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Reflections on Mentors and Our Members

“Education is the foundation upon which we build our future.” — Christine Gregoire

Throughout our lives we can all look back and reflect on those who have both inspired and mentored us to reach the place that we currently reside. As time has passed, I have really come to appreciate the fact that my education has extended far beyond my years spent in both dental school and my endodontic residency program. The foundation and vision for my success were set early on in these formal educational programs, but the path I have taken has crisscrossed with so many other individuals that have influenced me both as a person, a clinician, a leader and an educator.

As Steven Spielberg once stated, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” I have had great mentors who have allowed me to do just that—forge my own path. Looking back, who have been your mentors in endodontics? Some may go as far back as your residency programs, but others may be colleagues you have engaged with over the years. Have you taken the time to thank them for their wisdom and knowledge that they shared with you? Nothing is more rewarding for an educator/mentor than to see their protégés and future colleagues grow and thrive upon the completion of their formal education. Our endodontic educators over the years have continually dedicated themselves to inspiring people and developing programs to strengthen our profession’s foundation.

Having recently entered full-time education, I anticipated that the lens I looked through would differ dramatically from the one I had as a student and a resident. But in some ways it has not. While I have had the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with the residents at Virginia Commonwealth University, I have found that I can often learn from the very people whom I teach. I have also recognized the wisdom in Spielberg’s quote. The knowledge base for endodontics has grown exponentially over the years and the clinical skills that we develop and acquire are second to none. Even as an educator I find that I am not just leading, but also walking beside and learning with the residents I teach. Being in a position to develop and influence the future of endodontics through this mentor-resident relationship has been extremely rewarding as I watch my residents set out on their own paths. It is with true sincerity that I extend my thanks to each of our full-time educator members who teach the fundamentals of endodontic care to our students and to the many part-time educators who bring a “real-world” perspective to the education process. It is each of you, our educators, who are shaping and building the future of our specialty.

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to meet with AAE members at some of our AAE state affiliate organizations. I have found these experiences to be very positive as I have engaged with members at the local level and I look forward to more of these opportunities over the next six months. What I have continually encountered at each of these venues are fellow endodontic colleagues who are both passionate about our specialty and dedicated to their professions. The camaraderie at the local level has been great and we have had some candid discussions related to a variety of challenges that our profession faces today. What I have seen are members who carry a “can-do” attitude with an enthusiasm and willingness to adapt to the constant changes that we face. With members like these, the future for endodontics is bright! Twenty-five years ago I heard rumblings of doom and gloom for our specialty, but here we are stronger than ever. We will continually be faced with new challenges as we move forward as a specialty, but as an association of strong members we will meet these challenges and overcome them. “The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” These words from Vince Lombardi resonate loudly within any organization, whether it is a professional sports team or a professional organization such as the AAE. The growth of our organization has been steady over the years and the applicant pool for endodontic residency programs has been filled with quality individuals eager to join our ranks.

The formula for success is clear. As an association — and as individuals — we must:

  1. Focus on the present
  2. Do what we love
  3. Keep an open mind
  4. Stay positive
  5. Learn from our experiences

Collectively we can and will continue to maintain a bright future for the specialty of endodontics.

“Attitudes are contagious. Make yours worth catching.” — Anonymous