Alumnus Reflects on His Time as ADA President

CÉSAR SABATÉS (D.D.S ’87, A.E.G.D. ’88) has spent the last year at the helm of the American Dental Association. He shared his takeaways from his time as president as he ended his groundbreaking tenure in October 2022.

Q: What has it meant to you being the first Cuban-American to hold the position?

A: I wanted to give all dentists hope that there are opportunities for them to serve organized dentistry at the highest levels, regardless of their backgrounds. Over the course of my career I have seen our professional community become increasingly more diverse. Organized dentistry must continue to reflect the changing face of the workforce, not just in terms of membership, but also among the volunteers who are shaping the future of dentistry through leadership and service.

Q: How has your term met your expectations? What has surprised you?

A: It has been an experience beyond my wildest dreams and expectations. But nothing has touched me more than the chance to hear the stories of our members one-on-one. I am honored that they trusted me with their personal and professional journeys—the good, the bad and ugly. I carried them with me to the boardroom, to every meeting, every call, and in considering every decision at the ADA. They gave me insight to the real challenges they have faced as dentists and they offered both their praise and passionate complaints. All of this continues to inform how the ADA will sharpen its focus on members’ needs. Every member has a story, and every member matters here. I wanted everyone to know they were not only heard, but they were listened to. I took their stories to heart.

Q: What are the initiatives you implemented that you are most proud of?

A: These are transformative times at the ADA. During the last year we have made some great strides forward from every corner of our association. From the amazing work of the ADA Science and Research Institute, the development of the Health Equity Action Team, to the launch of the reimagined ADA member app, there is so much to be proud of. The accomplishment belongs to the countless leaders, volunteers and professional team members who have made these successes possible.

This also includes the “New Day for Dentistry” campaign, which was launched in 2021 to signal the ADA’s commitment to being a place where all dentists feel welcome, where their voices count and no one feels excluded.

Whether they conduct research, work in dental education, serve our nation in the federal dental service, care for underserved communities as dentists in public health or work in a solo, supported or large group practice – no matter who a dentist is or how they practice, the ADA is a professional home for them.

During my year as president, it has been my priority to build the ADA’s new day by strengthening our community through diversity, equity and inclusivity. I am proud to see this new day start to come to life.

 Q: What do you think will be your lasting impact on the ADA?

A: I certainly hope that I’ve opened the door for greater acceptance and camaraderie in our professional community. I know firsthand the kindness and goodness that permeates within dentistry, so much that I consider our community a professional family. I want everyone to have the same experience and to create the same experience for others. I hope that with my leadership, along with the New Day for Dentistry campaign, the ADA continues to be an oasis for all dentists to find support they need and the sense of community we all deserve.