The New Jersey Academy of General Dentistry (NJAGD) is an individual constituent of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
In 1974, eight dentists who formed the New Jersey Dental Research Group decided that the concept of lifelong education fostered by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) was a worthy goal. Those eight—Robert “Bob” Schwartz, DDS, FAGD, Dr. Murray Weiner, Jerome “Jerry” Fechtner, DDS, MAGD, Robert “Bob” Mallin, DDS, MAGD, Dr. Ray Curcio, , Joseph A. Galletta, DDS, MAGD, Dr. Bruce Lewin, and Richard “Dick” Dobyns, DDS, MAGD—joined the AGD and then sought to form an AGD constituent.
“We researched how many members we needed to form a [constituent] component and got a few more to join us, were christened by Chicago, and proudly became the New Jersey Academy of General Dentistry [NJAGD],” recalls the Founding President Dr. Dobyns, who with his wife Jo are considered the “parents” of the state organization.
The Dobynses set up the organization’s headquarters in the kitchen of their Scotch Plains home, and Mrs. Dobyns became the first NJAGD executive director. From there, the founding members considered who they could get to speak at meetings, what they could afford to pay, and where they could rent a space that wouldn’t clean out their nascent but tiny budget.
In those first heady months, the founding members also realized that, as it was with the national organization in Chicago, membership was crucial. As Dr. Dobyns recalls, the NJAGD Board was frustrated over the difficulty it had with specialty organizations in obtaining expert speakers and the considerable influence specialists had on general practitioners.
To get the continuing education (CE) ball rolling, the NJAGD Board turned to self-sufficient general dentists who, through their own study and clinical application, were in a position to teach their colleagues newer techniques that had emerged since many general dentists graduated dental school. Albert T. Wiebrecht, DDS, of Milwaukee, who pioneered the Wiebrecht-Crozat method of orthodontics, was one of the first progressive practitioners to impart his knowledge.
Still, membership in that first year was very low. Dr. Dobyns decided to send a very personal letter to every general practitioner in New Jersey. In that letter, he explained that dental specialists comprised just 10 percent of the practitioners in the state, yet had 100 percent membership, which accounted for their disproportionate influence. Along with the letter, Dr. Dobyns included an application for membership and a return envelope. A second letter two weeks later emphasized E pluribus unum—Latin for “Out of many one.” A third letter reminded the general practitioners of the AGD mission; that is, “to serve the needs and represent the interests of general dentists, to promote the oral health of the public, and to foster continued proficiency of general dentists through quality continuing dental education in order to better serve the public.” The letter campaign was so effective that AGD Executive Director Hal Donnell contacted Dr. Dobyns with a request for copies of the letters so that they could be adapted for national distribution.
Most of the original NJAGD Board members went on to earn AGD Fellowship and then Mastership Awards, consciously serving as an example for the next generation that would soon take up the cause. Dr. Dobyns concedes that because the new organization had been their lives for the past few years, the NJAGD Board was at first reluctant to pass the torch, but new members who understood the mission stepped up and the NJAGD continued to grow.
Through the 1970s, Dr. Dobyns edited the organization’s newsletter, aptly named “Going Places,” and recalls today how that early effort evolved into the current newsletter, “Wisdom,” a name that recognizes how far the organization has come. Still dedicated to the cause, the members of the original New Jersey Dental Research Group still meet for lunch twice a month to stay in touch and catch up. The NJAGD Board later created the “Jo Dobyns Continuing Education Series” to recognize Mrs. Dobyns’ hard work and unflappable demeanor during those challenging early years.
Manuel A. Cordero, DDS, MAGD, a past NJAGD president who went on to become a National Secretary, says that those roots still bind the organization together, making it one of the more active state components. That culture of contributing to the “community of dentists” began around a modest kitchen table in Scotch Plains, he says, and continues to influence today’s generation of New Jersey general dentists and their high level of participation in the NJAGD.
Wisdom – Published Quarterly
Fellowship (FAGD) – More than 13,000 dentists have earned this award, and 8 NJAGD Members earned this designation in 2012.
Mastership (MAGD) – More than 1,800 dentists have earned this award, and 8 NJAGD Members earned this designation in 2012.
Lifelong Service Recognition Award (LLSR) – This is formal recognition for AGD Masters who have continued to serve through continuing education, dental related community service and service to organized dentistry. NJAGD had 3 recipients in 2007.