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Michael D. Springer

Senior Vice President, Business and Publishing at American Dental Association

Michael Springer

I’m a Chicago native, born and bred, and have lived here most of my life except for a brief interlude in Paris and a much longer stint in Kansas City working for the American Academy of Family Physicians.  After graduation from Northwestern University with a communications degree I was a writer for several years, doing commercials and TV including writing for The Waltons.  (Millennials, ask your parents what that was.)  After my first son was born I needed a steady job, and I answered an ad in the newspaper for a copy editor at the American Medical Association. (You may also want to ask about ‘newspapers’ and ‘copy editors.’)  I figured that was something I could do for six months.  I stayed at the AMA for 15 years, eventually becoming a group publisher for their 10 specialty journals.

From AMA I was recruited to become president of American Hospital Publishing Inc., a subsidiary of the AHA.  After a merger with Healthcare Forum, I worked in the dotcom space and was part of the launch of Care Pages, which was acquired by WebMD.  My real strength is running publishing businesses within the association world, which took me to the AAFP.  After nine years I wanted to come home to Chicago, and accepted the vice president of publishing role at the American Dental Association.  Today I am the senior vice president for business and publishing, with responsibility for the ADA’s non-dues revenue business activities and corporate relations.

Mentors Are Critical

I was fortunate throughout my career to have strong and generous mentors who gave me the opportunity to learn, to fail, and to grow.  First was Dr George Lundberg, the legendary editor of JAMA, who not only taught me about the editorial process of scientific publishing, but how to be a successful manager.  George elevated the AMA journal program to the top ranks, traveled the world promoting the brand and still made sure he met with his direct reports on a regular basis.  I use his lessons every day.  Next was Bob Kennett, who joined the AMA as the VP of publishing after a long career at McGraw-Hill, who taught me the commercial aspects of the business and the art of relationship selling.  Third was a great man named Larry Joyce, who was the senior vice president at AMA and was the boss to both George and Bob and proved that “church and state” could happily coexist.  Larry taught me a lot about the human side of senior management; that sounds like an oxymoron, but he made it work.  The most important lesson is that, at a certain point in one’s career, the most satisfying role is developing new people and new talent.

Reinvent Yourself Regularly, and Manage Your Own Career

A major turning point in my career was when Dr Lundberg gave me permission to attend the Stanford Professional Publishing Program.  That was a major commitment and an act of faith on the AMA’s part, since it meant I would be out of the office for nearly a month, and the program was not inexpensive.  At Stanford I realized that while I was happy and successful being the managing editor at AMA, I really aspired to be the publisher.  That was where the control and the dollars really lived.  I had also completed my certification in business from U of I Chicago, and Bob Kennett gave me the chance to move over to the business side.  I have always believed that the combination of content and business acumen was what has made me successful, especially as we entered the digital age.

In the mid-1990s, my formative years, many people in publishing thought that the Internet was going to put us out of business.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth.  The business looks very different today of course, particularly the advertising side.  But digital publishing has been a boon to scientific information and will continue to be as long as we respect the tenets of scientific discourse and protect readers and authors from the predatory element of online publishing.  We also need to defend and explain the business model that allows associations and learned societies to perform the review and curating functions that are vital to the dissemination of trusted scientific information.  That is why I have always been a strong supporter and participant in organizations like PSP, the Society for Scholarly Publishing, and others.

(I will have an editorial in the January issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association that addresses this issue – my valedictory address.  I’ll be happy to provide a link when it’s ready.)


Over the past year I’ve been preparing to make my exit from the ADA, which has allowed me to do some thoughtful succession planning.  The new vice president of publishing, Michelle Hoffman, is on board, and I am having fun educating her on the nuances of dental publishing.    While I will be retired from the ADA I won’t be retired from life. I plan to be active on a couple of boards and do occasional consulting as long as there is no heavy lifting involved.  I will be living in France for part of each year, perhaps a chance to have a deeper connection with the European publishing industry.  It is all part of the larger plan to look for new opportunities and to keep reinventing myself.