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NZDA Conference 2014

I'm just back from Christchurch where the NZDA held its annual conference and I realized it was my 16th attendance.

My first conference was way back in 1999 in New Plymouth. The NZDA used to hold Biennial Conferences and Regional Conferences in the inbetween years.

Times have changed. The NZDA now hosts an Annual Conference. Given the growth in NZDA membership and the continuing education requirements of the profession, there has been continued growth in participation. This has led to fewer appropriate sized venues and we now have a rolling set of possible hosts - Christchurch, Rotorua and Auckland.

It seems unlikely we will return to venues like Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth or Queenstown anytime soon.

The face of attendees has also changed in my time. Practice owners were primarily middle aged European men. At this years' Conference it was very evident that the make-up of the mix of clinicians continues to move ever closer to matching society both in terms of gender and ethnicity. This is due to both the Dunedin graduate programme and the arrival of overseas dentists.

The "standard" model of practice ownership has also changed significantly with corporate models now very much a part of the scene. There is also a greater proportion of associates or as one described it to me "self-employed contractors".

Not everyone wants the responsibility of being both a clinician as well as a small business owner. And, the profession now has more capacity to meet these needs.

There was also a fresher look to attendees this year and this is most likely attributable to the NZDA hosting 81 (out of a possible 84) of the final year graduates from Dunedin. There were also a large number of recent graduates (in their 1st to 5th year of practice) - anecdotally it seems the NZDA mentoring programme contributed to this. I also think the speed at which the profession continues to evolve is a factor.

One thing was very clear. You don't learn all that you need to know at dental school. Education is an ongoing process.

I reflected on our involvement in equipment financing. In 1999 all our loans were for dental chairs or computer equipment for those practices looking to move away from manual patient cards.

We now have enquiries for everything from Cone Beams, Digital X Ray units, Cerecs, Lasers, Chairs to Cabinetry and Software - the list of technology is ever expanding. Staying on top of these developments is crucial to today's dentist. It also means the trade exhibition at Conference has grown as well.

Being a successful professional in today's busy world requires good advice from specialists in their fields of expertise. There was wealth of experience amongst the trade exhibition and a variety of options and solutions to meet the dental professional's needs. Whether they were a young graduate looking to protect the investment they have made in their education by insuring their ability to earn an income, through to established practice owners looking at a Cone Beam and the cost/benefit analysis required before making a purchase. There were new initiatives too - the NZDA's Employment Fair.

From my perspective I did find the conference very energizing. I'm not sure if that was due to the location - Christchurch. Where we were amongst people who know how to do it hard and in the main have come through a life experience with a wonderful attitude towards getting on with things.

It may have been the younger audience brought on by the NZDA initiatives and some of it may have been a flow on from some of my recent articles.

Whatever the reason it was the busiest Conference I've been to - final year students and graduates seem to be coming to grips with the fact that once they complete their professional education they also need to understand working in the "business of dentistry" to be able to "ply their trade".

It was satisfying for me to talk to so many people about their risk management programme and in particular their disability / income protection. Finding the right solution for each client and getting that balance between personal comfort and tangible cover is the value that good advice provides.

To NZDA - thanks for yet another great conference. And to our NZDIS members, old and new, thanks for taking time out to visit our stand. I hope you spent your $100 wisely.

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