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President’s Message: One Weekend in Chicago—The Past, Present, and Future of our Specialty

“The future depends on what we do in the present”—Mahatma Gandhi

“The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create”—Leonard Sweet

The American Association of Endodontists has a relatively short yet distinguished history. Formed in an era of the condemnation of the pulpless tooth and a great division of thinking of methods of practice, our organization was born as an outlet for an exchange of knowledge, education, and a solidification of endodontic practice standards. On February 25, 1943, Drs. Clyde Davis, John Hospers, and Louis Grossman, along with 19 other dentists who recognized the value of saving teeth through performing root canal therapy met in Dining Room 4 of the Palmer House in Chicago for the purpose of forming the American Root Therapy Association.

The first annual meeting of the “American Society of Endodontists” was held in Chicago on February 24, 1944, again at the Palmer. At that time, there were 34 members that limited their practice to endodontics, 24 that limited their practice to endodontics and periodontics, and 10 members that identified themselves as endodontic instructors. The scientific program covered topics such as “Morphology of Root Canals”, “The Bacteriologic Aspect of Root Canal Therapy”, and “Evidence of Histologic Repair Following Root Canal Therapy”. And even though the size and scope of the American Association of Endodontists has grown and evolved over the years, it seems fitting that almost 70 year later and 7700 members stronger that we are still studying and searching for answers to the questions that concerned our founding members and the foundation upon which our association was built.

It is also ironic that from August 18 to August 20, 2022, the leadership, educator, and resident members of the AAE reconvened at the Palmer House to participate in a series of meetings and workshops designed to evaluate where we have been, where we are, and how we can shape the future of our organization and our profession. With a common goal of the advancement of our specialty and to assure the relevance of endodontic therapy into the future, this event not only highlighted the dedication and insight of our staff and our members but allowed us to plan for the future of our specialty.

The weekend began with a media training program hosted by “The Coaching Group.” Direct to the public advocacy and promotion has become a priority for the AAE in conveying our messages of the value of saving the natural dentition, the expertise and role endodontists play in delivering the highest quality patient care, the connection between oral and systemic health, and the virtues of endodontics performed by endodontists. The AAE Executive Committee received advanced training in effective ways to communicate with the public and in formulating messaging which will promote who endodontists are and what they do. Our “Worth Saving” and “A Healthier Mouth = A Healthier You” campaigns have relied heavily on conveying our messages through the media and have been hugely successful in reaching the public. This important training will be instrumental in expanding our outreach to the public with messages that can make a real difference in promoting endodontics and endodontists, and the value of saving teeth and maintaining oral health.

On Friday and Saturday, our Educational Affairs Committee and Foundation for Endodontics hosted a workshop for our Endodontic Department Chairs entitled “Worth Teaching, Worth Reaching: Promoting and Developing Higher Standards in Endodontic Education”. A comprehensive look at the current state of endodontic education in our dental schools, the workshop featured lectures from several prominent educators. It explored such important topics as the endodontic educator shortage, faculty retention, faculty development, faculty well-being, and reconciling undergraduate and graduate endodontic education. Acknowledging that endodontics should be taught by endodontists, and that education and research at the base of a successful future for our specialty, the workshop allowed our most influential educators to meet, collaborate, and discuss real solutions to issues which will have a direct impact on the strength and relevance of our specialty in future.

Running concurrently with the other events was APICES—the year’s premier event exclusively for endodontic residents. With the support of the AAE, Foundation for Endodontics, Residents and New Practitioner Committee, and our corporate sponsors, residents were treated to an extraordinary event which enabled them to network with each other, meet and interact with leadership from the AAE, Foundation for Endodontics, American Board of Endodontics, and College of Diplomats, and become an integral part of our endodontic family. They were able to see lectures describing the value of leadership, the possibility of becoming an educator, becoming Board Certified, current topics in clinical endodontics, and new technologies in endodontic practice. Their enthusiasm, comradery, and synergism were such a pleasure to witness and gives me great hope for the future of our association and the specialty of endodontics. Our young members are indeed the future of endodontics, and APICES gave us a chance to meet and nurture them as they commence their endodontic careers.

In my eyes, our weekend in Chicago was a microcosm of our association—where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going. Just as our founding members supported endodontic therapy to save teeth and saw the value of creating an organization dedicated to the advancement of our specialty, we too continue to support and promote endodontics through advocacy, education, and research. As we move forward, we will continue to be vigilant in promoting the value of our expertise as endodontists, dedicated to supporting our educators and education, supportive of our students, and committed to developing new leadership who can be visionary in advancing us into the future. I am indeed excited about our prospects for the future.