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ADA announces wellness ambassadors to help dentists struggling with mental health

The first cohort of wellness ambassadors will learn how to connect dentists in their organizations to mental health services and offer support against burnout. (Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images)

CHICAGO, US: The American Dental Association (ADA) has announced the launch of a unique programme designed to connect dentists having mental health challenges with resources and support services through wellness ambassadors. The volunteer ambassadors represent dental organisations of all sizes.

According to a press release, the programme is intended to address the dramatically increased numbers of clinicians who are reporting struggles with mental health, including anxiety. Although not mental health professionals, the wellness ambassadors will help provide support and connection to professional resources to dentists who are struggling. The hope is that these measures will also mitigate the role of burnout in reducing the number of practising dentists across the field.

Among the ambassadors is Dr. Karen Foster of Colorado, who drafted a resolution on prioritising the mental health of dentists, which was passed by the ADA’s 2021 house of delegates. She commented, “The ADA and dentistry are like a family to me. I believe we discover our passions in life from experience. I lost one of my best friends, a member of the dental family, to suicide. I want to do everything in my power to keep our family safe and being a wellness ambassador lets me honour his memory and take action toward my passion of prioritising mental health for all, especially dentists.”

ADA President Dr George Shepley said, “This is such important work. I’m grateful we’re doing this. We have to take care of our family.”

The first cohort of the programme travelled to Chicago in November to participate in the initial training in a yearlong onboarding process. The members of this inaugural group are Dr Alejandro Barrera from Texas, Dr Amisha Singh from Colorado, Dr Cathy Hung from New Jersey, Dr Julie Spaniel from Oregon, Dr David Lesansky from North Carolina, Dr William Hamel III from Illinois, Dr.Brian Toorani from California, Anne Morrison from Nebraska and Dr Joel Collins from Georgia. Each of these volunteers will be responsible for heading up three projects that further the programme in their local areas.

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