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Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Alton G. McWhorter, DDS
Dr. Alton McWhorter is a Past TAPD President who served in 2005/2006. Please join us in congratulating him for the 2021/2022 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Name: Alton G. McWhorter, DDS
Position: President, current Department Head, Pediatric Dentistry; Texas A&M School of Dentistry
Number of years in practice: 43 (37 in pediatrics)
Where you went to dental school and completed residency: University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences: (DDS 1979)
Baylor College of Dentistry: (Certificate 1985 and Masters 1989)
Number of years as a TAPD member: 35
What made you decide to get involved as a TAPD member: Suzi Seale and I hope that one day my name will be the answer to this question for another recipient of this honor.
What have you learned in your time as a TAPD member: How much fun it is working with people and getting to know them as a result. I don’t believe I would have met them if I hadn’t been involved in the TAPD. More seriously though, I learned how hard everyone works in these volunteer positions, and how much they care about the children and our profession.
What surprised you the most about the legislative process: When you start from ground zero like the TAPD did, the first step is becoming known to the players in the legislature. We think everyone knows who pediatric dentists are and how important we are. If the legislators don’t know, it doesn’t matter how important the point is to us, they won’t listen to the discussion. Equally surprising is the glacial pace at which things happen.
What are you most proud of about TAPD: The fact that we changed overnight from a social group of practitioners to a legislative force is what I think is most impressive. When I started in the TAPD, we charged dues of $25.00, and met once a year at the TDA meeting. Harold Simpson had the idea to change the direction of the TAPD and get the organization involved legislatively. We developed a relationship with our first lobbyist, Charlie Schnabel, and as a result, the TAPD is now well known to the TDA and the legislature in Austin and has become a force to be reckoned with in Texas. Another thing of note is that the TAPD is a model state organization and other states look to us as trailblazers in organized dentistry.
What do you see in the future for pediatric dentistry: Continued growth and involvement of the practitioners in the direction of the specialty. Younger pediatric dentists are graduating into a cutthroat environment full of corporate entities who look at pediatric dentistry as an income stream to a hedge fund rather than healthcare. They are aware that they will have to protect themselves and the profession to remain viable.
What advice would you give to a graduating pediatric resident: Be involved; don’t sit on the sidelines and assume that everyone is thinking the same things you are, because they are not. Don’t pay dues to any organization and assume that your dues are being spent to promote causes that you support. Paying dues doesn’t mean you’re involved, that only gives you access to the organization. You have to get in there and find out what’s really going on, then if you don’t like it, you work from the inside and alter the course.