CDA leaders look ahead to next 150 years of organized dentistry

March 10, 2020

“I see CDA now and into the future as being limitless in what we can produce and do for our members.” While reflecting on CDA’s momentous milestone of 150 years in organized dentistry, Richard Nagy, DDS, president of the California Dental Association, looks ahead — optimistic about what’s next for the organization and its 27,000 members.

“CDA is continuously evolving in a positive direction,” said Dr. Nagy. “The premise of CDA since its inception was to create a standard and help to regulate and encourage each other to learn to be better; we did it 150 years ago and will continue to do so, but I think at a much more rapid pace.”

The largest state association in the ADA, CDA was created in 1870 by 23 dentists who vowed to cultivate the art and science of dentistry. Since then, the organization has initiated breakthroughs in insurance and e-commerce with the development of The Dentists Insurance Company and The Dentists Supply Company — subsidiaries of CDA and two of several member resources that Nagy credits for supporting the organization’s steady and growing membership.

“From my perspective, one of CDA’s greatest accomplishments since I became a member 30 years ago is its ability to sustain membership,” he said. “A lot of professional organizations have a declining membership, but not CDA, and I believe that’s because we develop programs and resources that help our members practice more efficiently.”

Advocating for public health

Through the generosity of volunteers and donors, CDA continues to meet the needs of members and the public through two flagship programs of the CDA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of CDA: the Student Loan Repayment Grant and CDA Cares — a volunteer-run clinic that has provided $25 million in dental care to more than 30,000 people since 2012.

A leader in legislative advocacy, CDA has also been the driving force behind numerous public health initiatives.

“Our members have consistently told us that they want us to not only serve them; they want us to also help them serve the public, because they believe that’s what professionals should be doing,” said Peter DuBois, executive director of CDA.

Drawn to the strength and diversity of the association, as well as its people and its commitment to organized dentistry, DuBois accepted the position as executive director in 2003.  He says what excites him the most is CDA’s pursuit of new ideas that could enhance the association’s ability to serve its members and the public.

DuBois counts community water fluoridation, which provides fluoridated drinking water to 24 million Californians, as one of the association’s most significant accomplishments of the last 17 years. And he cites CDA’s instrumental role in the passage in 2016 of the state tobacco tax, which is yielding millions of dollars every year to increase reimbursements for Medi-Cal Dental services and to provide funding for student loan repayment awards and practice relocation grants.

“These milestones have increased the number of dentists who are participating in the Medi-Cal Dental program, which has a profound impact on access to care for vulnerable populations,” he said.

Laying the foundation for the next 150 years

A periodontist and private practice owner in Santa Barbara, Nagy says being a leader with CDA was not a part of his plan. As past president of the California Society of Periodontics and the Western Society of Periodontology, he spent most of his career in leadership positions specific to periodontics until he was encouraged to aim higher. 

“Someone asked me to be a leader with Santa Barbara-Ventura County Dental Society; I was hesitant, but I did it,” he said. “By being involved with them, I got a glimpse into what CDA does for its members. If it wasn’t for that person asking me 10 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Now, as president of CDA, Nagy’s vision for the organization is to enhance membership value and effectively implement the organization’s mission and strategic plan.

Sharing similar values and sentiments, DuBois predicts that CDA will continue to become even more complex in the next 5-10 years with the addition of new and evolved benefits to make the member experience even richer than it is now.

“It’s humbling to be a part of an organization that’s 150 years old,” said DuBois. “I feel a sense of tremendous responsibility as one of many leaders in this organization to make sure that it can look forward to another 150 years.”

Share your CDA story!

CDA has supported a brilliant community of dentists for the past 150 years. CDA members have made this legacy possible, so we’re seeking to showcase members’ favorite moments on our website, in our publications and on social media throughout the anniversary year.

Join in by sharing why you became a CDA member. We’re also looking for photos, videos or archival documents, and we welcome your referrals to other members who have memorable stories. To participate, visit Complete the form to share your story, referrals or materials.


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