Dental industry champion Pam Clark has been admitted as an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to the dental profession. Pam's citation in the Queen's Birthday honours recognises her range of roles with national and international associations, as a supporter of research and technical dental standards and her services to manufacturing. She was nominated by both the ADA and the ADIA and is the first industry recipient of such an award in more than 30 years.
The Clark family business, known today as Cattani Australia, was established in 1965 and is now a major importer and supplier of suction systems and compressors. Pam, a trained schoolteacher, married into that business and made her own mark as a manufacturer representative in the industry at large.
Pam's commitment to oral health has seen her involved in numerous dental and health organisations, both in Australia and internationally. Her current roles alone make an impressive list of what she calls "giving back":
- Chair of the Australian Dental Research Foundation (ADRF) and their fundraising committee;
- Chair of the Australian Dental Industry Association (ADIA) Regulatory Affairs Committee;
- National Dental Foundation (NDF) Victoria committee member;
- ISO delegate for Australia and International Dental Manufacturers Association (IDM);
- IDM delegate and former President;
- FDI (World Dental Federation) Education Committee liaison for IDM; and
- United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) listed management expert on dental amalgam waste.
It is this last activity that points to what Pam sees as her greatest achievement - her work for the Minamata Convention on Mercury, where she has been pivotal in shaping the provisions on amalgam, while representing the views of Australia and dentistry in general.
A key part of the convention relates to the use, capture and recycling of dental amalgam. Pam has advised Australian Government representatives in treaty negotiations and played a key role in finding common ground between the dental industry and the profession, arguing successfully alongside the FDI and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) for the preservation of amalgam as a restorative option for dentists, with an undertaking to protect the environment by recycling. Some 20 years ago she was also involved at ISO level in the writing of standards for amalgam separators and has been an Australian representative at ISO meetings around the world for about 25 years in total.
For her work on this and other issues, Pam received a rare honour for someone from the dental industry, being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons in 2016. In 2017, she received a Merit Award from the ADA. In fact, her trophy cabinet is bursting with awards, including life membership of the ADIA, becoming the first woman to hold that position. She was also the association's first woman president, leading the organisation between 2006 and 2010.
Pam sees her latest honour as recognition not just for herself but for the dental industry as a whole. "It's been a genuine privilege to work with so many industry colleagues who set aside their competing commercial interests in order to progress matters where there is a common agenda," she said. "I am also pleased for the industry, which is rarely recognised in this way." But awards are not what drive Pam, who says she simply loves doing what she does. "It's very rewarding and even fun, doing something that you think is making a difference, so I would be doing this anyway, but the AO is certainly the icing on what has been a very nice cake!".