On Saturday, September 23, 1989, seventeen (17) African American Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (OMS) convened at the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) Annual Meeting in San Francisco to discuss plans for organizing as a special interest group to further shared goals of promoting minority participation in the leadership activities of AAOMS. This meeting led to the formation of the National Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (NSOMS). A mission statement, constitution and bylaws were prepared under the leadership of a consensus group (Drs. Newton C. Gordon, Monroe Harris, Daniel Howard, Leroy Loving, Jr., Franklyn Scott, Marvin Wells and J. Hamil Willoughby).
In 1991, a Board of Directors was elected with Dr. Newton Gordon served as the first president for two consecutive two-year terms. Dr. Renee McCoy-Collins became the second president in 1995 & 1996; Dr. J. Hamil Willoughby became the third president in 1997 & 1998; followed by Dr. Adrian Patterson in 1999 & 2000; Dr. Daniel Howard in 2001 & 2002, and Dr. Carlton Floyd in 2003 & 2004. Dr. Newton Gordon was appointed Executive Director in 1995. Since its inception, Leroy Loving, DDS, MD has served in the pivotal role of treasurer. The Society conducts its business at the AAOMS Annual Meeting.
The major impetus for the formation of NSOMS came from the isolation of African-American Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (OMS) within AAOMS and its component societies and the lack of avenues for involvement in the activities of AAOMS. This isolation is outlined in two purposes of the Society:
1. To serve as a cohesive force for dentists of a common heritage.
2. To provide opportunities for social and professional development.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AAOMS’ COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY
Since 1992, AAOMS has worked cooperatively with NSOMS to remove negative perspectives and to include African American OMS in its activities at the leadership level. An exploratory meeting, chaired by AAOMS President Michael Matzkin, took place in Honolulu, Hawaii on Friday, September 18, 1992. Perceived problems, common goals, complementary programs and projects were discussed. As a follow-up the AAOMS Board approved a Special Committee on OMS Minority Challenges, which convened at headquarters in Rosemont on Monday, November 16, 1992. AAOMS representatives were Drs. Ronald Marks (President-Elect) and Richard Simeone (District II trustee), Mr. Bernard Degen (Executive Director). NSOMS representatives were Drs. Newton Gordon, Renee McCoy-Collins, J. Hamil Willoughby and Franklyn Scott.
The major issues for discussion were:
1. The lack of African American representation (0.05%) in the profession and in AAOMS leadership
2. The detrimental impact of vertical membership on minorities’ access to AAOMS
3. Bias in treatment of minority applicants by training programs during the interview process
4. Minimal participation of minorities in OMS educational programs
5. The lack of involvement of AAOMS in challenging discriminatory fees paid to OMS for services provided under Title XIX by Medicaid
6. The orientation of AAOMS public relations and implant advertisement program to the majority population.
A consensus agenda was developed:
1. NSOMS to serve as a resource for potential African American OMS to serve on AAOMS committees.
2. AAOMS to invite two NSOMS members to the biannual state leadership conference, beginning in 1994.
3. The development of a joint statement by the Board of Trustees and Committee on Membership for distribution to state societies and the membership on minorities.
4. Request for the Editor of the JOMS to devote an editorial addressing the issues of minorities within the specialty of oral and maxillofacial surgery.
5. Dr. Marks to devote a President’s column in one of the 1993 issues of the Forum on the same subject.
6. Publishing of a featured article on minorities in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in one of the 1993 issues of the Forum.
7. Discriminatory practices against minority applicants be reviewed at the upcoming chiefs and faculty conference; CRET to develop a statement for mailing to chiefs of accredited programs.
8. AAOMS to continue to fight Medicaid discrimination on its degree of provider practices.
9. AAOMS to improve its pubic relations with minority communities through advertisements and programs developed by the Committee on Public Information.
There were two tangible outcomes from this meeting. Ethnic minority assignment to AAOMS’ committees was initiated with one African American appointed to a standing committee. The editor of JOMS, Daniel M. Laskin, published (November 1993) an in-depth and soul-searching article, entitled ‘Addressing the Problems of Minorities in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.’
However, the agreement was stalled for more than two years by major administrative changes at AAOMS’ headquarters. NSOMS’ relentless efforts brought about the creation of an AAOMS/NSOMS Liaison meeting on Sunday, October 8, 1995 in Las Vegas during the American Dental Association Annual Convention. Thomas Osborn, Edmund Parnes, Richard Simeone and Barbara Moles represented AAOMS, while Carlton Floyd, Newton Gordon, Renee McCoy-Collins, Marvin Wells and J. Hamil Willoughby represented NSOMS. Progress on the 1992 agreement was reviewed and determined to be unsatisfactory.
In addition to the 1992 agreement, NSOMS presented guidelines for two programs:
1) Recruitment and retention/attracting minorities to OMS programs
2) A diversity program encompassing AAOMS at all levels. The allotted time was inadequate for meaningful discussion of these topics.
This prompted Edmund Parnes (incoming President) to set up a task force charged with exploring the issues of AAOMS’ relationship with ethnic minorities/women and developing guidelines for a program on diversity.
The Minority Task Force met at headquarters in Rosemont on January 24, 1996. The members were Richard Simeone (Chairperson), Michael Matzkin, Mary Delsol-Liebel, Larry Peterson, Adrian Patterson, Renee McCoy-Collins, J. Hamil Willoughby, Newton Gordon (NSOMS Executive Director), and Barbara Moles (AAOMS Executive Director). The outcome of this Task Force meeting was a joint statement on developing programs with a strong emphasis on diversity: “If AAOMS is to compete in the changing milieu of health care and if it is to treat all members with equal respect, diversity is essential.
This will also require the proper training for all involved, from the president to the lowest-level employee. It is essential to:
1. Increase minority representation on committees that have the charge of moving AAOMS into the 21st century.
2. Demonstrate strong leadership with a commitment to diversity.
3. Initiate development of programs capable of responding to the special needs of minority oral and maxillofacial surgeons and the communities they serve.
4. Develop a nurturing environment for all members.
5. Increase respect for that minority population.
6. Develop clearly defined health policy from the OMS perspective for the entire population.
7. Be accountable for programs in diversity.
8. Set up guidelines for monitoring:
a. Periodic cultural audits that examine organizational practices, norms, etc., and their impact on diversity within AAOMS.
b. Periodic membership opinion surveys to identify emerging diversity issues and measure effectiveness of current activities.
c. Basic awareness training for newly hired employees and elected officers, and advanced seminars for those with an interest in expanding their understanding of diversity.
“Failure to embrace diversity not only perpetuates injustices, but risks leaving the association less nationally and internationally competitive.”
The Board of Trustees, at its February 19, 1996 meeting in Atlanta, concurred with the Task Force’s recommendation that a permanent Special Committee on Diversity be established to address the issues, outlined in its statement. The Board appointed Michael Matzkin (Chairperson), Mary Delsol-Liebel, Renee McCoy-Collins, Larry J. Peterson, Jose O. Rosado-Ortiz, J. Hamil Willoughby, and Dennis-Duke Yamashita to serve on this committee.
The years, 1954-1972, have often been called the Second Reconstruction, since it has noteworthy similarities with the First Black Reconstruction (1865-1877), which began with the abolition of slavery by the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment. Both periods saw African Americans making tremendous gains in the fields of politics and civil rights. Three major Supreme Court decisions (the Brown decision on school desegregation (1954); desegregation of public transportation (1956); bussing to achieve school desegregation (April 1971), two legislative enactments (the Civil Rights Act, 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, 1965) and the March on Washington, D.C. (April 28, 1963), many demonstrations and riots, resulted in major alterations in race relations. There was “change within change,” and America would never be the same.
Before this magnificent period, African American professionals were not admitted to professional national organizations. In dentistry they were not allowed to be members of the American Dental Association and their respective specialty organization. This led to the establishment of the National Dental Association (1918), which has served as their national forum and a powerful voice for the healthcare rights of the underserved. It is auspicious that the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons was formed in the same year as the National Dental Association. However, it did not admit African Americans to membership until the early 1960’s, during the Second Reconstruction. This change in policy resulted from five years of debate and the changing social climate. Drs. Samuel Banks, Frank Barbee, Bassett Brown, Noah Calhoun, Harold Hargis, Thomas Pinson and James Stanback were the first to be admitted. Over the next thirty-five years the number of African-American OMS members increased to seventy-six, representing 1.6% of the active fellows and members. This small representation may be due to lack of interest and limited access, which is indicated by only three programs (Harlem Hospital Medical Center, Howard University Hospital and King-Drew Medical Center) responsible for the training of most African American oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
In celebration of our past, honorable mention goes out to thirteen (14) prominent African American Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, who made major contributions to our profession, besides serving as mentors and role models. Among these stalwarts are Samuel O. Banks, Jr. (1919-15); C. Bassett Brown (1923-2011); Noah Calhoun (1921- ); Carl Johnson (1927-83); Frank M. Laparolyrie (1929-92); Roscoe Franklin Lee (1900-1956); Louis Maxey (1914- ); Alonzo McDonald (1920- ); Kenneth David Neil (1929-90); Thomas J. Pinson (1927-93); James D. Singleton, Jr. (1902-90); Richard Scott (1939-82); and C. Bassett Brown (1923 – 2012).