Advocacy Takes Center Stage

When the present strategic plan was written in 2016, few would have thought we would have had several opportunities to promote endodontics and endodontists in 2019! To name some notable examples: the planned promotion of our Worth Saving campaign, followed by the Netflix release of the movie Root Cause and the subsequent publication of The Atlantic article, “The Truth About Dentistry”, printed in May 2019 allowed the AAE to emphasize to the public the importance of endodontists as the specialists in saving teeth. All of these opportunities were a chance to place the AAE into the leadership limelight. We participated in collaborative advocacy in the condemnation of Root Cause and united with the ADA and the AADR presidents in condemning the lack of accuracy of the statements portrayed in the movie.  At this same time, we provided our international members and partners in endodontics all of our information promoting root canal safety and refutation of the focal infection theory, available on our website. Eventually, this led to the collaborative advocacy of the movie “Root Cause” being pulled from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

With respect to The Atlantic article, “The Truth About Dentistry”  involving unethical endodontic treatment, we responded to the author and the editor within 72 hours to condemn the general dentist’s inappropriate treatment performed on  patients in the article. We pointed out the public should know that endodontists are  the best source for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning of diseases of the pulp and periapex and “those wondering if their root canal treatment recommendation is necessary: Seek the advice of an endodontist, a specialist in root canal treatment.” They never responded back!

Our planned roll-out of the Worth Saving campaign in late January has already achieved 331,606,405 media impressions and increased traffic to our patient website by 40%! We also engaged two state legislatures — Illinois and Iowa — to recognize May as “Save Your Tooth Month”, which gave us national and regional recognition. A big “thank-you” to all who made this happen! We hope to expand this recognition to other states with the help of you, the members of the AAE, this next year. In 2020, let’s see if the other 48 states will come on board!

Though we have made great strides in advocating for our mission with business, the press and the public in 2019, what had been missing as part of our overall advocacy paradigm was a means to advocate, as an individual, to our United States Congress. As I noted in our September 17 release about our Advocacy Action Center, “The AAE’s Advocacy Action Center will help strengthen efforts to support quality care for patients by providing resources that empower AAE members to take action on critical health policy matters.” Just to illustrate, I sent three letters to my Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Congresswoman Cindy Axne urging support for the REDI Act H.R. 1554 and the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2019.” S. 350.

The REDI Act allows borrowers to defer their student loans interest free while they are serving a medical or dental internship or residency program. This would provide great relief of excessive interest compounding while in a dental residency. With our residencies going into programs with increased debt, this is an issue we all should support and it is easily done. (More a little later!)

A brief history about the “Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act of 2019.” S. 350 and why we need to support it, is written by Srini Varadarajan, J.D., AAE’s assistant executive director for advocacy and professional relation and can be read at our new Advocacy Action Center. It concludes, “It’s critically important that our members of Congress hear from us on these important pieces of legislation.” Our geographic distribution and numbers allow for us to have a significant voice among Congressional men and women. The ease with which this new website allows for you to advocate to your Federal House representatives and senators is amazingly simple. All of this was accomplished within five minutes of typing and with a “click” of the mouse! This feature is truly a great benefit for all of our members and provides the “power of the pen” to all interested participants. You receive confirmation the message was sent, and you will eventually receive feedback from the Congressional leader, for me, the same day.

Prior to this new Advocacy Action Center, past presidents and I were asked on behalf of the AAE to comment in favor or opposition to various House of Representatives bills or Senate bills. Usually, individual members would not know specifics about these actions unless local PAC members were urging appropriate actions and requesting individual support. This new addition to our website could not be easier to use. Instead of having 24 or 25 directors and Executive Committee endodontists contacting Congressional representatives, we can now have well over 7,500! I urge you to take a look and we will be providing much more information regarding issues we think you could unequivocally support, but look at the two issues present, because it would help our present and future endodontists. To our international members, I would hope our advocacy would spill over into your respective organizational groups and be of benefit as a model for their own progress towards increasing the recognition of endodontists as THE specialist in saving teeth.

To conclude, I offer: “Advocacy not only means endorsing a cause or idea, but recommending, promoting, defending or arguing for it.”
― John Capecci and Timothy Cage, Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference

Please join me in becoming a better advocate!