Like so many things in 2020, this year’s American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) Practice Administrator of the Year award was full of firsts — it was the first year the awards ceremony was held virtually, and it was the first year that two winners were named.
Both Debbie Evans, MAADOM, and Jennifer Steadman, MAADOM, were selected as 2020 AADOM Practice Administrators of the Year. Evans acknowledges there’s a silver lining to sharing the Practice Administrator of the Year award, as well as to the online format of 2020 AADOM ceremonies overall — more camaraderie and celebration!
“I’ve missed being at the conference, but now we have more than just four days of celebration,” says Evans, who also was recently inducted into the first-ever class of AADOM Masters. “It’s actually been so much fun, with our family members and staff members being able to watch the online events.” In addition to participating in AADOM’s Fellowship and Mastership induction ceremony, Evans also learned via the internet that the AADOM Triangle Area [North Carolina] Chapter — of which she is co-president — won Chapter of the Year, for the third year in a row.
And most notably, this year’s virtual Practice Administrator of the Year ceremony allowed for some local celebration in North Carolina. Elaborates Evans, practice administrator and vice president at Wainright & Wassel, DDS in Raleigh: “My colleagues had planned a surprise just in case I did win Practice Administrator of the Year. Nobody knew who the winners were going to be. After the virtual announcement, they came into my office, threw confetti and brought in balloons. What a celebration!”
Co-winner Steadman, director of operations at New England Management Services in Massachusetts, was also inducted as an AADOM Master. She agrees that while this year’s award celebrations were unique, they were also incredibly special:
“This year, the announcement looked a little different, but the outpouring of support and congratulations still has been absolutely amazing.”
Evans and Steadman discuss receiving AADOM’s Practice Administrator of the Year award, the advice they would give to current and aspiring office managers, and more.
1. How does it feel to be recognized as one of AADOM’s 2020 Practice Administrators of the Year?
Evans: The word that I would use is unbelievable. It was a shock. I feel really, really humbled to have been a winner, since that’s the big AADOM award given each year. Ever since I first joined AADOM and went to my first AADOM conference in San Diego in 2014, I felt motivated to become one of the leaders who stood on that stage. Now, six years later, Jennifer and I have won the top award, Practice Administrator of the Year! It means the world.
Steadman: I am still processing it all! When I attended my first AADOM conference, I told myself that someday I wanted to be like one the managers being recognized on stage for their accomplishments in the field. I am still pinching myself that it happened!
2. This year, you both earned AADOM Mastership. Congratulations! Why do you recommend earning Fellowship and Mastership distinctions through AADOM?
Evans: Above all, the one thing I recommend all managers do is keep learning. No matter how many years you’ve been doing this, you’ll never know everything. In dental, things change all the time, every day. And to have a successful practice, you have to keep up on it all. I’ve done every webinar possible; you name it, I’ve done it. I just have a passion for education and learning.
That’s one great thing about AADOM: the education, especially now with COVID. As a manager, you must be able to step up to the plate and guide your team through challenging times. Really and truly, I don’t know what I would have done during COVID without AADOM.
Steadman: I am a lifelong learner and want to learn as much as I can to help my team in any way possible. By obtaining Fellowship and Mastership, you are taking the next step in your career — and that will help make your practice stand out. An amazing benefit to holding AADOM membership is the abundance of educational resources at your fingertips. The AADOM e-Campus is a hub for everything and anything dental office management! (A little tip: Use the e-Campus to do training with your team, review the webcast, and have some questions ready to provoke discuss.)
And, I absolutely recommend the DALE Foundation dental office management courses to my peers. These DALE Foundation courses I took as part of fulfilling the AADOM Fellowship requirements taught me so much early in my management career about human resources, insurance, accounts receivable, etc. The courses are so valuable and very interactive. Unlike other courses I have taken in the dental field, you are easily able to use the tools you learn through them in everyday practice.
3. One of the requirements for earning Mastership in AADOM is completing the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program™. How do you feel this program benefits your career?
Evans: I learned things that I had no idea about. I thought the OSAP-DALE Foundation eHandbook Assessment™ (step 3 of the educational certificate program) was hard! And I didn’t realize until we had our MAADOM ceremony on Sept. 18 that only approximately 600 people in this country have this certificate — and 27 are from our Mastership class. I’m pretty proud of this. I thought the program was very interesting. Things I didn’t know I was supposed to know, now I know I have to.
Steadman: To be a practice manager, you do not need to have a clinical background. By completing the OSAP-DALE Foundation Certificate Program, you gain the knowledge of infection control so you can help your team. It was interesting completing the program during our office’s COVID closure, because I was able to pass along a lot of the information to my team to help support them during that time.
4. What’s your advice for dental assistants who wish to become practice administrators?
Evans: If I was a dental assistant and I thought about working on the front desk, I would actually go to get a little experience, maybe ask if you could help answer the phones, for example, to learn more about the business side of dentistry. With the knowledge that assistants have on the clinical side, if they also learn about the business side of dentistry, those skill sets truly are a fabulous combination for a great office manager.
Steadman: You can do it! I started as a dental assistant in high school. I have promoted multiple team members from dental assistants to practice managers. As a dental assistant, you are great at communication and multitasking, and you are compassionate. My advice is to take DALE Foundation courses and become an AADOM member — we are all here to support you in your career aspirations.
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