Winston Churchill once said, “The further back you can look, the further forward you can see.”
Having now entered the first quarter of 2021, we’ve all witnessed the combined impact of a pandemic; a demand for long overdue racial justice and equity in our society; and the ever-imminent threat of climate change.
And we know that none of these are abstract problems. Food insecurity, poverty, severe weather and a deadly respiratory virus are all laying bare an extraordinary responsibility in our global and national leadership to get us back on a course for healing and progress.
But these intersectional crises are also illuminating countless ways that our resurgent country can play an integral role in creating and delivering solutions. In other words—as we begin to climb out of this darkness, there is an abundance of hope.
Though 2020 has presented many challenges for the American Association of Endodontists, it has also proven our resilience. With the support and direction of the Board and our committed and hard-working staff we’ve become a stronger Association, poised to accomplish great things in 2021 and beyond.
In 2020 we could see clearly the critical importance of our healthcare benefit to our patients and our country’s citizens. While the pandemic had closed doors for many front-line businesses, our unique benefit in saving the natural dentition experienced a meaningful period of opportunity. The AAE experienced a unique opening to present our message to audiences around our country as the public was locked down and isolated for much of April–May 2020.
In that period of time as your President, I was able to reach millions of listeners with our message of seeking care for oral-facial emergencies from endodontists rather than overworked emergency rooms dealing with COVID-stricken patients. I could describe our internal polls showing us that at that time, 85 percent of endodontic offices were open and providing emergency services using state of the art technology to render expert care and offer safety in its delivery. In more than 45 television, radio, cable and podcast live airings and tapings, our message of expertise utilizing microscopes and three dimensional imaging as well as protections from aerosol spread using rubber dams in all cases, was a powerful message. It became very easy to make the argument as to why would you wish to save a tooth and then find out the healing outcome was not successful and needed to be re-done because it was not performed by an expert. Promoting our website at FindMyEndodontist.com, became an expedient way to complete this message, and demonstrate our care and availability. I felt strongly that these opportunities were an important way to bring people together under the common banner of health and humanity, and help build our name recognition.
In the area of research, we created a special committee last year to track and recommend best practices in dealing with COVID in the endodontic office and created a special funding track within the AAE Foundation to provide research dollars to support COVID and aerosol research.
Our AAE website made a concerted and focused effort to process and disseminate a COVID section with the latest information and research on the pandemic and best practices for our clinical procedures. We were also aided by the editors at the Journal of Endodontics to fast-track posting of manuscripts that were to be published on COVID evidence, within in our own Journal.
The AAE established and continues to support the provision of virtual didactic education to endodontic residents throughout U.S. and Canada each month in order to supplement education provided by their residency programs. This program was launched to help endodontic residency programs continue to provide education to their residents during the pandemic. Since April 2020, virtual lectures have been hosted by the AAE and delivered by educators weekly or monthly and these offerings are scheduled to continue through 2021.
The AAE advocated in 2020 before FEMA and state health departments for the availability of PPE; we advocated to the CDC and other agencies for vaccination of dentists as front-line healthcare providers, as well as delivery of vaccine to patients by endodontists. We have also advocated to insurance carriers in areas of coding and expanded endodontic procedures such as for PPE, orifice barriers and emergency coverage. Our AAE Foundation supported the collection and distribution of an Objectively Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE), for graduating dental students that focused on endodontic decision-making, critical thinking and a process to make good judgements for novice dentists to evaluate their decisions on whether to intercede in the care of a patient or refer to a specialist.
I believe to my core that one of the most important decisions we have made in the year 2020 was to look at our leadership development process and make significant and meaningful changes for our future members and leaders. Changing our leadership process within our AAE Constitution and by-laws will be significantly important to the future success of the AAE. Increased diversity is needed on the AAE Board and we have advocated for this change by developing a well-conceived plan to help the board identify and recruit members and cultivate officers, while examining and addressing gaps in areas of diversity such as expertise, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. The AAE Board desires to introduce more diversity on the Board, and for the composition of the Board to be more reflective of our diverse membership so that their perspectives and experiences are represented within our leadership.
Finally, we have planned an outstanding virtual meeting for AAE21. We wish we could all be together as we all so desperately desire. But safety of our membership takes precedence over all, and we wish to remember after we conduct AAE21, that we were safe in our endeavors to provide a successful meeting. With that said, we strongly believe that we have created an annual session that will meet your expectations in terms of quality speakers and topics.
Inspired by the adaptive, resilient spirit of AAE members, we have reimagined the Annual Meeting you know and love into a virtual format featuring: flexible opportunities to earn CE; community-building social events; a thought-provoking keynote speaker; an important general assembly vote on our AAE Constitution; interactive wellness activities and a virtual exhibit hall. We sincerely believe we will meet your needs and expectations with AAE21.
In closing, there is truly no forthright way to summarize the year we have all experienced together. It has been a privilege to be honored as your President this year and to serve our membership and Association. I will treasure my experiences and the blessings I have experienced on your behalf.
In looking back….I see a very strong and progressive future for our AAE.