As our Annual General Meeting approaches to welcome the next ADAWA President, we talk to Drs Amit Gurbuxani and Janina Christoforou about Amit’s Presidency and their dedication to ADA both at State and Federal levels.
Taking the reins in October 2021, the early months were challenging for practices with the opening of WA borders. “We had to adapt to the changing environment,” Amit recalls. “We were sourcing PPE, RATs and N95s for members, so practices could continue operating with the least amount of inconvenience.”
A new CEO
Amit adds that one of the prime roles of any board is to select the right CEO. “With the retirement of our long-term CEO Dr David Hallett, undergoing a thorough, open and exhaustive process of selecting the new CEO was very important, which involved the support of all the stakeholders,” he says. Amit adds that it has been an honour to have been a part of the ADAWA Council during the appointment of our CEO, Trevor Lovelle. He says this appointment has resulted in ADAWA being at the forefront of contemporary change with the undertaking of a Member Survey, and the development of a Strategic Plan.
"A Strategic Plan is of utmost importance in guiding the association to provide the best value for membership, through the pillars of advocacy, education, collegiality, member services, and support for
the disadvantaged in our society."
Governance has also been a strong focus during Amit's Presidency. “If you don’t keep up with what’s happening, you will be left behind,” Amit says. “Our members expect
us to do what is the best for them and each and every member is an integral part of our ADAWA family. Hence the family needs to have leadership with direction and those leaders need to be governed properly, whilst always being transparent to the membership – and that is what I have aimed for in my Presidency.”
Amit believes this process has started strongly. “Like anything else, change takes time, but more importantly, I believe that our Council has definitely broadened their horizons in relation to board accountability.”
Advocacy, one of our strategic pillars, has also been a significant part of Amit’s Presidency. Be it in relation to the licensing status of private dental clinics performing services under IV sedation or advocating for the disadvantaged and most vulnerable population’s oral health needs at a recent public hearing for the Senate Select Committee into the provision of and access to dental services in Australia.
Amit says as a board member he has been able to grow his understanding of governance, which has been highly valuable both at a professional and personal level. “For personal growth, the experience has made me realise the importance of valuing the time that you have being organised,” he says. “Also, to value all the people who have contributed to the association on a voluntary basis at every single level, including our committee chairs, committee volunteers, and each and every ADAWA member who cohesively makes this association great.
“The experience for me has been that it is not a one-man or a one-woman job,” he adds. “The Presidency is about teamwork, and having a really good governance framework in place, which then helps the team to work efficiently and make the best possible decisions on behalf of the membership at all levels.”
Amit says he is grateful to the entire membership for supporting him in this role. He states that he is truly appreciative of all the councillors, committee members and operational team for all their insights and assistance.
On a personal note, he is filled with gratitude towards his practice staff and his patients for being such a great support. “They understood the challenges of balancing my dedication to ADAWA duties with my clinical work,” he says. “The best part was they all realised that giving back to the community is a benefit for everyone. I would also like to thank my wife, Janina,” he adds. “With her role as Federal Councillor, there were many times we would clash on what would be State versus Federal opinion. Despite approaching things from a different angle, it all culminated towards the betterment of the profession.”
Hopes for the branch
Amit says change takes time, but he hopes the process that is in play continues to grow the association. “The association is for everyone, and ‘everyone’ is the key word,” he says. “I hope that every member of our community finds in ADAWA their professional home, be they a new graduate, employee dentist, practice owner, retired member, local graduate, ADC graduate or interstate graduate. That is what I want the association to be… our professional home.”
After he passes the baton, Amit says he hopes to continue to give back. “Since I have come to Australia, my policy has always been to give back to the community and to the profession that has given me so much,” he says.
“I have tried to do this at various levels at university, at the UWA Dental School, and of course at ADAWA, and I will continue to do so in any capacity that I am asked. I am on certain ADA Federal committees and will continue being a part of that as long as I can continue to play a beneficial role."
On a personal note, he will be spending more time with family and his beloved cavoodle Zia, who has always been a calming presence.
Janina Christoforou has not only been by Amit’s side personally during his Presidency, but also professionally as an ADAWA Councillor, an ADA Inc Federal Councillor who is involved in Federal working groups, and her recent appointment as the Chair of the WA Dental CPD Committee.
Janina decided to join ADAWA Council in 2020. “I always wanted to do something extra for the community that wasn’t only limited to clinical work, teaching, research and volunteerism,” she recalls. “I felt that a board role could have been the start of a new adventure that I would possibly enjoy as well.”
For Janina, a highlight has been learning about governance. “A big part of this was partaking in governance training and then becoming a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. This professional development was an eye opener,” she says. “It allowed me to reflect on the running of our associations, such as ADAWA/ADA Inc, and also our private practices and how important good governance principals are for the effective running of these entities. I thank our association for this most rewarding opportunity.”
The start of Amit’s Presidency meant they didn’t have much time together, but coupled with Janina's roles on State and Federal Council, they were both understanding of each other’s commitments.
“Amit’s a person that always thinks with his heart more than anything else and always tries to do the best for anyone and the community,” she says. “That has always been his focus. What you see is what you get with Amit. I have seen him develop during his journey as President.”
She encourages any ADAWA members considering a role on Council or volunteering with a committee to give it a go. “Involvement allows you to gain a different perspective and also provide opinions, which are so valuable in sculpting our association.”
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