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“All A-Board!” Article Series: Dr. Austyn Grissom

Introducing a Communiqué article series that interviews American Board of Endodontics (ABE) Diplomates about their Board-certification journey: “All A-board!” Regardless of where Board-certified endodontists currently are in their career, each of them has a unique story as to why, when, and how they became Board-certified. The AAE strives to highlight some of these members and demystify whatever obstacles other endodontists may feel are present when considering getting certified. For more information about the ABE and Board certification, click here.

Austyn C. Grissom, DMD, MSD currently serves as the chair of the AAE’s Resident and New Practitioner Committee. Dr. Grissom earned a Biomedical Sciences degree from Auburn University, completed dental school at the University of Alabama School of Dentistry, and gained a Masters of Science in Dentistry and a Certificate in Endodontics from the University of Texas Health Science Center. He is one of only five Board-certified endodontists in the state of Alabama and recently opened his own practice, Grissom Endodontics and Microsurgery. Read on to hear more about Dr. Grissom’s journey to Board certification!

AAE: Why did you decide to get Board-certified?

Austyn C. Grissom (ACG): From the moment I decided to pursue endodontics, I have had my sights set on achieving Board certification. Becoming a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics (ABE) represents the highest honor in our profession and is an outward symbol to patients and professionals alike that one is committed to providing evidence-based, high-quality care.

AAE: How long were you practicing endodontics before getting Board-certified?

ACG: Less than 1 year. I completed the Written Examination in May 2022 while I was still a resident, graduated from UT Houston in August 2022, challenged the Oral Examination in October 2022, and lastly the Case History Examination (CHE) in May 2023.

AAE: How long did you prepare for the various parts of the exam, and what was this process like? How did you balance your career, personal life, and exam prep?

ACG: I feel like my journey towards Board certification began in my first month of residency. I was extremely fortunate to have Dr. Tim Kirkpatrick as my program director at UT Houston. One of our very first lectures in residency was the ABE Boardwalk which explains the various steps of the Board certification process in detail [if interested, this presentation is given each year at the AAE Annual Meeting and recordings can be found on Endo on Demand]. My most important takeaway from the Boardwalk lecture was to document every case (even non-molars) like it will be submitted as a part of your CHE. Not only will this help you hone your diagnostic and clinical skills, but it will also ensure that when it is time to select your cases for the CHE you will not have to exclude a case just because you are lacking the appropriate radiographs. This certainly held true for me. The written and oral examinations cover such a vast range of topics that it makes them impossible to cram for. Fortunately, the content all relates to patient care in some shape or form, so I believe it is important to keep that in mind when you are working towards this goal.

As I was preparing for the oral examination and practicing endodontics, I would typically listen to EndoVoices on my commute. No matter the episode, it was helpful for me to hear others talking endodontics once I was out of the academic sphere. Other than that, I was reviewing literature with any free moment I had and teaching my assistant more than she ever wanted to know about pulp biology… sorry, Lamira! Believe it or not, I still find myself quoting lots of what I learned throughout this process to my patients to help them understand their diagnosis, treatment plan, and expected outcome.

AAE: What has been the most profound benefit(s) of being Board-certified?

ACG: I believe that the process of preparing for the various parts of ABE Certification helped mold me into the clinician that I am today, and for that I am extremely grateful. On a personal level, Board certification was a huge milestone for myself and my family. On a professional level, I have been surprised by the number of patients who have come to see me (with a referral slip to another provider) solely based on my credentials. I do believe there is a decent public awareness of ‘Board certification’, and as a result I think ABE Certification goes a long way in assuring the public that their endodontist is committed to the highest standards in patient care.

AAE: What advice would you give to an endodontist who wants to get Board-certified, but is hesitant to make such a large commitment?

ACG: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu. The great thing about the ABE Certification is that you can complete it at your own pace. No matter if you are walking, jogging, or sprinting towards the finish line… just keep going!