Laura Kelly-Brown got started in this profession 22 years ago as many people in our community do: doing pickup and delivery for a dental laboratory. Eventually, she trained in ceramics, took advantage of her employer's commitment to continuing education and was instrumental in helping the laboratory carve out a niche in metal-free dentistry. Thirteen years after first getting behind the wheel of that delivery car, she became the first vice president the laboratory ever had.
And now, another first: Kelly-Brown is the first dental technician--and the first woman--to be elected vice president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). She advances to the role of president of the AACD following its 2007 annual meeting in Atlanta. Founded in 1984, the AACD is the largest international organization of dentists, technicians, auxiliaries and educators dedicated specifically to cosmetic dentistry. The Academy has experienced tremendous growth in the last five years: from 4,000 members in the year 2000 to now more than 7,000, 283 of whom are dental technicians.
"The AACD is the premier organization for advancing modern cosmetic dentistry and I am excited to help lead it into the future," says Kelly-Brown, who recently joined Bona-Dent Dental Laboratories of Seneca Falls, New York as its vice president of technician development. In addition to advancing the technical development of BonaDent's speciality teams, she will run a satellite laboratory in Northern California.
LMT recently talked to Kelly-Brown to offer congratulations on her election to the AACD and hear more about her plans for the Academy.
LMT: While the AACD has technician-members, the majority of members are dentists. What do you think the election of a technician to the office of vice president--and to your eventual position as president--says about the AACD?
Kelly-Brown: What it says is that this organization values people and--whether I'm a technician or a dentist--they are confident in my ability to lead. It's also indicative of the AACD's inclusive nature, and of its philosophy of embracing the relationship between technicians and dentists. That philosophy is what 'clicked' with me when I attended my very first AACD meeting in 1989. Since then, I've served on many committees--my last count was about 25--and I'm a volunteer examiner for technicians undergoing the Academy's accreditation process. I was also the first technician elected to the board of directors--where I spent four years--and to the board of trustees, which oversees our Give Back a Smile program for restoring the smiles of domestic violence survivors.
LMT: What was it about your experience at that first meeting that made you decide to get so involved with the Academy?
Kelly-Brown: It's funny, because the meeting was held in St. Thomas and, at the time, that was the biggest draw for me. Who wouldn't want to go do some continuing education in the U.S. Virgin Islands? But I instantly saw that this was a group I wanted to be a part of. I had never before been to a meeting where dentists and technicians sat side by side to learn together. Never had I been in an environment where dentists were turning to me to ask, "What do you think of this?"
And this was 16 years ago, before the concept of dentist-technician teamwork was such a popular sentiment. The founding members were visionaries; they realized the important and valuable contribution technicians make, and decided to embrace and encourage technicians to join and become accredited side by side with them. It was very unique at the time, and still is.
LMT: After becoming involved in the Academy, you decided to go through its accreditation process. Can you tell us what that's about?
Kelly-Brown: Accreditation serves to set a standard for excellence in cosmetic dentistry. Achieving accredited status requires dedication to continuing education, careful attention to the accreditation protocols and the ability to produce exceptional dentistry. It's a three-part process, consisting of a written exam, submitted cases for evaluation, and an oral exam. All of the guidelines are outlined on our website for anyone who is interested in learning more.
I found the accreditation process to be incredibly rewarding; in fact, it was a life-changing experience for me. I felt such support from my collegeues and fellow members; everyone works with you to help you reach that higher level. It's not about achieving perfection, but rather attaining a zone of excellence.
It offers tremendous professional growth and, once you're accredited, you have the opportunity to work with dentists who share the same philosophy and goals. And, of course, you become more visible within the Academy itself and a better technician by going through the process.
LMT: Speaking of increased visibility, how do you plan to use your new leadership position--and ultimately the role of president--to lead the AACD into the future?
Kelly-Brown: First and foremost, I'm commited to continuing our emphasis on excellence in education. Our annual Scientific Session has developed a reputation as the premier place to enhance your cosmetic dentistry skills, learn the latest techniques and get caught up on the hottest topics. One of my priorities will be to keep our meetings new and exciting each year.
For example, at our next meeting--May 16-20 in San Diego--we're going to have "Power Sessions" in addition to our regular format. These are 45-minute presentations that will be fast-paced and innovative. Attendees will be exposed to many world-renowned educators--like Dr. Frank Spear, Dr. Gerard Chiche, Matt Roberts and Dr. Tom Trinkner--covering topics that will help them take their businesses from ordinary to extraordinary.
Another priority is to continue to increase consumer awareness of cosmetic dentistry. I feel strongly that the AACD has a responsibility to be the go-to source for consumer information on cosmetic dentistry. Our website has a comprehensive patient education component, including a dentist referral service and we plan to add more to the site in the near future.
Another major goal is to inspire more technicians to become involved with the Academy. In fact, to encourage their attendance at this year's Scientific Session, we're reducing tuition for first-time technician attendees--who are also members--to $480, which is about one-third of the regular tuition. It's just further evidence that this organization sees the need for technicians to be a part of it.
LMT: In addition to attending the Scientific Session, what are some of the other benefits of membership for dental technicians?
Kelly-Brown: Technicians can earn NBC credits through our Laboratory Technicians Track, which are courses specifically designed for technicians and have the opportunity to network with leading cosmetic professionals. This is a great place for technicians to have the opportunity to build their businesses and client bases by networking with like-minded individuals. Member technicians will also soon be the focus of a new area on our website so that dentist members can easily find them.
In addition, many technicians have commented on our meetings' positive energy. This is definitely an upbeat group! I think it will help technicians truly feel that this is an exciting time to be involved in our profession. The consumer is more aware of the technician's partnership with the dentist, and it's rewarding to finally be recognized for our abilities. In the coming years, our role is going to become increasingly important in creating functional esthetics. A commitment to excellence is going to become critical. Mediocrity just isn't going to cut it.
Editor's Note: For details on the AACD, call 800-543-9220 or click here to visit their website.