During AAE17 in New Orleans last April, an amendment to the AAE Bylaws was presented to the General Assembly that would change one of the requirements for AAE membership. This proposed change came from the Constitution and Bylaws Committee after receiving feedback from the 2017 Member Needs Survey which identified the cost of Association membership as one of the areas AAE members would like to see addressed. Currently, the AAE Bylaws state that in order to be an AAE member, concurrent membership in the ADA is also required. After reviewing the membership survey results, the CBC made the recommendation to modify the AAE Bylaws by removing this requirement for membership in the ADA or its international equivalent. The Board approved this recommendation, which resulted in the proposed Bylaws change being shared with the General Assembly for a vote.
In New Orleans, when this motion came before the General Assembly, discussion was short, as it was decided to postpone the vote so that further information could be provided to the membership related to this issue. The Board of Directors subsequently charged the Membership Services Committee to develop a knowledge-based governance (KBG) paper on this topic. Attached to this President’s message you will find the link to this completed paper from the MSC. The Board has reviewed this paper and reaffirmed its position to recommend the Bylaws change as proposed.
The AAE was established in 1943 with an initial meeting consisting of 21 individuals possessing a common interest in root canal therapy. One year later in 1944, the initial Constitution and Bylaws of this new organization were adopted and used as their focal point during the early years of the AAE. At that time there was no requirement to be an ADA member in these initial Bylaws. It wasn’t until 21 years later in 1965 that the AAE modified its membership requirements to include active ADA membership or membership in an equivalent dental association for foreign members. When this requirement was instituted for AAE membership:
- Endodontics had just been recently recognized as a dental specialty by the ADA in 1963 (after two failed attempts in 1961 and 1962).
- AAE members at that time wanted to encourage interest in the AAE from general dentists and other dental specialties.
- Ongoing efforts were being made to improve relationships with referring general dentist practitioners of the ADA.
- There was no official AAE central office and all AAE records were maintained at a private residence of an officer member.
This young, newly recognized specialty relied heavily on maintaining close relations with the ADA during this period and having its own members join the ADA was considered essential in these early years of the endodontic specialty.
As we fast forward 50-plus years, it is obvious today that endodontics as a specialty has thrived and our Association has grown significantly. A number of our members have been actively involved in ADA leadership positions over the years and this representation continues today. We do have a number of members who have openly expressed their opinion to keep ADA membership as a requirement for AAE membership. Their position states that maintaining strong ties to the ADA (through ADA membership) is important for the future of the endodontic specialty. With the size of the ADA and its political influence in Washington D.C., the ADA represents dentistry in general when it comes to legislative issues or concerns. Organized dentistry at all levels carries value of some degree for all dentists, specialty members and general dentist members alike. What may be surprising, though, is that the AAE is the one remaining specialty organization that has the continuous yearly requirement of being an ADA member in order to be a member of the AAE. Through discussions with other dental specialty leaders, it appears that there has been no negative impact on their respective specialty’s relationships with ADA leaders and policies despite having no requirement for their members to belong to the ADA. And, as noted in the KBG paper from the MSC, currently 60-87 percent of the other specialty group members have continued to maintain an active ADA membership.
While the argument has been made that maintaining strong ties with the ADA is important for the specialty of endodontics, it is also evident that the primary constituents of the ADA and its governing body, the ADA House of Delegates, are the general dentists. Dr. Linda G. Levin, AAE immediate past president, recently stated that, while the ADA may represent all of dentistry, it has not actively represented specialty interests unless the issues have intersected or overlapped with the general dentist concerns. She summarized her thoughts succinctly by stating, “In their advocacy for the dental profession, the ADA has earned my support but NOT by their advocacy for specialty dental care.” I would echo these sentiments.
As president of this Association, I agree that there is value and there are benefits for our AAE members to maintain an active ADA membership throughout their career. Along these lines, however, the ADA needs to provide a value proposition to all specialty providers to encourage their individual memberships within the ADA. This motion to modify the AAE membership Bylaws is not about distancing ourselves from the ADA or any other dental organization, but rather, it is about allowing each of our members to make their own decision regarding organizations to which they belong. I will strongly encourage each of our members to be active ADA members; however, it is my personal belief that this decision should be the choice of the individual member and not a mandate by our Association. There is strength in numbers and if we lose even one member because of efforts to enforce the existing Bylaw as written, it will be to our detriment.
In Denver this April, it is you, our AAE members, who will ultimately make the final decision on this Bylaws change. At the General Assembly on Friday morning, this motion on AAE-ADA membership linkage will be brought to the floor, where the opportunity for open discussion will be provided prior to a final vote. The decision is yours to make: “your vote, your voice.”
I look forward to seeing you all at AAE18!