Remembering ‘Lion of a man’ Dr. J. David Gaynor, TDIC founder

Dr. David Gaynor, past CDA president and co-founder of The Dentists Insurance Company, passed away Jan. 14 at the age of 81, following complications from pneumonia.

Gaynor was a Beverly Hills pediatric dentist known for his direct approach and colorful language. These attributes helped him persuade fellow members in 1980 to establish their own professional liability insurance company – a risky move that ultimately led to the creation of TDIC, which provided CDA members the muscle to buck skyrocketing premiums that were driving health providers out of state.

“Dr. Gaynor’s work in establishing TDIC is legendary in organized dentistry,” said CDA President Lindsey Robinson, DDS. “This organization is stronger thanks to his leadership skills and passion for doing what was best for dentists.”

Born on April 5, 1931, in Los Angeles, Gaynor had originally planned to study engineering but switched gears and graduated from the University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry, in 1955. After serving two years as a captain in the U.S. Air Force, Gaynor settled into his pediatric practice and eventually became involved in organized dentistry, which led to his challenge of the powerful insurance industry.

“Dr. Gaynor was a passionate, hardworking, gifted leader who had exceptional skills,” said CDA Past President Arthur Dugoni, DDS, MSD, dean emeritus of the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. “CDA was fortunate to have those attributes during those formative years to transform it from a ‘mom and pop grocery store’ to the fantastic organization it is today.”

In the late 1970s, Gaynor and fellow CDA leaders decided to create TDIC after a professional liability insurance provider told them dentists would be at the mercy of increasing annual premiums, which were rising from 100 to 400 percent due to litigation of claims and huge monetary settlements.

“If you believe in what you are doing, you don’t look at the risk factors because if the risk factors are part of your decision-making process, get out of the game,” recalled Gaynor during a 2010 interview with the Update.

As CDA president and chairman of TDIC, Gaynor was determined to silence critics by tirelessly traveling the state to pitch the idea of an insurance company to members at component meetings. In 1979, the CDA House of Delegates approved a capitalization plan, and in 1980, TDIC fulfilled Department of Insurance requirements by enrolling its first 5,000 dentists for coverage.

“What impressed me about him is that he was willing to take calculated risks for the benefit of membership,” said Don Schinnerer, DDS, past TDIC chair and longtime family friend. “He was always a CDA-man first – he was never in it for himself.”

Those sentiments were echoed by past TDIC Chair Naomi Ellison, DDS, who recalled Gaynor’s contributions to the unification committee that joined the Southern California Dental Association with the California Dental Association, which represented the northern part of the state.

“He was a lion of a man. When he got his mind around something, he would roar,” said Ellison. “He wasn’t afraid to take on huge issues and fight for them.”

Cindy Gaynor Eliahu, DDS, of Alamo, said her father’s passion for dentistry had an influence on her decision to enter the profession.

"He was rough around the edges and not everyone took well to that. He couldn’t care less what people thought of him, but he was always honest and had the highest integrity,” said Eliahu. “I don't think the dental community had any idea how big his heart was. He would do absolutely anything for a friend or family member. He will be dearly missed."

In addition to serving as CDA president and in various TDIC positions, Gaynor also worked as associate executive director of CDA from 1982 to 1989.

Those who worked with Gaynor feel dentists will benefit from his contributions for many years.

“These young people should look at the legacy of Dr. Gaynor and want to emulate his passion for his profession, his passion for patients, and his passion for making sure that the oral health of this state and nation is the best in the world,” said Dugoni. “Dr. Gaynor was one of those leaders who truly moved mountains and made a difference with his life and dedication.”

In addition to his daughter, Gaynor is survived by his wife of 59 years, Bobbie of Danville, and son, Mark, PhD, of St. Louis.

The Gaynor family requested that memorial contributions be made to the CDA Foundation. Contact Michelle Rivas at 916.554.5393, or make a donation online.