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Change is the Law of Life

“Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.” — Tony Robbins

As I pen my final President’s Message prior to AAE18 in Denver, the word that continues to hang in my thoughts is “change.” I have personally seen and experienced many changes over my endodontic professional career and this trend has continued over the past 11 months during my term as AAE President. Most recently, the issues of dental specialty advertising and dental specialty recognition have bubbled to the surface with an abundance of consequences. Bear with me as I elaborate briefly on several items that you may have recently heard about.

Specialty advertising: In January 2016 we witnessed the U.S. District Court ruling in Texas that allowed dental providers from non-ADA recognized specialties to advertise as dental specialists. Prior to this ruling, only dentists from one of the nine ADA-recognized specialties could advertise as dental specialists in the state of Texas. The American Board of Dental Specialties, a new dental organization consisting of four dental specialty groups not presently recognized by the ADA, were the plaintiffs in this case as they challenged this advertising regulation. With this victory, the ABDS and its legal counsel are now directing efforts toward other state dental boards to have them relax their specialty advertising regulations in a manner consistent with the ruling in Texas. In January of this year, the state dental board in Iowa met and made this very recommendation. AAE Vice President Dr. Keith V. Krell was in attendance at this Iowa hearing and the AAE submitted written comments as well. In light of the Texas ruling and the Iowa response, we can certainly expect the ABDS to continue its movement in this direction and we are seeing state dental boards seriously considering these changes to minimize future legal actions possibly being brought against them.

Specialty recognition: Prior to these recent events, the ADA and its House of Delegates held the sole authority to designate specialty recognition and had done so for nine different dental disciplines, one of those being endodontics (in 1963). In October 2017, the ADA House of Delegates voted to relinquish their role in dental specialty recognition with the formation of the National Commission on Recognition for Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. This commission was created to remove perceived bias and issues related to a conflict of interest with these decisions made by the ADA HOD. At the moment, this now leaves two organizations that are designating dental specialty recognition: this new commission and the ABDS.

CODA terminology changes: The Commission on Dental Accreditation recently published a memo stating that the term “specialty” was being removed from the advanced dental education programs that they accredit. With CODA providing accreditation to advanced education programs in all nine of the ADA recognized specialties and to three of the four ABDS recognized specialties, this terminology change was deemed necessary by CODA not to diminish the specialty status of these various disciplines, but to clarify that CODA does not and never has conferred “specialty recognition” to any of the disciplines for which they accredit advanced dental education programs.

AAE leadership continually maintains a dialogue with the leadership of the other ADA-recognized specialty groups in addition to conversations with ADA leadership. There is an AAE member that is appointed to CODA as well as an AAE member appointed to the newly formed Commission on Specialty Recognition. AAE central staff continually monitors any activities or news that may have some kind of impact on our members and efforts are made to disseminate this information through various channels to all of our members. Should anyone have questions on any issues they hear about either at the state or national level, they are welcome to contact the AAE officers, Board of Directors and/or our central staff members.

Corporate relations: Over the years it has become more commonplace to see corporate entities partner with various organizations (non-profits, sports arenas, etc.) across all aspects of our society. This is no different for the AAE as our organization has partnered with a variety of corporate entities over the years and some of these corporate sponsors have provided tremendous support both financially and through public relations for our association and the profession of endodontics. Today’s world has become a stage for corporate sponsors to seek out opportunities for their brand visibility. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations are constantly striving to obtain additional financial support for their operations. When two forces such as these find common ground it provides opportunities for a partnership that benefits both the corporate world and the non-profit organization. What really makes these relationships work is keeping open lines of communication so that if any misunderstandings or conflicting messages develop, they can be quickly identified and remedied.

One such incident recently occurred when an advertising campaign by an AAE corporate sponsor went counter to the strategic plan and mission of the AAE. With open lines of communication and a good working relationship with this company, the inadvertent advertisement was quickly identified and scuttled for the benefit of our profession and the general public. The corporate world, with today’s corporate sponsorship, is a very different climate than in years past and it has become both a necessity and benefit for all non-profit organizations to embrace these opportunities.

In an earlier message this year, I mentioned that it was time to adjust our sails to catch the winds in the direction we need to go as an organization. In a similar analogy, Jon Kabat-Zinn once stated, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” As an organization and as individual members, we need to stay committed to our identity and our purpose, but we also need to remain flexible in our approach and actions. The waves of change have (and will continue) to arrive.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy