The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines may solve many of the short-term issues the world has grappled with during the pandemic, but problems caused by the outbreak will continue to ripple for years, according to a February 25 presentation at the virtual Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting.
These problems include economic uncertainty, social dislocation, and mental health effects, and they will persist into the future for all businesses, including dentistry, said Stanley Bergman, chairman and CEO of Henry Schein. Bergman spoke during a Chicago Midwinter media event titled "Managing Through Crisis for a Stronger Tomorrow."
"Issues will remain as we emerge from the virus for the next five to 10 years," he said. "I'm not being pessimistic. I'm being realistic."
From dentist to front-line responders and beyond
Dentists should seize the moment and become key players in wellness and health prevention. As already-trusted health professionals, dentists are playing an important role in offering rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests that detect SARS-CoV-2 and administering COVID-19 vaccines.
Bergman said dentists should have the ability to give routine medical tests, such as the lipid blood test panel plus hemoglobin A1c that can detect heart disease risk.
"This will hasten oral health and systemic wellness," he added.
Businesses, including dentistry, should take the economic, social, and health lessons they learned from the pandemic and transform them into opportunities.
"The business of business is no longer just business," Bergman said. "Business has to have a purpose."
Customers are craving moral leadership, so businesses need to be good corporate citizens by committing to improving the environment and government and to promoting diversity and inclusion, he noted.
"Businesses need to commit to a purpose beyond making money," Bergman said.
The pandemic caused isolation that has affected the mental health of dentistry's team members and patients. Leaders are expected and required to take care of their teams because they are businesses' biggest assets.
"Businesses need to balance the new dynamics with a personal commitment to our teams and their mental health," he added.
Finally, public-private partnerships must be a priority throughout the world. Securing quality personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a struggle throughout the pandemic. Most developed countries have built up supplies of most PPE; however, gloves remain a challenge. There likely will be enough gloves if they are used sparingly, he said.
The same is not true for developing countries, where appropriate levels of PPE have not been reached. Therefore, companies and governments worldwide should work together to ensure developing countries also have PPE and access to vaccines. This not only helps protects everyone but also is morally responsible, Bergman noted.
"The global infrastructure for PPE has been tested, but it is fragile," Bergman said.