When Michael Eggnatz, DDS ‘88, applied to dental school, there wasn’t any doubt that the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) would be his first choice.
Despite never having ventured north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Eggnatz was determined to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lee Eggnatz, DDS ’58, and grandfather, Meyer Eggnatz, DDS ’28.
“We are proud that we all went to Maryland,” said Eggnatz.
These days Eggnatz, who became president of the Florida Dental Association in June, still is following their example. His grandfather was President of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity and helped establish the first dental school in Israel, the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine. Eggnatz’s father, Lee, served as President of the Florida Society of Pediatric Dentists.
Having attended dental meetings and conventions growing up, as well as having served in several leadership roles while at UMSOD, Eggnatz feels prepared. Yet the issues facing dental care in Florida are vast, according to him. There are structural and societal changes affecting the profession across the country in both the mode of delivery, cost of care and the quality of care that needs to be maintained for the public.
“There’s a question of where dentistry fits into health care, and who should be delivering that care, and whether dentistry will be part of Medicare in the coming years,” he said.
While Eggnatz welcomes the expanded roles of dental hygienists as case managers and Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHC) providing greater access to care, he would prefer that dentists remain in a supervisory role in a practice setting. “We would like dentists to be at the head of the table,” he said.
In addition to addressing workforce issues, Eggnatz hopes to improve treatment for uninsured patients, which is a pressing issue in Florida due to its large population and relatively low levels of Medicaid reimbursement. “If patients don’t have health care, they go to the emergency room, which is the most expensive form of treatment, and they only get prescriptions, not definitive care” he said. “This is a societal problem. If we don’t make it priority, we will all pay a much higher price in emergency care. We cannot drill our way out of dental disease. We must try to educate and prevent disease”.
Eggnatz is looking at different models of care for inspiration to solve the problem, such as the UMSOD partnerships with Access Carroll and Frederick Memorial Hospital, in which health organizations manage the facilities while dental students provide care. It’s about getting the groups together,” he said. “Dentists don’t have to be in the hospital, we just have to be in an adjacent facility that can serve patients, and we can utilize students and residents to treat them.”
“In Florida, we are aggressively addressing the student debt crises by refocusing on the student loan repayment legislation which provides state and local funding to encourage new graduates to locate to remote areas of need for increased access to care for the public.”
While Eggnatz will remain engrossed in Florida dental care issues during the next year, he never passes up an opportunity to promote UMSOD.
“I just spoke to students during the University of Florida College of Dentistry White Coat Ceremony, and made sure to mention that I attended the first dental school in the world,” he said.