Arizona’s Own, Charles L. Siroky, DDS
January 1, 2011, Dr. Charles Siroky took office as the President of the International College of Dentists. Dr. Siroky is the 83rd worldwide ICD president; his term runs through December 31, 2011.
Background on ICD:
The International College of Dentists (ICD) is a worldwide honorary dental organization. There are approximately 12,000 members (called Fellows) worldwide. Half of the members are in the United States. Membership in the College is through invitation only. Dentists are “called to fellowship based on their outstanding professional achievement, meritorious service and dedication to the continued progress of dentistry for the benefit of humankind.” Prior to being recognized as a Fellow of the ICD, the candidate’s qualifications and achievements are evaluated by a series of credential committees in order to insure that he or she is deserving of this honor and will live up to the ICD motto of “Recognizing Service and the Opportunity to Serve.” Once inducted, a Fellow in good standing is authorized to use the post-nominals “FICD” after his or her name. The goal is to invite to fellowship the top two percent of the dentists in a given area. At its core, ICD’s objectives are:
- To build fraternity
- To advance the art and science of dentistry
- To promote and facilitate humanitarian projects throughout the world
ICD replicated the ADA model when it comes to sectioning off the United States. Therefore, the ICD dentists living in Arizona are also located in the Fourteenth District. Each state has a Deputy Regent (State President). Arizona’s current Deputy Regent is Dr. Brian Powley. There are over 125 ICD Fellows in Arizona, and all of them, like Dr. Powley, are members of AzDA.
ICD, or “the College” was visualized in 1920 in Tokyo by founders Dr. Tsurukichi Okumura and Dr. Louis Ottofy. However, it was not chartered until 1928 in Washington D.C. Initially, 250 members were invited into fellowship as the first class at the College. They were considered with the instructions: “Please nominate the ablest, most progressive, best educated, ethical practitioner in your country, regardless of his place of domicile, nationality, race, color or religion.”
From these 250 members, a small percentage of them (around 10%) were asked to propagate the latest dental information and techniques to other countries that had no ICD presence. In describing this mission, Dr. Siroky called it, “Selecting the best to educate the rest.”
While people today might take for granted how quickly information is transmitted, in the 1920’s, information primarily was passed along through small lectures, personal telephone calls or small chairside demonstrations. While education still plays a vital role in the College, the focus has now shifted to humanitarian projects. Today, ICD has grown into fourteen autonomous sections around the globe, representing fellows in over one hundred countries.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a fellow in ICD?
For me personally, it was extremely meaningful. I felt proud of what I had accomplished. More than anything else, I was proud that my peers, my colleagues, had chosen me to be considered in that top two percent of dentists selected by the College.
After accepting my nomination to the College, I have always felt a sense of ownership. In fact, I have always encouraged newly elected Fellows to feel a sense of pride, honor and ownership.
Q: How do dentists feel about being invited into fellowship in ICD?
Surprisingly, it actually depends upon the country the where dentist lives and practices. In the United States, for example, the honor of being an ICD fellow does not always carry the same weight it does for dentists in Europe and Asia. However, this is not always the case. Dentists in Myanmar [formerly Burma] view membership in ICD as the most sought after honor they can achieve after membership in the Myanmar Dental Association. Both the qualifications required for invitation and reaction to being nominated vary from country to country. Because the rest of the world does not offer as many fellowships into ICD, dentists living outside the United States typically view the honor as much more prestigious. As a side note, dentists in Myanmar need almost three degrees and fifteen years in the field before they can be considered. Their qualifications for fellowship are incredibly stringent.
Q: What has it meant to you to be serving as ICD President?
I felt I really have a chance to give back to dentistry. I have been involved in leadership in many areas, but serving as an international president has given me the opportunity to carry the message that doctors invited into ICD fellowship are exceedingly special. At the same time, with such an honor comes responsibility. It is my feeling that doctors that having accepted fellowship into ICD have an obligation to give back to their country and to their profession. At the conclusion of my induction speeches, I always make a point to challenge ICD fellows with three guidelines: “To continue to do what you have done (and then some). Secondly, support your local philanthropic projects. Thirdly, share the honor you have received today with a colleague in your community who probably is just as talented and deserving as you are.”
Throughout my presidency I have tried to reach out to each individual fellow. Like AzDA, we have periodic member communications like newsletters and a website, I have tried my best to reach ICD fellows on a personal level. I have diligently worked at communicating with as many ICD Fellows possible to make them feel like they were part of the process – to make them feel, “They are all equal among peers. There is no ‘them’ - just ‘us.’”
We also have been looking to increase ICD’s growth through geographic expansion. There are still many areas of the world that ICD is not active in. So during my presidency we have attentively worked to begin to establish the College in five areas in Africa. I am happy to say that in 2010, ICD was able to establish a region in Mongolia. One of the initial goals of the College was to have at least one member for each country in the world; this goal is still a work in process.
Q: What is the process of developing a new ICD region in a developing country?
We will first approach the dentists in academia. They are typically the most effective catalyst for the College to take its first steps towards establishment. The schools are generally thought of as dentistry leaders in developing countries, and we have found if they agree to begin an ICD Region in their country, they are likely to have a good deal of influence over their peers and students.
Q: What is the celebration of being invited into fellowship look like?
It closely resembles a college graduation ceremony. Fellows march to the auditorium; listen to a keynote speaker; and finally they march across the stage to receive an honorary key, lapel pin and certificate suitable for framing for the office. It is an exciting time, as you would expect. The newly inducted Fellows are filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. In fact, one of my goals as ICD president was to help remind Fellows to periodically strive and recapture the proud moment they walked across that stage the day they were inducted. Some members retain that feeling of pride and excitement for quite some time. Others just remember it with a plaque on the wall. Now and again, I would encourage all of them to remember the feeling they experienced on the day they were inducted; it is important.
Q: What do you think would most surprise the ICD founders about the college today?
First, I think they would be astonished by the College’s size. I do not think they ever envisioned it growing as much as it has. I do not believe they had any idea the evolution of global mass communications would give rise to abundance of fellows we now have. As an offshoot of that, Dr. Okumura and Dr. Ottofy would be surprised by the shift in the College’s focus from education to humanitarian projects. It is true that there are developing countries that would still benefit from an educational focus (particularly in Africa). However, here in the United States, the last thing we need is another CE course.
Q: What do you see different with dentists working outside of the United States?
First, the standards in each country differ, not only the standards for induction as an ICD Fellow, but standards when it comes to dentistry. While I do not get to personally observe a lot of the dentistry offered in other countries, as it relates to the College, we are looking for the very best that country has to offer in regards to dentistry. For example, the very best dentistry in Mongolia might not be at the same level as Canada or Germany. ICD members around the world are tasked with spreading information and leadership, whatever that level is, to their colleagues in that country.
Q: Throughout your travels, what have you done that was fun or unusual?
During a trip to China I actually got to hold a panda bear. He was a nine-month-old male that weighed about 50 lbs. He was just like a cuddly teddy bear, but I have to admit that it was much bigger than I originally thought. In retrospect, I am not sure how cuddly he would have been if he was not being fed watermelon while I was holding him! I would readily admit that I never had a burning desire to hold a bear before, but my Chinese hostess explained that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am glad I listened to her. It was worth it.
Q: What do you believe is dentistry’s greatest strength?
Technology has allowed us to do so much more for the patient now. We can change people’s personality and their outlook on life through advances in dentistry. The costs are still there, but they are coming down. More importantly, we are able to do all of these things with a significant reduction in patient pain and discomfort.
Q: What do you believe is dentistry’s greatest challenge?
Overcoming the reluctance or resistance of people to come in for treatment. You (dentists) cannot reach everyone, particularly when many people harbor a fear of dentistry. But as more and more patients experience a positive, relatively pain-free visit to the dentist, I am hopeful that word-of-mouth will spread and we will begin to lessen the antiquated fear many people have in coming in for treatment.
Q: How long did you practice dentistry?
Well, I graduated in 1962 and practiced for 47 years; however, my goal was actually to practice for 50 years. In September 2008 I developed a condition that limited my vision enough that I retired from practice. I was hoping to practice until May of 2012, but 47 years in practice is still quite a long time; I had a good ride.
Q: What kept you going for almost 50 years of practice?
Going into the office every morning. I enjoyed my patients, number one, and I honestly felt I was providing a meaningful service for people who truly needed my help. Yes, this was my livelihood, but I always tried to keep in mind that at the end of every tooth was a person - I tried to remind myself of this every day. It was the people, rather than the paycheck, that kept me in practice for close to 50 years.
When working on patients, I always invested time in building rapport and getting to know them before administering treatment. I took pride in this. I never just started right in. As an endodontist, I might only see a patient one to three times (unless they were having another procedure done), so I did my best to develop a trust and rapport with them quickly. I was in the business of making friends - friends through providing treatment, assuring them about the care they were going to receive and providing a comfortable, relatively pain-free procedure. I felt I had the ability to change someone’s life (for the better). Well, at least their life for that week!
Q: what advice would you give a new dentist?
Not to borrow a similar slogan from the United States Army, but I would encourage young dentists to “be the best they can be,” every day of their life. Beyond that, I would encourage them to look at dentistry as more than just a job. Dentistry is a profession, and as such, they have an obligation to treat the needs of the patient as well as elevate the status of the field of dentistry. While “making a friend” might not be in their formal job description, I felt it was part of mine. See patients as an opportunity to positively affect lives rather than just an oral cavity that needs treatment.
If you respect your patients, give them the very best you have and see them more than a case that needs treatment and build rapport. You will make a very comfortable living.
The last piece of advice I have for new dentists is to hold off on buying that new $100,000 piece of equipment, a new home or car, especially when so many of them have tremendous debt after dental school. Take it slow - those luxuries will come in time.
Q: If you could do it all over again (your career in dentistry), would you?
In a heartbeat. I have enjoyed the profession immensely. It has been very good to me. If I was able to go back and do something different, I would have liked to have given more. I have come to know that the more you give - the more you get. In tying this back to ICD, I would encourage fellows to mentor as many people (in the right way) as they can. I was blessed with six or seven mentors, and in turn, I mentored about fifteen to twenty.
Dr. Charles Siroky tops off his career-long roles as a practicing dentist and leader in the dental profession. Dr. Siroky graduated from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry, served four years in the U.S. Army Dental Corps and then returned to Arizona where he practiced Endodontics for 42 years. During that time he served as President of his local and state dental associations. Over the years, Dr. Siroky served in many roles for the American Dental Association including membership in the ADA House of Delegates and ADA Vice President and 14th District Trustee. He served as President of the Foundation of the American Association of Endodontists. Honors conferred include Fellowship in ICD, ACD, ADI, PFA, OKU and ATE. Active in his own community, he served as President of the Phoenix 100 Rotary Club. Dr. Siroky and his wife Gayle have four grown children and twelve grandchildren.
For the International Council, Dr. Siroky served as Parliamentarian and excels at crafting changes to the College By-Laws. He was instrumental in creating many of the documents that were required during the transition of The College to its new Central Office and he directed the search for the new Central Office personnel.
Dr. Siroky served as AzDA president in 1986. He has been a CADS member since 1966 and served as CADS President in 1976. Dr. Siroky also served on the Board of Trustees from 1979-1986 and has also been the Chairman of the Council on Annual Session, Constitution and Bylaws as well as the Arizona Dental Political Action Committee (ArDPAC).