Ostrow Alumna Elected ADA President
21 Oct 14
Carol Gomez Summerhays DDS ’78 will serve as president-elect for a year before ascending to presidency in 2015.
The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry has yet another alumna landing in high places. The American Dental Association announced Oct. 13 that Carol Gomez Summerhays DDS ‘78 has been elected president of the prestigious national organization.
“It’s just sinking in,” says Summerhays, who owns a San Diego-based practice. “It’s been such a whirlwind, but I have to say, it feels great.”
Summerhays, an ADA member for 36 years, will serve as the president-elect for one year before starting her year-long term next fall as president. She will succeed Dr. Maxine Feinberg.
Summerhays says her top priority is to drive ADA membership and build member value in every demographic among dental students and dentists.
“I also want to personally go out and meet with those groups where we’ve been lagging,” she says.
Summerhays says she wants to see membership numbers climb among female dentists, foreign-trained dentists and dentists in the military. Summerhays was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps from 1978 to 1981.
“When I was a military dentist in San Diego, I didn’t even know I could be a member of the ADA,” she says. “We need to get our message out and be sure we’re engaging members of the armed services.”
Summerhays also wants to engage dental students, particularly at USC, and make Trojans aware of the benefits that come with ADA membership.
“We know we’re losing members in the first five years after graduation when they don’t even have full dues,” she says. “We need to engage dental students starting day one and let them know they are direct members of the ADA.”
The dues for students are $5 a year, a fee that is already paid through an Ostrow student’s tuition. Membership also provides the dental student with no-cost life and disability insurance policies that includes tuition coverage if they’re injured while in school.
“That’s the tangible benefit,” Summerhays says. “But we’re also there to advocate for them at the highest levels.”
Currently, the ADA is working to pass legislation that will cap interest rates on federal loans, allowing students to pay less and refinance once they start practicing.
The organization also wants to prepare students and recent grads for the new landscape of dentistry and broader changes in health care system, which have been accelerated by the Affordable Care Act.
“The financing of dental care is significantly changing,” she says, pointing to the decrease of third-party reimbursements for dental care.
“We’re being much more proactive so students know the world they’re coming into and are better prepared,” she adds.
Summerhays has dedicated much of her professional life not only to her patients, but also to organized dentistry.
She is a member of the American College of Dentists, American Association of Women Dentists, Hispanic Dental Association and a past president of the California Dental Association. Summerhays has also served on the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry’s Board of Councilors—the school’s senior-most advisory board—for several years.
She credits her longtime mentor and former USC professor, the late Clifton Dummett, for her ongoing dedication.
“He encouraged me to be involved, and inspired me to take on leadership positions,” she says. “He’d always say, ‘Carol, just one more.’”
Dummett passed away in 2011 at the age of 92.
“I kept my promise to him that I would run for ADA president, and I was thrilled to be able to keep that promise,” she says.
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