By Tony Edwards, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

January 20, 2014 -- DrBicuspid.com is pleased to present the next installment of Leaders in Dentistry, a series of interviews with researchers, practitioners, and opinion leaders who are instrumental in changing the practice of dentistry.

We interviewed Jeffrey Parker, CEO of DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery. Parker, who recently became the first person associated with dentistry to make the annual HealthLeaders20 list, has long been cited for his work with Sarrell Dental in bringing dental care to 300,000 children annually at its 15 clinics across Alabama. Sarrell remains the largest single provider of Medicaid dental services in Alabama.

DrBicuspid.com: Sarrell Dental has gained tremendous national attention in the last few years. Why is that?

Jeffrey Parker
Jeffrey Parker, CEO of DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery.

Jeffrey Parker: Ever since the PBS "Frontline" documentary "Dollars and Dentists" aired in June 2012, Sarrell has been in the national spotlight regarding our model of care. The "Frontline" piece was soon followed by positive reports on our model from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and by Forbes.com.

Late in 2013, you joined forces with DentaQuest. Can you tell us how that transition is going?

The attention to our model brought suitors from the for-profit side, private practice dentists, and dental chains. However, it also brought us a nonprofit company that shares our goal of improving the oral health of everyone, DentaQuest. Our two nonprofits have joined together to help the underserved children and adults of our country.

We signed an affiliation agreement with DentaQuest in mid-September, and I became the CEO of DentaQuest Healthcare Delivery then.

What would keep your model from expanding?

Regressive state dental practice acts.

What do you mean?

“Most people see us as a 'disruptive innovator,' playing a part in changing the landscape of care delivery.”
— Jeffrey Parker, CEO, DentaQuest
     Healthcare Delivery

I find it absurd that a nonprofit dental practice cannot be run by a nondentist if they employ licensed dentists to perform the clinical work. However, more than 40 states currently restrict a nonprofit dental practice, run by a business person, from cleaning teeth or filling cavities. I think any American would find a huge disconnect in the logic of most states' dental practice acts.

In fact, it happens already in the hundreds of FQHCs [federally qualified health centers] across the country. The CEOs of Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Children's Hospital of Atlanta, and Children's Hospital of Birmingham are businesspeople, not physicians, and no one questions their hospitals' ability to perform neurosurgery, heart transplants, or operate trauma units.

These hospitals trust their CMO [chief medical officer] to manage physician's work, as our model similarly employs a CDO [chief dental officer] to manage dentist's work.

As that integration continues, what is your next project?

We've affiliated with another nonprofit, Community Dental Care of Dallas. They're a 50-year-old nonprofit with 12 offices and relationships with Baylor dental school and a large Dallas hospital. Their patient base includes Ryan White Foundation HIV/AIDS patients, Title V patients, and homeless adults. In 2013, they served about 62,000 patient visits in the Dallas metro area.

From a business standpoint, they were being mismanaged, so they approached us and asked us to step in to help. In less than three months from the day they approached us, we were affiliated companies.

What other projects are you working on for 2014?

We have been contacted by several states and institutions asking us to help. Some want us to help them build a system to help the underserved; some want to partner with us to expand and enhance their existing networks; and some want collaboration with our dental business model blending with and helping the medical side.

Most people see us as a "disruptive innovator," playing a part in changing the landscape of care delivery. I feel confident we will announce more partnerships, joint ventures, and/or affiliations in 2014.

Lastly, how did you respond to being the first dental industry person recognized in the HealthLeaders20 list?

I am proud that the medical field has recognized innovative leadership in dentistry for the first time. It also further validates the Sarrell Dental model.


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