Meet AADOM

March 21, 2012
Thais Carter
Issue 6

Created to fill a void left by the lack of resources and education available for dental office managers, the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) quickly reached more than 1,000 members in less than 2 years.

Created to fill a void left by the lack of resources and education available for dental office managers, the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) quickly reached more than 1,000 members in less than 2 years.

Today, AADOM represents more than 3,000 members and is the host of the country’s largest dental office managers conference. While today, AADOM relies on a diverse leadership team to help meet its goals and the needs of its members, its inception and its momentum can be credited in large part to one person: Heather Colicchio, the organization’s president and founder.

Here, Colicchio answers some of our questions about the organization itself and explains why all dental professionals-and not just office managers-should care about what comes next for AADOM.

Before we get into questions about the organization itself, it’s important to speak to our primary readership-the dentist. Why should a dentist go any further in a profile of an organization geared toward office managers?

Great question. AADOM allows dentists to do what they can do most profitably for  the practice, which is practice dentistry. If the dentist needs to spend time managing the office, that’s time away from the chair. AADOM believes that when the office manager is educated and empowered to manage the practice, dentists can do what they have spent their career training to do, which is care for the patients, while the office manager ensures that all other aspects of the practice run smoothly. AADOM gets great feedback from the doctors whose office managers are members.

What would you say to those who think dentists should take on more of a front-office role as opposed to delegating?

I would say, in my opinion, that is not an efficient use of their time. Micro-managing is not productive. Having an office manager serve as your liaison to both your team and your patients still allows you, as the dentist, to have your directives delivered and still have the final word in all matters, without having to give up time and energy to do so.

You aren’t an office manager. What motivated you to start the American Association of Dental Office Managers?

I was actually in the gourmet coffee business when I started AADOM. At the time (8 years ago) I had a dentist friend leaving a group practice to go solo. She was overwhelmed with what she didn’t learn in dental school: coding, billing, insurance, practice management software, human resources. I went to the Greater New York Dental Meeting to try to find some resources for her. Instead, what I found was an industry in need of this type of association. I casually started putting people I met in touch with each other and AADOM was born. I think my lack of a dental background was a great benefit, in that I was able to look at everything objectively. My business background, along with some ‘battlefield education,’ and the enthusiasm of our first members helped me grow the association quickly. Within two years, I sold the gourmet coffee business to devote my time exclusively to AADOM. I absolutely love being in dentistry. It is truly such a dynamic industry.

Initially, it was just me (and my dog Sage) but with our growth, AADOM now has an incredibly talented Executive Team to help see and fill all of the varied needs of our membership.

What has been the response among office managers nationwide?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our favorite response, which we get frequently, is “I’ve finally found a home.” So many dental office managers work alone. They often feel like they are on an island in that there is little to no communication with one another. Oftentimes, if a practice management question arises during the day, there is no one in the office they can turn to for an answer. AADOM has opened up those lines of communication, allowing the office managers to learn from each other.

How has the organization changed since its inception?

Most noticeably, AADOM has grown in membership size from a few hundred members to several thousand members and now represents all 50 states. The level of industry support has grown tremendously since our inception as well. Our top level sponsors: Patterson Dental, Mercury Data Exchange, 1-800-DENTIST and CareCredit all provide AADOM with support and resources for our members. Additionally, other dental companies have realized the value office managers have as well as the purchasing power they possess. AADOM has done a lot to build that awareness within the industry.

Describe your current membership base and how you’d like to see it evolve in coming years.

Our current membership is an energetic, focused and dedicated group of men and women. They are committed to their personal and professional development and invest time and energy in what they do. What really makes them stand apart is the level of dedication they show to their practices. They always approach opportunities we present with the intention of benefitting their practice in any way they can. Our members love to learn about what is new and cutting edge in technology and dental practice management overall. I have seen an evolution in our membership and think the trend will continue, in that dental office managers now have more of a business background than a clinical background, as used to be the case. In the past, a dental assistant might start taking on administrative tasks and eventually become an ‘office manager.’ I find that is not the case anymore. AADOM attracts office managers who are business managers. We teach our members that dentistry is a business and strong business skills are needed to effectively manage a practice. What I love most about our members is there is a feeling of fellowship and camaraderie-our members are always willing to help one another.

What are some of the benefits to membership?

All of our benefits are based in education and networking. One of the benefits our members find most valuable is the private online Member Forum where members post their questions and receive advice and feedback from other members. Our members also value our educational webinars that we present about once a month. The webinars are a great way to stay informed without having to leave the practice. Sample topics are ‘Accounting and Budget Concerns’ and ‘Tools for Productivity and Profitability for the Practice.’ AADOM also has launched a local Study Club Program so our members can meet and learn on a local level throughout the year.

Your annual meeting is coming up in September. Can you give us some details?

Our conference is the highlight of our year. It is the premier educational and networking event in the country for dental office managers. AADOM’s 7th Annual Conference will be Sept. 8-10 in Nashville at the Opryland Resort. Some course highlights this year include a new course designed just for new dental office managers (5 years or less experience) ‘AADOM’s Introduction to Dental Office Management’, as well as a ‘Human Resources Expert Panel,’ and ‘Advanced Practice Management Training Sessions.’ We are very excited to have Kathy Metaxas as our Keynote Speaker this year.

We will host our annual ‘Dental Spouse Business Network’ for office managers who are the spouses of dentists. We also will introduce the second class of Fellows into the Fellowship of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (FAADOM). Our members gain so much just from being with each other and exchanging ideas.

Why is this type of event something dentists should support for their office managers?

All of the content provided during the conference is done with the goal of improving the practice. An educated office manager is a dentist’s best investment. We know dentistry is a business, with a bottom line, and it is important to us that our members not only learn “content” at the conference but we also teach them how to take the information back, implement it, and have it benefit the practice. For instance, Rachel Wall’s course  “Building a Profitable Hygiene Department” doesn’t teach our attendees hygiene, it teaches our members how to build and manage a profitable hygiene department, ultimately benefiting the dentist.

As the role of technology in the practice continues to change, how do you see AADOM stepping up to help office managers be a resource to the dentist and the practice?

AADOM strongly encourages our members to stay on the cutting edge of technology, not only what is new in practice management software but ALL technology. Often, our members are given the responsibility from their doctor to do initial research on a new technology purchase and deliver their findings back to the doctor.