Recognize the vital role of physicians, including dentists — The current vaccine roll-out does not fully recognize the vital role of primary-care physicians and other office-based practitioners, including dentists, in the effort to expand COVID vaccination nationwide. Office-based practitioners have deep, trust-based relationships with patients and understand their health histories. Polls show patients much prefer to get a shot from their doctors, who can administer both the vaccine and the truth. As trusted leaders within their communities, office-based practitioners can help their patients overcome vaccine hesitancy, reduce health inequities, and ultimately ensure more patients are vaccinated.
As part of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stanley M. Bergman, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Henry Schein, Inc.
Since 1989, Stanley M. Bergman has been Chairman of the Board and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., a Fortune 500® company and the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental and medical practitioners, with more than 19,000 Team Schein Members and operations or affiliates in 31 countries and territories. Henry Schein is a member of the S&P 500® index. In 2020, the Company’s sales reached 10.1 billion dollars. Henry Schein has been a Fortune World’s Most Admired Company for 20 consecutive years.
Mr. Bergman serves as a board member or advisor for numerous institutions including New York University College of Dentistry; the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine; the Columbia University Medical Center; University of the People; Hebrew University; Tel Aviv University; the University of the Witwatersrand Fund; The World Economic Forum’s Health Care Governors; the Business Council for International Understanding; the Japan Society; and the Metropolitan Opera. Mr. Bergman is an honorary member of the American Dental Association and the Alpha Omega International Dental Society. Mr. Bergman is the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; the CR Magazine Corporate Responsibility Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2017 CEO of the Year award by Chief Executive Magazine; Honorary Doctorates from The University of the Witwatersrand, Western University of Health Sciences, Hofstra University, A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, Case Western Reserve University, and Farmingdale State College (SUNY); and Honorary Fellowships from King’s College London — Dental Institute and the International College of Dentists.
Mr. Bergman, his wife, Marion, and their family are active supporters of organizations fostering the arts, higher education, cultural diversity, and grassroots health care and sustainable entrepreneurial economic development initiatives in the United States, Africa, and other developing regions of the world.
Mr. Bergman is a graduate of The University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and is a South African Chartered Accountant and a NYS Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
My wife, Marion, and I were born and educated in South Africa. My parents, Arnold and Ruth, were refugees from Nazi Germany. They came over to South Africa in 1936 and opened a store. They were brave, hard-working people.
We lived in the city of Port Elizabeth in an area called South End. By the late 1960s, South End was still one of the few remaining racially integrated communities in apartheid South Africa, and I was fortunate enough to grow up there. During my youth and into adulthood, I learned the richness of diversity and the special community that is built through a deep understanding and connection to other cultures. Then the apartheid regime destroyed the vibrant harmony of our South End community. Neighbors were forced apart, and my parents, friends, and hundreds of small business owners were forced to relocate to segregated neighborhoods.
Bearing witness to the horrors of apartheid, my wife, Marion, and I left South Africa early in our professional careers to raise a family in a free society where everyone had equal opportunity. Here in America, we cherish the idea that all people have the opportunity to choose their destiny — to advance and optimize their own careers and live by their own personal values. We deeply appreciated how much was possible in this land of opportunity when we arrived all those years ago, and we continue to believe that no dream is too big for America.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Mandela’s Way: Lessons for an Uncertain Age, by Richard Stengel and President Nelson Mandela, made a significant impact on my understanding of what it means to be a resilient leader. The book is filled with wonderful lessons from President Mandela that are illustrated with fascinating stories from his life. President Mandela was committed to being a leader and standing for his beliefs, even when he was in shackles. When he was released from prison, one of his first acts was to invite his jailer to visit his home as his guest. They ate together. That impressed me as an act of profound leadership.
President Mandela also communicated that courage is not the absence of fear — it is learning to overcome it. Courage is the way we choose to be, and it is displayed in large and small ways. We will be faced with countless challenges in our business. It is learning how to be determined to courageously overcome those challenges that will make us stronger individuals and a stronger company.
As shared often with our Team Schein Members, sometimes the challenges that we face may seem daunting. As we face the many challenges in our lives and in business, we also should keep in mind President Mandela’s words that “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Whatever one’s professional or personal goals, remember that many of today’s advancements and accomplishments were once considered impossible.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
One must “think big” and never accept no as an answer. “Thinking small” will keep you safe, but likely stationary. However, if you “think big,” there is a good chance that your goals will be within reach. As Robert Kennedy said, “Some men (and women) see things as they are and say, ‘why?’ I dream things that never were and say, ‘why not?’” I have come to realize that “why not?” is one of the most important questions to continually ask oneself throughout our lives.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
When I was 16 and 17 years of age, I helped organize summer camps for a youth movement in Port Elizabeth, which focused on taking small steps to improve our world. That experience taught me to be optimistic and always look for the good in people. Even today as a CEO, I still strive to apply the leadership lessons I learned as a camp counselor: treat people how you want to be treated, engage everyone in the mission, there is a role for each individual, and every individual can make a difference.
In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?
We all need mentors, and we all should be a mentor to others. I encourage everyone to seek out caring people as mentors. There are so many good people in the world. The wonderful mentors in my life have made all the difference.
There was Jay Schein, who invited me to be a part of his family’s business. Jay believed in giving young passionate associates a chance and mentoring these young people. I had just turned 30 years old when I joined Henry Schein, and Jay asked me to raise 3 million dollars for the business. The only loan I knew about at this time was for a 2,000 dollars automobile loan, but Jay had the confidence in me, which in turn gave me confidence. He entrusted his family company’s continued growth to me upon his untimely death in 1989.
Then there was the late Dr. Edward B. Shils, who pioneered the field of entrepreneurial studies, and in 1973 founded and led the world’s first center for dedicated research and teaching on Entrepreneurship, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first academic to write about “intrapreneurship,” which is entrepreneurship within a large organization. He helped us learn how to be comfortable while working through ambiguity, recognizing that important decisions are not always clear, but more often shaded.
There are my colleagues at Henry Schein, who inspire me every day with their fresh perspectives and prove that “teamwork makes a dream work.” There is our conservative Chief Financial Officer, who has never seen a deal that he likes, and our exuberant Chief Strategic Officer, who has never seen a deal that he does not like. Together they provide a clear view of the left and the right. There is the Vice Chairman of Henry Schein and my partner of 45 years, who helps focus on our priorities by reminding us that “we can do anything, but we can’t do everything.” There is our Chief Administrative Officer, who heads up human resources and drives our company’s value-based culture of caring about others. And there are the millennials, who are bringing an entirely new set of expectations and enthusiasm to the workforce, and who certainly will be a great generation as they grapple with the huge challenges of our time. These young individuals remind me that organizations do not need “bosses.” Organizations need leaders who will be coaches, facilitators, and mentors — leaders who will inspire us and support people and ideas.
Muhammad Ali once said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” I urge everyone to give back by being a mentor to others. You will receive much more than you give.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
The global health care ecosystem, indeed, the entire global community, continues to experience the unprecedented and devastating impact of COVID-19. From the beginning of this crisis, Henry Schein has focused on working to ensure the availability of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and other health care products, tests, and now advocating for vaccines to be administered by office-based physicians and dentists.
We are concerned that current COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts in the U.S. do not fully recognize the vital role that physicians and other office-based practitioners can play in getting shots into as many patients’ arms as possible as quickly as possible. As a result, we are advocating for physicians’ and dentists’ engagement in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
As one of the nation’s largest distributors of flu and other vaccines to office-based health care practitioners (where the majority of Americans receive their inoculations), we have historically aligned with health care professional associations and others to advocate for their practice and professional needs, especially in this most challenging period. We also know that these providers maintain long-term and trusted relationships with their patients, which is particularly important for communities of color from a health-equity perspective.
Of course, we fully support all avenues to achieve widespread immunization. We are not advocating for one channel of distribution of vaccines over another. Instead, our view is that multiple channels are vital in this effort to overcome vaccine hesitancy and speed the process, but that the system, thus far, isn’t fully leveraging primary care physicians and dentists.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the point that it’s at now?
For decades, warnings have gone around and around, cautioning the world to prepare for a pandemic. Throughout those decades, we’ve seen occasional attention paid by the general public to the subject of pandemic preparedness. Unfortunately, despite all the warnings from infectious disease experts and the broader medical community, many tend to have short memories. Heightened concern during every outbreak of a virus tends to fade over time. This is human nature.
Perhaps now, as the novel coronavirus continues to surge in cities around the world, our response will be different. That’s not just mere optimism; there’s good reason for hope. We are optimistic that this time, with the coronavirus front and center, the world will fully appreciate the importance of pandemic preparedness now and in the future.
We want to emerge stronger than ever from this crisis. To do that, we need to break the circle of interest and disinterest so that we, as global citizens, finally learn the lesson that preparedness matters. It matters if we are to strengthen the receiving, distributing, and dispensing of our Strategic National Stockpile, implement a coordinated vaccination dissemination plan to get “shots in arms,” and leverage the nation’s trusted community of physicians and dentists in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine as more supply becomes available.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
Henry Schein has long advocated that in our increasingly interconnected world, a health crisis anywhere is a global health crisis everywhere. Infectious diseases do not carry passports.
In 2015, we called on the WEF to think collectively about pandemic preparedness and response, and for leaders from all sectors of society to come together as partners with a shared vision of creating a safer world through more effective pandemic preparedness and response. The GAVI Alliance, a public–private global health partnership that increases access to immunization in poor countries was founded at the WEF, as was the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an innovative global partnership with public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations working together to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases. However, we knew that it was equally as important to establish a partnership aimed at strengthening the supply chain for PPE. This led to the formation at the WEF of the Pandemic Supply Chain Network (PSCN), a public-private partnership created to improve the efficiency of the supply chain for PPE.
We were deeply concerned about the fragility of the PPE supply chain and that much of the PPE was primarily sourced from just a few places in the world. In our view, relying on subsidies to build factories in the midst of a pandemic is not the answer. We need to ensure that factories remain open once the pandemic has passed and that the price of PPE stabilizes so that domestic manufacturers can compete. It was also troublesome that there was no organized emergency product list and no directory of information regarding where to get those products when an emergency struck. It was obvious that a common understanding among stakeholders of the key medical supplies needed to effectively respond during a health crisis would be critical to supporting emergency responders.
As the co-founder and private-sector lead of the PSCN, Henry Schein has been in direct contact with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other multilateral and domestic organizations from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we have partnered closely with the U.S. government and other industry partners as a participant in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force (originally managed by the White House and then FEMA). We worked with the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to deliver essential products to COVID-19 testing sites. We also worked with the U.S. government to source and accelerate the availability of PPE for front-line health workers where they were needed most. Because we were the only member of the task force to serve both the dental and medical community, we have been uniquely positioned to engage with government officials and health agencies on the unique needs of oral health professionals.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
In support of the U.S. government’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic, here are five steps that can be taken to help heal our country.
Step 1 — Recognize the vital role of physicians, including dentists
The current vaccine roll-out does not fully recognize the vital role of primary-care physicians and other office-based practitioners, including dentists, in the effort to expand COVID vaccination nationwide. Office-based practitioners have deep, trust-based relationships with patients and understand their health histories. Polls show patients much prefer to get a shot from their doctors, who can administer both the vaccine and the truth. As trusted leaders within their communities, office-based practitioners can help their patients overcome vaccine hesitancy, reduce health inequities, and ultimately ensure more patients are vaccinated.
Step 2: Provide education on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine
We live in a world, unfortunately, that increasingly distrusts science. As a result, too many people question scientific advances such as the new vaccines developed using mRNA technology. Office-based physicians know their patients, and patients trust what they learn from their physicians, who understand immunology and can explain in detail how the vaccines work, why they are safe, and why getting everyone vaccinated as soon as possible is vital to restoring public health.
A successful vaccination campaign requires trust, education, and accessibility. We must focus on these three pillars to overcome the barriers that contribute to the lower vaccination rates we see in communities of color. Trust is the foundation of the relationship between patients and health care providers. Trust is key to transforming a vaccine into vaccination.
Step 3 — Accelerate vaccination process across the nation
This is a huge missed opportunity to accelerate vaccination across the nation. Office-based practitioners have a physical presence in every community nationwide — large and small, rural, and urban. This is where the majority of Americans already receive flu and other vaccines from office-based physicians. If just 100,000 physicians delivered 10 shots a day, we would have 60 million additional “shots in arms” in two months.
Step 4 — Advocate for vaccine equity
COVID has laid bare the terrible racial inequities in access to care we face in this country. It is imperative that all sectors work together to ensure fair and accessible care, vaccination, information, and affordable testing. Building equity in plans to distribute the vaccines, including culturally sensitive, multi-lingual outreach tailored for local communities, will also be essential for closing gaps in health outcomes.
On March 16, 2021, 24 members of Congress sent a Congressional letter urging federal officials to include primary-care physicians and other office-based practitioners, including dentists, in the effort to expand COVID vaccination nationwide. In addition to members of Congress, senior government officials and leading minority health professionals have been providing up-to-date information relevant to minority health professionals on the epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19.
Step 5 — Continue to practice social distancing and wear a face covering
We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities by continuing to practice social distancing and wearing a face covering. Recent reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirm that “a cloth face covering is a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19” and in reducing the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities. There is also increasing evidence that maintaining physical distance, of at least three to six feet, can help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
We recognize that there may be no single solution to this issue, but our experience has taught us we can’t get there unless we engage the community, invest in creating cultural competency throughout the health care chain, and support the development, recruitment, and retention needs of diverse professionals.
As an example, we have partnered with the Black Coalition Against COVID (BCAC), a Washington, D.C.-based community initiative that seeks to provide trustworthy, science-based, information curated for the Black community about COVID-19 and the vaccine development process in an effort to help save Black lives at the national and local levels. Together with BCAC, we are addressing the significant lags in vaccination rates and working together to offer action-oriented strategies to accelerate equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
In 2020, BCAC launched “Making it Plain,” a local and national level series of educational, open-forum virtual town hall conversations led by senior government officials and leading minority health professionals on the epidemiology, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19. Since its inception, we have held sessions focused on “Minority Health Professionals and COVID-19 Vaccine Dissemination,” and “What Black America Needs to Know About COVID-19 and Vaccines.” Recently, we held a third town hall for minority health professionals that emphasized the vital resource primary-care physicians and dentists are in the COVID-19 vaccination effort because of the high level of trust they have with their patients, their understanding of a patient’s health history, and their physical presence in every community across the country. Specifically, we spoke about the opportunities to complement existing distribution efforts as a way to strengthen equitable vaccine access and uptake by ensuring that all health care providers — in close partnership with community-based and faith-based organizations — have the dedicated resources and support needed to receive and administer the vaccine to their patients, especially to those who rely on and feel most comfortable visiting their local and trusted office-based provider. The fact that more than 29,000 health professionals tuned in for the event, clearly underscores the deep interest and engagement of health professionals in promoting vaccine equity.
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we also need to increase focus on promoting access to health among underserved communities. For example, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, in partnership with The UPS Foundation, launched “Wearing is Caring,” a public health awareness campaign designed to raise awareness of health care disparities in underserved communities, the need for social distancing, and the importance of wearing face coverings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in hot spots. The campaign is aligned with guidance from the CDC and WHO that encourages the use of cotton or cloth face coverings in public spaces to reduce community spread.
To help address the health disparities that have impacted communities of color, we have donated face coverings to local safety net health systems and other local partners in support of CDC Foundation’s Crush COVID initiative, which supports health equity and investing in communities disproportionately impacted by coronavirus as a key pillar.
The ‘Wearing is Caring’ campaign is another demonstration of Henry Schein Cares Foundation’s commitment to help advocate for public health, health equity, and wellness. Together with non-profit organizations and valued supplier partners, our foundation can help support local safety net health systems, which provide essential care for those most in need.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
We are incredibly optimistic that we can make a difference and the dental industry’s advocacy efforts are beginning to take effect. On March 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services amended an emergency declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to permit dentists and dental students, among other providers, to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The federal declaration allows licensed dentists nationwide to administer COVID-19 vaccines. At least 28 states allow dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccines, and the amendment overrules state laws that prohibit dentists from doing so, according to the American Dental Association. By making COVID vaccines available to physicians and dentists, we would open hundreds of thousands of additional vaccination sites in the U.S., enhance vaccine uptake, reduce health inequities, and accelerate the nation’s efforts to return to normalcy.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
My advice to young people from my cumulative life experiences is to give back. The more you give, the more you get back, and the best way to do well is to do good. As business leaders, we have a moral obligation to act in the service of society. My childhood lessons from my parents helped me understand that as business leaders we also have an obligation to be responsive and responsible leaders who contribute to the greater good of society. It also makes good business sense, as Benjamin Franklin’s idea of enlightened self-interest illustrates — businesses, universities, and communities cannot succeed in failed societies. As you move forward, find innovative ways to partner with others, in the public and private sectors, in the service of society. Doing well by doing good really works.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to underscore the importance of oral health to overall health and the crucial role that oral health care practitioners play in the health care continuum. There is an increasing body of evidence that underscores the close connections between periodontal disease and many non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, along with Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Oral health is a key component of primary care, and dentists need to be involved in an individual’s overall health. During the pandemic, oral health care practitioners played a key role in our front-line response, but they could not always procure the necessary quantities of PPE, COVID tests, and now vaccines. As a nation, we have made substantial progress on vaccinations, and we applaud the Administration’s focus on health equity. To get even more shots in arms, we need to elevate the role of primary-care physicians and other office-based practitioners, including dentists, in the United States and around the world in addressing global pandemic response, remembering that viruses don’t carry passports and that we need to protect and vaccinate everyone to truly defeat the pandemic.
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!