Achievement Award: Dr. Ralph "Jim" Snelson
Dr. Ralph “Jim” Snelson has been very involved with organized dentistry throughout his career, with a particular focus on advocacy. In recognition of his efforts, he will receive the Ohio Dental Association Achievement Award on Friday, Sept. 18, at the Callahan Celebration of Excellence, held in conjunction with the 149th ODA Annual Session.
“It is truly an honor to have worked with Jim, being mentored by him and to call him my friend and colleague,” said Dr. Joseph Baytosh, immediate past president of the Corydon Palmer Dental Society. “Most of all, it was by unanimous consent that the CPDS Board of Trustees during my year as president recommended him for the ODA Achievement Award.”
Snelson earned his DDS from The Ohio State University in 1961. He and his son, Dr. Lee Snelson, practiced general dentistry together in Warren.
A member of organized dentistry since he graduated, Snelson has served the profession on all levels of the tripartite.
“Dr. Snelson never loses his enthusiasm and his passion for dentistry,” said Carolyn Rubenstein, Corydon Palmer Dental Society executive director. “He has been a supporter of organized dentistry, and of our society, throughout his career: even during his busy tenure as president of ODA in 1993, he remained actively involved in efforts to improve Corydon Palmer Dental Society.”
Throughout his involvement with organized dentistry, he made it a priority to build consensus among people and create an atmosphere of trust among ODA members.
“He was a great supporter of bringing new people into organized dentistry, and pushing many to get and stay involved,” Baytosh said. “His passion for CPDS and the ODA was contagious. He always was willing to listen to all points of a discussion, and rarely did he fail to make a poignant comment.”
Although Snelson is no longer practicing, his colleagues continue to be inspired by his involvement in organized dentistry.
“Jim Snelson’s passion and energy on behalf of organized dentistry is a blaze that keeps fueling those of us who have been in the profession for a while, fires up new dentists, and inspires confidence and admiration in his patients,” said Dr. James Ramunno, Corydon Palmer Dental Society president. “There is never a negative vibe from him.”
One of Dr. Snelson’s favorite events with organized dentistry was the ODA Day at the Statehouse, where members meet with their state legislators to talk about issues important to dentistry.
“He may have been responsible for organizing CPDS to rent a bus, have every member of the Board and numerous members go to Columbus as a group,” Baytosh said. “He understood long ago the power we had as advocates for our profession and need for personal visits with our legislators. He understood the need to contribute to ODPAC and encouraged us to do so. He was head of the CPDS Governmental Affairs Committee and instituted Legislator meet-and-greet fundraisers at dentists’ homes.”
Snelson always had a focus on creating a positive future for the profession of dentistry and organized dentistry. When he served as president of the ODA, his slogan was “Forward Ever, Backward Never.”
“He used the slogan throughout his year as president and made it the central theme of his acceptance speech,” Baytosh said. “It’s core message is in the final paragraph, ‘the only safe harbors in this journey through life are integrity, optimism and excellence.’ Reflecting back on Jim’s career as a dentist and member of organized dentistry, he truly lived by those words. This poster hangs in the office of CPDS as a reminder for all.”
Following his year as ODA president, he remained very involved with the Corydon Palmer Dental Society, attending all board meetings and subdistrict meetings as well as the ODA House of Delegates.
“His involvement in dentistry is complete and never-ending. He offers complimentary and uplifting comments in support of leaders and colleagues,” Rubenstein said. “He has attended meetings of the Corydon Palmer Board of Trustees even when he held no office, in an exemplary show of support – we call him our ‘trustee emeritus.’”
He also continues to be passionate about the ODA Foundation.
“Jim’s passion for the ODA Foundation could be summed up by the number of tickets he sold for the annual fundraiser,” Baytosh said. “He truly believed in the mission of the Foundation, and always rallied in favor of any efforts to promote its endeavors.”
Snelson has served as Ohio Dental Political Action Committee chairman, as ODA president, as ODA Foundation co-chairman and as president of the Corydon Palmer Dental Society. He also has served on the American Dental Political Action Committee, as well as many other councils, committees and task forces with the ODA. He was awarded the ODA Distinguished Dentist Award in 2002.
Snelson’s organizational affiliations include the American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists, Pierre Fauchard Academy, AGD Fellow, Academy of Dentistry International and Omicron Kappa Upsilon.
Outside of dentistry, Snelson has been involved with the United Way, Boy Scouts, Trumbull Lifelines Board, Trumbull Memorial Hospital Board and Christ Episcopal Church Foundation Board. Snelson and his wife, Diane, have two children.
The Achievement Award is given to someone with a personal and professional commitment to the dental profession and the public’s oral health, and who is an ambassador for the dental profession with solid respect for the profession.