Dental Tribune International

Interview: “Being president of CDS is an honor and privilege”

Dr. Dean Nicholas, the 2021 president of the Chicago Dental Society, selected “Heart of Dentistry” as the 156th Midwinter Meeting theme. (Image: Chicago Dental Society)
By Iveta Ramonaite, Dental Tribune International
February 25, 2021

Like in every year, in 2021, the Chicago Dental Society (CDS) Midwinter Meeting, one of the largest dental exhibitions in North America, will welcome thousands of attendees and invite them to learn about the latest advancements in dental technology. However, owing to the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, this year’s event will take place in an online format for the first time in its 156-year history. In the run-up to the event, Dental Tribune International had the opportunity to speak with this year’s president of the CDS, Dr. Dean Nicholas, better known as Dr. Dino. In this interview, he talks about his passion for the dental profession and discusses some of the challenges and opportunities of organizing the society’s first virtual meeting.

Dr. Dino, could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a bit about your background in dentistry?
I am a general dentist, and my work has an emphasis on the provision of removable and fixed prostheses. I practice in the western suburbs of Chicago. My dental practice is called Dr. Dino’s Dental Oasis and is located in Lombard, Illinois. I am a 1986 graduate of Loyola University School of Dentistry, and I currently treat patients ranging in age from 2 to 103! Through my patient care, I aim to provide small-town comfort in a high-tech environment, and I even go as far as to pick up some of my local patients who no longer drive in order to bring them to their appointments.

I have been involved in all aspects of organized dentistry since I started practicing in 1986, including serving on the American Dental Association (ADA) Council on Dental Benefit Programs and in my current role on the ADA audit committee. In previous years, I served as president of the Hellenic American Dental Society, president of the West Suburban Branch of the CDS, president of the Independent Dental Organization, and president of the Illinois State Dental Society. I also taught during my career and was a preclinical instructor at Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine from 2012 to 2017.

Currently, I am serving as the 2021 President of the CDS, which has more than 4,000 members and is the largest local society of the ADA in the country. In over 80 years, no other dentist has held both the offices of president of the Illinois State Dental Society and president of the CDS. My commitment to organized dentistry is based on a desire for the betterment of the profession, its members and patients.

My wife, Celeste, and I have been married for 30 years, and we have worked together for 29 of those years. Our family includes two Maltese, Mickey and Buddy, who come to the office and can often be seen helping to relax the patients.

You’ve been working as a dentist for over three decades now. What are some of the most memorable developments that have taken place in the dental industry during that period?
The onset and evolution of the digital age has brought about some of the more significant and influential advancements during my career. These have included digital panoramic radiographs, digital impressions, 3D printing and CBCT. When I was in dental school, we did not have computers. Now, with streamlined technology in digital impressions, practice management and patient communication, a dentist can focus on preventive treatment and patient education while also creating a better doctor–patient relationship.

The onset and evolution of the digital age has brought about some of the more significant and influential advancements during my career

Fiber optic dental handpieces have also created a new way of working, as has laser technology. Another area in which there are frequent new developments is that of the materials used in restorations and for the fabrication of crowns and implants. We have come a long way with microfilled composites and their ability to bond to the tooth structure. We have seen traditional orthodontics expand with clear aligners, and electric toothbrushes have changed the way patients can improve their home care. Finally, professional whitening has improved, and the methods and materials that are available have become safe and accessible to the patient.

Dr. Dean Nicholas is confident that this year's event will be a memorable experience for all attendees. (Image: Chicago Dental Society)

You’ve been actively involved with the Chicago Dental Society (CDS) in the past. This year, you have the honor to serve as the president of the CDS. What opportunities and challenges does the role bring?
Being president of CDS is an honor and privilege, and serving in this role in 2021 brings with it unique opportunities and challenges. The pandemic has brought significant challenges, but it has also presented an opportunity to connect with our membership and to establish even stronger lines of communication. We are committed to open lines of communication and to hearing what our members have to say. We hope we have shown our existing and prospective members the value of being a member of the CDS by keeping them informed and by providing critical resources to help them during this difficult time. Hopefully, this year’s challenges will bring us together to celebrate what we have achieved so far and will help us remember the importance of kindness as we move forward towards recovery.

The theme you selected is “Heart of Dentistry”. What was going through your mind when choosing the theme, and what does it mean to you personally?
The theme “Heart of Dentistry” is near and dear to my heart. When I first chose the theme with my wife, we wanted something that not only reflected the love and passion we have for the profession, but also would make each person who attended the meeting stop and think about what it meant to them personally. I feel very strongly that dentistry is not just about using your hands, but that our work is driven by an inner passion in our heart and the motivation of a higher power to care for others. Little did I realize the magnitude that this theme and logo would take on as our world began to change.

“I  feel very strongly that dentistry is not just about using your hands

This year’s Midwinter Meeting will take on a completely different form and be held online for the first time in 156 years. What was your initial reaction to shifting the event to an online format?
Honestly, this was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in all my years of organized dentistry. The safety of our attendees, members, exhibitors and staff is and always has been our highest priority and, ultimately, we decided that a virtual meeting would be in everyone’s best interest. It was nearly impossible to predict the state of the pandemic weeks, let alone months, into the future. To organize a show that is consistent with the quality the Midwinter Meeting is known for, we decided, in the middle of August, to transition to a virtual experience. We know that a vast majority of our attendees look forward to obtaining the bulk of their continuing education (CE) requirements at the annual Midwinter Meeting, so a virtual format was a clear choice in order to continue to provide an exceptional educational opportunity to attendees.

There are some elements of an in-person event that can be difficult to replicate, such as face-to-face interactions and networking opportunities. How did the CDS address this need for communication?
Our goal when choosing a platform was to find one that mimicked an in-person experience as much as possible. It was important to me that all of our speakers would be live instead of prerecorded so that attendees could ask questions in real-time. I also wanted our exhibitors to be able to have face-to-face live video chats if they chose that option. Although we cannot be together in person, we have set up networking suites for all members of the dental team, including individual branches of CDS and all our local and international colleagues, as a way for people to connect through live chat rooms. Although this may become the standard in the future, it took some creative planning to accomplish. This year, we also implemented a texting feature for important updates and information. With the numbers rising daily on text message sign-ups, this feature shows the importance of connecting with our members and attendees in a way that is familiar and convenient to them.

Our goal when choosing a platform was to find one that mimicked an in-person experience as much as possible

Although this year’s event will be remarkably different for everyone involved, it will, nonetheless, offer a valuable experience. What exciting new features and highlights of the event can the attendees look forward to?
We are excited that our attendees will have the option to use a mobile app to navigate and participate in the Midwinter Meeting. We have also chosen an exceptional lineup of speakers who have customized their presentations to our 90-minute live format for each class. This allows our attendees to be able to take advantage of all the speakers and courses that will be presented.

We are introducing an on-demand feature that allows the attendees to take classes through March 15 in order to obtain additional CE credits. Attendees will also be able to visit the virtual exhibits within an extended timeframe, so they have more time to explore all aspects of the meeting. For the first time, we will also have a job board in order to share employment opportunities for the entire dental team, and a live help desk and IT support to make navigating the virtual meeting as seamless as possible.

There will be contests with prizes throughout the meeting, and the New Product Showcase will feature many exciting products and updates. Throughout the entire platform and schedule of events, we have been very intentional about facilitating different ways for attendees to connect and to stay engaged on social media in order to recreate as successfully as possible that connection we’ve all come to expect and enjoy through an event like this.

We have many exciting things lined up and hope it will be a memorable experience for all. I also hope that attendees will take the time during this year’s meeting to reflect on what “Heart of Dentistry” means to them and will share that with us through the platform or on their personal social media channels. It is going to be a new way to attend Midwinter, but our hearts will go on!

Editorial note: The Chicago Midwinter Meeting takes place from Feb. 2527. More information about the event can be found here.

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