17 May 2024 – Reflections & Gratitude: Dr. Ari Kupietzky

17 May 2024 – Reflections & Gratitude: Dr. Ari Kupietzky

Ari Kupietzky is not merely a leader; he is a doer, driven by genuine concern for those around him, extending his care beyond boardrooms to the young patients he serves.

In an attempt to encapsulate the profound impact and remarkable accomplishments of Dr. Ari Kupietzky (Israel) during his tenure as Secretary General of the International Association of Paediatric Dentistry (IAPD) from July 2015 to December 2023, one is reminded of a quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

When Professor Milton I. Houpt of Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, New Jersey, USA, approached Ari to consider the role of Secretary General at IAPD, it was a recognition not only of his outstanding leadership but also of his proactive approach to effecting positive change. Ari Kupietzky is not merely a leader; he is a doer, driven by genuine concern for those around him, extending his care beyond boardrooms to the young patients he serves. His unwavering dedication to every individual he encounters is remarkable.

Reflecting on Dr. Ari Kupietzky’s eight years of service to IAPD, his leadership emerges as a beacon of inspiration amidst society’s trials and triumphs. Beyond his strategic acumen and guidance, it was defined by an unparalleled commitment of time and personal investment in the IAPD and the cause of paediatric dentistry. He made himself readily available at all times to address the association’s needs and concerns, displaying a profound sense of responsibility, creativity, innovation, and devotion.

Ari’s efforts transcended conventional hours, as he sacrificed personal time and comfort to ensure the success of initiatives and the well-being of the IAPD community.
Let us revisit some of the milestones achieved during Ari’s stewardship. While these accomplishments are undoubtedly a testament to the collaborative efforts of the IAPD’s board and volunteers, Dr. Kupietzky’s role transcended that of a mere figurehead. He served as the heart and lungs of the association, infusing vitality into its initiatives. Undeniably, he was the driving force behind many of our most impactful endeavours, offering practical insights and tirelessly working to translate vision into tangible outcomes for the betterment of IAPD and children’s oral health worldwide.

His proposal to establish the IAPD Executive Committee streamlined decision-making processes, expediting the association’s progress and amplifying its achievements. The IAPD experienced notable expansion in the last decade, particularly in its membership base. Originating from a modest assembly of eleven founding National-Member Societies, the association burgeoned to encompass a diverse spectrum of 80 Societies by the conclusion of Ari Kupietzky’s tenure.

During his term as Secretary General, the IAPD embraced a wave of new members, extending a warm invitation to countries worldwide. Among the nations welcomed into the fold were Algeria, Iran, UAE, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Sudan, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Libya, and Morocco, thereby enhancing the association’s global outreach and influence.

Shortly after the start of his term as Secretary General, Ari initiated a comprehensive rebranding effort in 2015. Acknowledging the evolving landscape of children’s oral health, the association replaced its outdated logo, which singularly focused on a tooth, with a new emblem symbolising its holistic mission. The redesigned logo encapsulated a global community committed to providing comprehensive care for infants, children, and adolescents, transcending the narrow focus on individual teeth. Moreover, the journal cover was refreshed and modernised.

In 2019, Ari Kupietzky approached Stanley Gelbier and provided him with research and data to publish an article in honour of the IAPD’s 50th anniversary resulting in the publication, “History of the International Association of Paediatric Dentistry: A 50-year perspective.” This article offered invaluable insights into the evolution and milestones of the association over five decades. Moreover, the IAPD’s website was rebuilt to offer a mobile-friendly, modern interface to IAPD members.

The transition in 2015 from a single secretary-led administration to the engagement of an Association Management Company (AMC) signified a significant shift. At the 2019 Congress in Cancun, the Board of Directors (BOD) sanctioned the organisation of a strategic workshop with a select group of participants, a proposition initially put forward by Ari Kupietzky. Held in Herzliya, Israel from February 9-10, the meeting commenced with a comprehensive analysis of the current situation of the IAPD by the Secretary General, followed by a workshop led by an external consultant. Attendees included Marcelo Bönecker (IAPD President, Brazil), Norbert Krämer (IAPD President Elect, Germany), Anthony Tsai (IAPD Past President, Taiwan), Anna-Maria Vierrou (IAPD Immediate Past President, Greece), Ofer Gil and Eyal Halevy (Paragon Founder/Co-managing Directors, Israel), Loraine Lugasi (IAPD Association Manager, Israel), and Gabi Neiman (Mirkam Consultants – Moderator, Israel). Jorge Castillo (IAPD Past President) was unable to attend and extended his apologies.

In response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020, the IAPD demonstrated resilience by adapting to the circumstances. Throughout April to July 2020, the IAPD organized a series of webinars aimed at promoting Children’s Oral Health and supporting dentists globally in response to the pandemic’s impact on dental education and practice. These informative sessions, offered free of charge to IAPD members, facilitated continued learning and collaboration amidst uncertain times.

Building upon the success of the webinars, the IAPD hosted the groundbreaking IAPD20 Virtual event from 13 to 17 September 2020. This immersive experience featured scientific sessions, networking opportunities, and exhibitions, attracting over 2,300 attendees from 101 countries, thereby reaffirming the association’s commitment to advancing children’s oral health on a global scale. The IAPD’s unwavering dedication to inclusivity was further demonstrated by offering the IAPD20 Virtual event at minimal registration rates. The resounding success of the event underscored the association’s digital transformation and its continued commitment to advancing children’s oral health globally, for everyone.

Coinciding with Ari Kupietzky’s second term in 2017, at the 26th Congress in Santiago, Chile, President Tsai led for the first time the ‘IAPD Global Leaders Forum’ conceived by Ari and Anthony. The IAPD Global Leaders Forum, a platform for international leaders of paediatric dentistry, was convened again at the last congress in 2023 led by Jorge Castillo, featuring esteemed representatives Dominique Declerck (EAPD), Pattarawadee Leelataweewud (PDAA), Carolina Medina Díaz (ALOP), and Amr Moursi (AAPD). These interactive sessions set out to explore collaboration, attract new dentists, and address oral health inequalities in the world.

In 2023, Ari Kupietzky’s instrumental role in establishing the IAPD Fellowship, a prestigious program aimed at recognizing dental professionals’ expertise in paediatric dentistry, bore fruit. On April 25th, the IAPD hosted the initial qualifying exam for this esteemed program, with 93 candidates from 30 countries qualifying to sit the exam. This exam, an essential prerequisite for obtaining the IAPD Fellowship, evaluated candidates’ contemporary knowledge of paediatric dentistry based on current literature and the IAPD Foundational Articles and Consensus Recommendations.

Ari Kupietzky’s active involvement in various congresses and educational workshops, including the Teach the Teachers Educational Workshops (TTEW) in Kenya and Georgia, exemplified the association’s ongoing commitment to advancing paediatric dentistry education and knowledge worldwide. Ari’s term as Secretary General overlapped with several IAPD congresses, regional meetings, global summits and other events.

Each of these gatherings represented a significant workload for the Secretary General, entailing the oversight of Board and Council meeting agendas, as well as reports from various board members, all meticulously prepared in advance. Ari’s exceptional organisational skills ensured the smooth execution of these events. Ari also devoted considerable time and effort to ensuring the presence of world leaders at these congresses, personally inviting them and fostering connections beneficial to the IAPD.

The IAPD’s first global Summit, conceptualised by the Board of Directors led by Ari and first held in 2018, emerged as a distinguished tradition. This gathering brought together experts and global leaders in the field of Early Childhood Caries (ECC), with an international consortium of eleven authorities collaborating under the auspices of the IAPD to produce an expert report. The Summit’s resounding success was evident as it attracted over four hundred delegates from fifty countries, symbolising a unified effort to combat caries and advance paediatric dentistry worldwide. The Bangkok Declaration on ECC as a result of this event was translated in 16 languages.

However, the true measure of Ari Kupietzky's commitment lies not only in grand achievements but in the countless small acts that cumulatively shaped the association's success over the last eight years. As Vincent Van Gogh said, "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

An example of his behind-the-scenes personal commitment to ensure inclusion for all was the case of the Tunisian Association of Paediatric Dentistry. The National Member Society (NMS) was financially unable to transfer its dues. Ari secured a donation to allow the association to be reinstated and keep their status as National-Member Societies.

Those acquainted with Ari during his tenure at the IAPD can attest that his dedication far transcended mere lists of activities. His involvement permeated every aspect of his life, with daily calls, meticulous financial oversight, and the cultivation of vital relationships for the association’s growth.

The perception of Ari as an unapproachable figure may arise when considering his impressive list of achievements. However, nothing could be further from the truth: get a little closer and one discovers a delightful and relatable family man. The Young IAPD Network’s balloon folding workshop held in 2023 serves as an illustration of this aspect of his character. This event was the realisation of the Secretary General’s long-held dream to introduce this enjoyable and meaningful skill to the IAPD community. Participants enthusiastically embraced the workshop, recognizing its practical significance in behaviour management and its ability to bring smiles to young patients. This workshop revealed his cheerful and vibrant persona, embracing joy, laughter, and the wonder of childhood alongside his professional responsibilities.

Another example is the interactive and National-Society Networking meetings, inviting participation and conversation at the IAPD Summits since 2018. These meetings bear testament to the collaborative, open spirit characterising Ari’s inclusive leadership style.

In closing, because it is impossible to mention all achieved, the IAPD and its Board of Directors express profound gratitude to Ari for imparting invaluable insights and effective organisational management into the workings of the IAPD. His mentorship transcends professional realms, serving as a beacon of inspiration in various roles, including paediatric dentist, expert in behaviour management, father, husband, leader, mentor, and friend.

The IAPD can take immense pride in having been part of his journey.

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