On June 11, 2022, Dr. James Galati took office as the 142nd president of the New York State Dental Association (NYSDA), the culmination of nearly 30 years of service to organized dentistry. Dr. Galati, who is a longtime MLMIC policyholder, is also an active member of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Fourth District Dental Society. In his free time, Dr. Galati likes to travel, golf and go bike riding.

We sat down with Dr. Galati to learn more about his background and his thoughts on the dental industry. Read the Q&A below.

Q: Tell us a little about your background, both education and what inspired you to embark on a career in dentistry.

I knew I was leaning toward medical or dental school. My mother was a school nurse, I was good in science and math, and I liked the idea of helping people.

I got braces my senior year in high school and had them through college and because of that, I developed a good relationship with my orthodontist at the University of Maryland who I saw every three weeks! He took me under his wing and had a big influence on me heading into dentistry.

After I earned my bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, I attended the Georgetown University School of Dentistry — while also working in the chemistry lab, at a liquor store and at an oral surgeon’s office and I graduated Summa Cum Laude. I completed my general practice residency at Albany Medical Center.

Q: Tell us about your work experience.

I started as an associate dentist in Clifton Park, New York, as well as part time at the Whitney M. Young Health Center in Arbor Hill in downtown Albany. The Clifton Park practice was more upscale, and the health center had a lot of Medicaid patients, so very different clientele, but they both molded my career.

About 10 years later in 2000, I opened my own practice, and also continued to work part time at the health center because I liked giving back, and I liked the staff, the clientele and the environment there.

Q: What advice do you have for students who are considering a career in dentistry?

I believe dentistry is an outstanding career choice for those considering it, but it is critical to understand what you are committing to. For example, the costs for dental school are significant, so it will take several years to pay off the debt.

I recommend shadowing dentists in their office to see what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis. You’ll be working with people daily, so it’s very important that you really enjoy that social interaction. One of the great rewards of being a dentist is that you will make a very positive difference in many of your patients’ lives and you build great friendships with those patients and your staff. I also encourage students to start learning about non-clinical matters as early on as possible – things like the business elements of dentistry and, of course, professional liability coverage options. I’ve had MLMIC for my entire career as my malpractice carrier and the company has always been there for me.

Q: What would you advise those about to complete their training and embark on their careers?

My advice is to seek out a mentor who can guide you through the hurdles you face in the early years of your career. You can learn from their years of first-hand experience and use them as a sounding board as challenges arise. This is especially important because, depending on where you’re practicing — corporate or your own practice — sometimes you can feel like it’s all on you. Having a mentor helps it hit home that you’re not alone and that the challenges are a normal part of the job to experience. Mentorship is key.

Also, always continue learning through quality CE courses to expand your skills.

Q: How did you first become involved in organized dentistry?

I was asked to join study clubs and attend county dental meetings by the dental practice owner I worked for. From there, I was asked to serve on our district’s councils and committees and eventually on state councils. I was then selected to serve as The Fourth District’s Trustee to the NYSDA Board of Trustees and on the ADA Council on Annual Sessions, ultimately chairing the 2014 ADA meeting in San Antonio.

Q: What would you say are the biggest benefits to dental professionals, especially new dentists, who become involved in organized dentistry?

Our members have access to NYSDA’s online members-only site which provides a wealth of information, like answers and protocols for whatever they have questions about during their practice years.

Also, by being involved you have a voice and an active role in shaping how the profession evolves. I would strongly encourage all new dentists to take the time to get involved in organized dentistry at their local and state level. They will serve as the leaders that guide the profession forward into the future and guard against entities looking to compromise and interfere with how dentists treat their patients.

Read more about the value of organized dentistry in this letter from Dr. Galati.

Q: What have the greatest rewards been from your involvement in organized dentistry?

I believe the greatest rewards of being involved in organized dentistry revolves around the people you meet and the lifelong friendships you develop. You serve with other volunteer dentists who are involved because they care greatly about moving the dental profession forward for the good of all our members and our patients.

Another benefit, especially early on, is that you have easy access to answers for any questions you may have. There is a wealth of information on our website, and you can also tap members for advice and information. COVID was a perfect example, because organized dentistry was able to offer a place you can rely on to give you the right information.

Q: What is your vision for NYSDA and organized dentistry in the future?

My priority with NYSDA is further developing our mentorship program for all new dentists, to really help them in the early and mid-stages of their career. I helped to start a mentorship program in my local district (the Fourth district) over a year ago and am trying to get programs up and running in all 13 districts throughout the state. I believe these mentorship programs are going to be key to really connecting with new members and getting them involved – providing mentoring resources and empowering new dentists with a voice that can help shape the future of their chosen profession. My experience with the mentorship program is such that I see it has such a value, not only to dental students, but to the new dentists. It helps them break the ice, get to know other people and colleagues and offers the vast experience of our more established NYSDA members to tap into.

My vision for the future is that NYSDA continues to be a membership-driven organization that serves as the voice for our members, our profession and our patients on all things related to oral health. To do so, we need to have all our diverse membership groups involved in the decision-making process and organization leadership to give all dentists a say in guiding the future of dentistry.

Q: What would you like to accomplish professionally in the future?

I want to stay involved and active in organized dentistry so that I can help those just starting out in their career, as well as bond together all age groups of our members, show them the value of membership and make them feel part of the dental family. I’ve been involved in organized dentistry for many years and have a base of knowledge that hopefully I can share with the new members, to inform them, help them get involved and encourage them to take on leadership roles.

Thank you, Dr. Galati, for sharing your insights with us!

If you would like to read other information for dentists, visit our resources pageVisit our blog to read more advice from legal experts, as well as tips for new dentists, industry news and case studies. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest updates.

MLMIC is the only dental professional liability provider endorsed by NYSDA. To learn about the benefits of having MLMIC Dental coverage, click here.