Life as a CEO during COVID-19

I often think about what habits will continue as part of the new norm when COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

For the last several months, I’ve exercised three ways regularly. I work out at a gym in the morning before work, I do a Title Boxing Club workout during lunch time; and, on some evenings, I participate in an Orangetheory class. Exercise helps me relieve stress and keeps me healthy. Before COVID-19, I ran in a road race most weekends; and I’ve missed being able to do that. Happily, racing events have started up again. I just completed the Happy Hour Hustle 5k series of six races. Of course, in every athletic venue we adhere to all applicable COVID-19 safety protocols.

I’ve always worked long hours, but now I work part of each day from home. I also put in some hours every day in my office, where I am one of 50 or so colleagues who distance themselves to work in our corporate headquarters in Concord. Most of our employees are still working from their homes.

Every morning since the pandemic began, I email all my colleagues to encourage them and keep us all moving in the same, focused, direction. I attach a photo of my granddaughter, Havanna, as a reminder of the importance of achieving work/life balance—more challenging than ever for those working at home. Lastly, I include a brief message from our fitness coach, Tom Walton.

Since COVID-19 protocols kicked in, our corporate policy has prohibited in-person meetings. The meeting platform we use most typically is WebEx. Four of my regularly scheduled meetings are with key people on my senior management team and the External Affairs department each once a week as well as my vice presidents twice a week.

I meet with several boards, some providing leadership to our enterprise and others providing direction to community nonprofits. Only the meeting location—from physical to virtual—has changed. During a recent week, on Monday and Thursday, I chaired board meetings of ExcellenceNorth Alliance and NH Coalition for Business and Education (respectively). On Wednesday, I participated in a board meeting of the NH Business Committee for the Arts. After that meeting, I met with a Delta Dental Plan of Maine corporate governance advisory committee. 

In many ways, meeting virtually is easier. Travel time and associated costs are eliminated. I wonder how much business will be done virtually rather than in-person after COVID-19. I’ve always maintained that while each form of communication has its value, live, face-to-face communication is the best way to network and build valuable relationships. What do you think? [Click here to learn more about- ExcellenceNorth Alliance, NH Coalition for Business and Education, and NH Business Committee for the Arts.]

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Supporting and Honoring Women in Business is Essential

Northeast Delta Dental recently sponsored the 2020 Mainebiz Women to Watch virtual reception. We support Mainebiz because it’s critical to recognize women in leadership whose daily work sustains their organizations and more importantly, Maine’s economy. More than 190 executives joined the virtual forum and subscribers to Mainebiz received the printed and digital editions, featuring the honorees!

We believe that a busy schedule, or career, shouldn’t get in the way of a healthy smile. One more reason we support Mainebiz is because they support working professionals across a variety of industries like Hospitality, Healthcare, Finance, and the Startup Sector. Not only is Mainebiz recognizing the achievements of women business leaders but they are spearheading important awards initiatives and giving a voice to the news across the state, news that may save a life or ensure better healthcare. 

We congratulate Angela Okafor, Attorney, entrepreneur, member of the Bangor City Council; Elizabeth McLellan, Founder and president, Partners for World Health; Erin Flett, Owner, Erin Flett Textiles & Home; Heidi Neal, Owner, Loyal Biscuit Co.; and Marcia Minter, Co-founder and executive director, Indigo Arts Alliance.

I remain touched by Minter’s words: “Thank you for seeing me; one of the biggest challenges faced by Black women in business is invisibility. It means something when people see you. It is transformative to know you make a difference.” 
To learn more, here’s a link to a presentation highlighting honorees:

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Campaign for Legal Services- A Most Worthy Charity!

Northeast Delta Dental recently sponsored the Campaign for Legal Services Kick-Off Breakfast. We support NH Legal Aid because it’s important to make the rule of law equally available to everyone. We need a strong, comprehensive support system now, more than ever!

We also believe that everyone deserves a healthy smile. One reason we support NH Legal Aid is because their advocacy increased the ability of low-income families relying on Medicaid to secure dental care for their children, and for their children to receive dental care at an earlier age. We congratulate NH Legal Aid Litigation Director, Kay Drought, for being awarded the NH Bar Association’s 2020 award for Outstanding Service in Public Sector/Public Interest, who led those efforts.

I had the privilege of introducing the client speaker, Marisa, who told her compelling story [17:40 through 26:39]. When she asked for help, she was isolated, living in a small town, and trying to escape an abusive relationship. NH Legal Aid provided support that helped her take back her life. As she regained confidence in herself, she started her own successful business.

Marisa made some excellent points about helping when you can, but also asking for help when you need it. It reminded me of something that Fred Rogers said: “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

If you are inclined to give, this is a great time, because a group of community leaders will match your gift dollar for dollar up to $20,000. To learn more, here’s a link to the Campaign for Legal Services Kick-Off Breakfast.

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A Warm Thank You from Three Dental School Grads

We received this touching video from three recent graduates of University of New England College of Dental Medicine. They are the most recent recipients of the Northeast Delta Dental Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for their scholarships, these awardees agree to practice dentistry in the most underserved regions of Maine. Here at Northeast Delta Dental, my colleagues and I consider bringing oral healthcare to the underserved as an integral aspect of our mission. According to the Dean of the College of Dental Medicine, Jon S. Ryder, D.D.S., M.S. – “We view the loan repayment program to be one of our highest achievements and a true measure of our partnership. We are all delighted and grateful.” Please click here to enjoy their thank you video.

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The public needs all its healthcare heroes during the current health crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued interim guidance on providing essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19, advocating that preventive dental care be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in transmission rates.

The American Dental Association (ADA); Delta Dental Plans Association (39 member companies); Northeast Delta Dental; the Boards of Dental Examiners in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and other dental industry leaders at the state and national levels respectfully disagree with WHO’s position on preventive care during the current health crisis.  

The WHO is a worldwide organization. Its interim guidance does not account for differences in safety practices and equipment around the world. In the United States, the ADA did recommend in March that dental practices suspend preventive care and focus on emergency procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.

Thereafter, the ADA, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), developed rigorous safety, equipment and practice protocols designed to protect patients, dentists and dental auxiliary staff. In each state, local Boards of Dental Examiners presented these protocols to state reopening taskforces for recommendation to, and approval by, state government. State governments only permitted dental offices to reopen for preventive care when they were satisfied that dental offices could do so safely.

Dental offices are again open and providing a full range of dental services that are critical to the health and well-being of their patients. They follow safety protocols that are much more rigorous than usual, though dental offices are safety-conscious in the best of times. Many thousands of people nationwide have received routine dental procedures in the last few months without incident. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) will document this more fully in an article in its upcoming issue.

On the topic of its interim guidance, one of WHO’s dental officers was quoted as saying, “We think that the most pressing issue is related to the availability of essential personal protective equipment, PPE, for all health care personnel undertaking or assisting in the clinical procedures.” We agree. That’s why Northeast Delta Dental has distributed tens of thousands of masks and thousands of gowns to our network dentists and is helping them with the ongoing costs of PPE and other COVID-19 expenses.

As they plan their next visits, we encourage patients to contact their dentists to learn more about specific protocols in place for health and safety. Dental professionals are on the front lines of health care, with their expertise often detecting, and/or impacting, such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Let’s not limit our healthcare system’s ability to treat the whole patient by discouraging people from visiting their dentists, when both national and state public health authorities have determined that they can do so safely.

Tom Raffio, President & CEO Northeast Delta Dental

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