The ADA is governed by Federal Council, which consists of 17 voting councillors, including two from Western Australia, who are appointed through branches and who are responsible for setting the direction, approving policy, compliance and oversight of ADA inc.
In his eight years as ADAWA CEO, Dr David Hallett has seen changes, both big and small. Some, he can accept personal responsibility for; others, he has overseen and quietly guided to successful completion. One thing, however, is certain: ADAWA is now, more than ever, a strong and united membership association, thanks in no small part to David’s caring and committed leadership.
There can be few members who haven’t had the benefit of David’s sage advice and assistance over the years. ADAWA members know that he’s never more than a phone call, email or coffee away, available at short notice when crisis hits or when a friendly chat is required.
Taking on the role eight years ago, David had an inkling of what being CEO of ADAWA truly meant. He only knew that he was taking over from the much-loved and admired CEO, Dr Stuart Gairns. While David, at this point, had been an ADAWA office bearer for 15 years, Stuart had 30 years’ experience, and was hugely respected both within the profession and the broader health community.
Stuart handed to David a membership association that was already strong. Membership numbers were high, the branch was running successfully, and members were satisfied. It was, on the whole, a much lauded membership model. And, as the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Having already been ADAWA President, David felt confident taking on the role of CEO, and did so with a determination to simply continue Stuart’s legacy.
“I saw my role primarily as supporting the members,” David recalls. “If there’s such a thing as a KPI in this job, it was simply to improve on member services and maintain member satisfaction.”
In doing so, David hoped to be an advocate for better patient outcomes in the community. “I realised that if we supported our members enough in their practise, by stealth, patient outcomes would naturally improve.”
Over the past eight years, ADAWA has quietly improved and advanced in many other ways – all to the benefit of its members and thanks to the leadership of Dr David Hallett.
David, with the support of his progressive executive team, was instrumental in implementing a media and communications strategy at ADAWA. This has been significant in opening the lines of communication with staff, members, stakeholders in health and the wider community.
The Western Articulator magazine bears little resemblance to the newsletter of a few years ago, receiving widespread acclaim for its innovative design and quality, content-driven articles.
Similarly, the association is now active on social media, with regular communications going out to members both in the private Facebook group and via email.
At no point was this more important than during the early months of the COVID pandemic. “There was a period in 2020 when we thought the profession was going to be disseminated,” David recalls. “It was a testimony to our strength that we were able to support members both emotionally and financially.”
David says it has been great to watch the WA Dental CPD program under the direction of Dr Jenny Ball and her committee develop into what is now a world-class program. “In particular, the development of programs for recent graduates has been a real feature to keep young members engaged,” he says.
“Dentists have always provided pro bono care within their own practices, whether it be free treatment or discounted treatment to people in need, but we have never been able to understand the significance or the magnitude of that,” he says. “Whereas now we have a range of structured programs, providing greater insight as to what is really being done.
“It’s also wonderful to see so many young dentists being involved and viewing it as an attribute of being a health professional,” he adds.
ADA House has been transformed immeasurably over the past few years, with David taking on the role of 'pretend' project manager in the huge renovation.
The project saw the tired, outdated building on Havelock Street in West Perth undergo a dramatic transformation.
“The old building wasn’t particularly welcoming. The AV was outdated and the lecture theatre impractical. Now, it’s perfect for CPD events and general meetings, with quality catering facilities.”
In eight years, David has achieved his “KPI” – and much more besides. As he begins his retirement, he can do so knowing he did his best in trying to make a difference – to Western Australian dental professionals on an individual basis, and the community at large.
This, he says, is his proudest achievement as CEO.
“We’ve really been able to connect with members on an individual level. Whether you’re a student, in private practice or government health services, part time or full time, retired or still practising, our members know they can reach out to us for individual support.
“This might be for broader professional support, professional indemnity support, volunteering opportunities or CPD; we are here to offer support on an individual level.”
Regardless of who takes over as CEO of ADAWA, David is confident the association will remain strong, provided the members continue to be united.
“Whether we’re talking to Government, to health funds, or advocating on behalf of our patients, we can only do that if the branch remains strong,” David says. “The branch can only remain strong if we are unified.”
He also stresses the benefits of being an engaged member, from first-hand experience. “Like many members, for the first 20 years of my ADAWA membership, I just paid my fees and rarely engaged.
“It wasn’t until Peter McKerracher, who was CEO at the time, tapped me on the shoulder and suggested I think about giving something back, that I decided to get involved with the association.”
It was, of course, one of the best decisions David ever made – and he encourages other members to do the same.
“You don’t have to become a councillor,” he says. “You just have to support each other, be a good role model and seriously consider being a mentor for younger graduates. If we ask your opinion, speak up for what’s best for the profession and what’s best for your patients.”
It may be a tired cliché, but David is genuinely looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“The cliché has become the reality,” he says. “My two daughters have come back to live in Perth after 15 years or so away with their families, including a new grandson. My perspective on life has started to change and I’m ready to appreciate the simpler things in life.”
When asked if those retirement plans include working on a lawn so green it will be the envy of his competitive, turf-loving neighbours, he laughs. “About 20 years ago a well-known dentist in Perth was retiring and he was asked the question what he was going to do during his retirement,” David recalls. “He said: ‘I’m going to spend more time with my gerberas, creating the perfect colour and the perfect shape and form.’
“I remember I turned to my colleague and said if I ever get like that, just put me out of my misery,” he laughs. “Yet now I’ve reached this age and this point, I don’t think it’s such a bad option.”
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