Federation, an ex officio member of the Italian Dental Association’s council and active in the Academy of Dentistry International, an FDI affiliate member. (Photograph: Dr Gerhard Konrad Seeberger)
0 Comments Aug 29, 2017 | News Europe

Interview: “I am well prepared to lead the FDI to new heights”

Post a comment by Yvonne Bachmann, DTI

Nominated by the Italian Dental Association (AIO), Dr Gerhard Konrad Seeberger, a German general dentist practising in Italy, is one of two candidates running for President-elect of the FDI World Dental Federation. If elected during the association’s general assembly on 31 August, he will hold the position from 2019 to 2021. He is a past President of the AIO and now its Delegate of International Affairs, and as such an ex officio member of the council. He has taught clinical periodontology and oral and periodontal surgery at the University of Cagliari in Italy and implant surgery at Iaşi University in Romania and lectured at more than 160 events on four continents. Dental Tribune Online spoke with Seeberger about significant FDI initiatives and his vision for the future of the federation.

Dr Seeberger, what has your involvement in the FDI been so far?
I started my career at the FDI in 2004 as an alternate of the AIO delegation to the FDI General Assembly and one year later I became the National Liaison Officer to the FDI. In 2008, I started my term as Vice President of the European Regional Organization (ERO), and in 2010, I began my term as ERO President, following in the footsteps of my predecessor, Dr Patrick Hescot, the FDI President. In 2011, I was elected FDI Councillor for Mexico. I enjoyed an exciting three-year mandate, as I worked in good teams, who shared one common goal: to put the FDI back on track, which was also my objective for my election as councillor. After hardship, we dearly wanted to regain our members’ trust and our reputation among our corporate partners and to shape the future of the FDI. I had not before experienced such team spirit, no matter in which group I had the honour to contribute. One was the Vision 2020 Think Tank and Task Team, which generated a paper that aimed at launching an ongoing process of discussion and collaboration between the FDI and all its partners in order to improve oral health. In the Science Committee, I was invited to collaborate actively, especially on the new policy statement on endocrine disruptors in dental filling materials, and the prestigious Finance Committee, where, under the leadership of incoming President Dr Kathy Kell, we were working successfully to find our way out of austerity measures and to guarantee transparency in the administration of the FDI’s finances.

In 2014, I was voted into the position of Speaker of the General Assembly, a huge demonstration of trust that went beyond the recognition of my language skills—an immense honour for a non-English mother tongue speaker. During this mandate, I had the privilege of significantly contributing to the work of the Governance Task Team and the Nominations Task Team. After this rich experience, which is second to none, I am well prepared to lead the FDI to new heights.

What is the importance of the FDI, and which do you consider its main initiatives?
The FDI is the worldwide, authoritative and independent voice of the dental profession. It is the federation’s first mission statement. As such, it offers the opportunity to achieve oral health according to its new definition by the FDI. Undoubtedly, adequate communication, which facilitates speaking to and with and—most importantly—listening to all stakeholders, members, corporate partners, organisations and governments, will be the most powerful instrument. Customised communication tools realised with FDI assistance for its members would help to make this implementation process widespread. That is would be my main initiative.

Now, as the FDI is back on track, its initiatives will increase in number and outreach. The continuing education initiative is one of the most important, and it is growing in number and importance, as it is well supported by our industrial stakeholders. It is an outstanding opportunity to respond to our members’ knowledge needs on different continents and to create new opportunities for our corporate partners.

Other initiatives are important to reach the members of our members, the individual dentists, and the people of their communities. These are the Oral Health Observatory and World Oral Health Day. Both are meant to increase the FDI’s publicity, to collect significant data relevant to oral health and to measure peoples’ interest in oral health worldwide.

What is your vision for the FDI?
My vision for the FDI goes hand in hand with the federation’s vision: leading the world to optimal oral health. With our new definition of oral health, we are even more firmly asserting that there can be no general health without oral health. As a matter of fact, we promote optimal oral and general health for all people in our second mission statement. I want to go a step further, and with all stakeholders involved, I believe we can reach this goal. I want to realise and not only promote oral and general health for all people! Step by step and slowly but constantly, we can change the prevalence ranking of diseases as reported in the last three Global Burden of Disease studies. How can it be that, in more than three decades, after a myriad of projects and initiatives globally and locally, the highest prevalence of all diseases among adults is dental caries, periodontal disease ranges between sixth and 14th, caries in young children tenth, and edentulism now ranks in the 20s (up from the mid-30s)? How do we want to respond to this, and how does this affect our endeavours to establish the relevance of the dental profession? We all are aware that we are the sentinel doctors in lowering the burden of non-communicable diseases. In this regard, the words of former Director General of the World Health Organization Margaret Chan shall not be forgotten: the dental profession is the pioneering profession in prevention in medicine. We, the dental professionals united through the FDI, are one of the best allied in this endeavour. I trust very much in the efficiency of the current FDI projects addressing the prevention of caries.

At this year’s World Dental Congress in Madrid, we will see the presentation of a new measurement tool for oral health. Oral health has gone scientific and the role of the physician in this regard is essential. Our opportunity to deliver oral health in the remotest areas of the world is increasing with the support of other health care professionals. In areas where one dentist takes on social responsibility, which means providing optimal oral and general health care for 150,000–250,000 people, and where disasters of different kinds interrupt the supply of water—essential in the delivery of oral medicine and care—and wipe out hundreds of thousands owing to infectious diseases, the challenge is high. However, the challenge of realising the FDI’s vision is even greater: 7.5 billion people worldwide are waiting for a relevant and efficient dental profession. After having read the analysis of Benedetti et al. in the FDI’s International Dental Journal titled “Political priority of oral health in Italy: An analysis of reasons for national neglect”—the situation is similar in many other countries—we, representatives of the dental profession and dental professionals, shall feel encouraged to transform the FDI from the poorhouse into the powerhouse of medicine. Together, we can reach new heights in the FDI.

What makes you the right person for the position of FDI President?
In all my functions, I have worked hard. I approach people with respect, from the dental student to the highly ranked industry leader, and it has opened many doors on my way to come to decisions and make things happen. My still-developing experience, my integrity and my knowledge have aided me, helping me reach new heights for those I had signed to be responsible for: my colleagues and the people they take care of. I regard myself as a statesman taking care of the future generation of the FDI and its stakeholders. One of the best reasons was expressed by a colleague and friend recently: “With you, people know what they get.” Is that not enough to vote for me as the new FDI President-elect?

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