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Swinging for the Fences: An Update on Strategic Plan Progress

As I sit down to pen this President’s Message about our strategic plan, I’m reminded of a compelling message that Past President Dr. Garry L. Myers wrote two years ago. Maybe that’s because I’ve watched our 2018-2019 Year in Review video one too many times, which, like Dr. Myers, alludes to baseball and offers many great metaphors.

Without getting too tongue-in-cheek, I will note that, as our 2018-2019 Year-in-Review video and Annual Report show, it has been a successful time — but not without its challenges and curveballs.

In the spirit of “looking back”, I’d like to take you back a few years to 2017, when we first implemented our strategic plan.

The 2017-2018 Board of Directors officially took office at AAE17, and hit the ground running at the Board’s annual meeting in New Orleans. The Board focused much of its discussion that year on priority efforts aimed at achieving three goals.

GOAL ONE: The public will value saving their natural teeth and seek endodontists-the specialists in saving teeth-for their care. This first strategic goal is in line with consistent member needs survey results which have reflected members’ desires for enhanced outreach efforts by the AAE. In response, the Board identified public outreach as a strategic priority and so the AAE set out to research and develop a targeted media campaign to promote the importance of retaining one’s natural teeth.

GOAL TWO: The dental profession will value endodontists as partners with advanced expertise in providing patient care. Similar to the first goal, AAE member needs survey results had directly informed this segment of the strategic plan by indicating that members desire additional advocacy efforts on their behalf. The dental profession is a broad audience with a variety of unique stakeholder groups such as dental and postdoctoral educators and administrators, accrediting and regulatory agencies, state dental boards, the insurance industry, legislators, general practitioners, and other dental specialists. The common thread of interest to all stakeholders is providing the highest quality patient care through a single standard of endodontics; therefore, the first step in addressing this strategic goal was defining competency in endodontics.

At our 2017 meeting, the Board approved a white paper on endodontic competency, which outlines the skills required of all practitioners who undertake the responsibility to diagnose, treatment plan, and provide prognoses for the endodontic care of their patients. The AAE’s next steps were then to identify, package, and deploy audience-specific messaging from the paper’s content to inform and influence various stakeholder groups.

GOAL THREE: AAE and its members will be recognized as the global leaders in advocating the value and quality of endodontics. Relative to both the second and third goals, the Board approved initial plans for an outcomes consensus conference. Recognizing that there is not a standard way to measure healing, pain, and patient/clinician outcomes, this conference would be aimed at defining a minimal set of core outcome measures for all endodontic clinical trials. Through taking the lead in standardizing endodontic outcomes nomenclature, the AAE could have a broad impact on endodontic treatment globally.

In 2018, we reported that the Board made great progress in the first year of its new strategic plan. Below are the main points of strategic plan discussion from the Board meeting at AAE18:

    • The Board approved moving forward with the “Worth Saving” consumer engagement initiative.
    • Over the course of the past year, the Board has approved white papers and position statements geared at establishing and supporting a single standard of endodontic care. A communications strategy was developed around this content.
    • The Board approved initial steps for a committee to plan an outcomes consensus conference. Development and agreement on common outcomes to be utilized across all clinical research in endodontics will be a significant stride for the specialty. Long term, this will support advocacy efforts by enabling the AAE to objectively communicate the value of endodontic care to key stakeholder groups.
    • In addition, the Board reviewed and approved several revised or new guidelines and position statements. 
    • The AAE is launching a survey geared at identifying the unique needs of international members; these results will help to inform a global member development plan. Additionally, a plan to target domestic recruitment and retention is in development.
    • We promoted the science of endodontics by hosting a joint conference with an international organization.

In early-2019, we released this easy-to-follow Strategic Plan Update video.

Presently, the Board is advancing the strategic plan, having approved additional funding for the strategic initiatives. These areas include:

Goal 1: Continuing our Worth Saving campaign implementation and launching an enhanced Root Canal Safety initiative to help combat misinformation circulating on the internet.

Goal 2: Enabling improvement to pre-doc education consistency and building knowledge of the dental and healthcare environment to support advocacy and business interests of the AAE, endodontists, and other parties of interest; and establishing and implementing tools to enable endodontists to advocate for the priorities of the profession before legislators, state dental boards, ADA and other organizations, and dental directors. Have you checked out our new Advocacy Action Center?

Goal 3: Continue plan implementation, track and report metrics, and promote and advance the science of endodontics internationally.

We have come a long way, but there’s still much to be done. So, team, go out there and give it your best effort. Tout the value of seeing an endodontic specialist. Swing for the fences. Root, root, root (canal) for the home team. If we don’t win, it’s a shame.