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Engaged Together in a Great Undertaking

Dear Members,

Well, I can certainly confirm that my Presidential year has begun like no other in AAE history. It is safe to say these past weeks have been among some of the most tumultuous and emotional that any of us can remember in our lifetimes. Individuals and families, companies and communities have felt the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, across the United States and around the world. The response to this crisis has been extraordinary; as much for what it has required from our society as for what it has revealed of us as a people.

Far from causing division and discord, this crisis and the social distancing it has required, has allowed us to witness something profound and moving about ourselves: our fond and deeply felt wish to be connected with one another. Many of the things I wished to say to you all in person during my acceptance speech were necessary to communicate to you by my virtual presence on a computer screen. While I hope my message resonated with many of you who watched, I feel compelled, in this my first presidential editorial, to make sure, especially in addressing our younger membership, to let everyone know how I wish to approach our future together, and where I have come from in my own personal journey.

It is my privilege and great honor to assume the position of President of the American Association of Endodontists in the coming year. It is a privilege because personally, I can think of many stories my grandfather told me, that  a little over 100 years he risked everything to come to this country from Russia knowing if he stayed in his village in Russia, he would have been conscripted to fight on the front line of the Czar’s Army against the Bolsheviks. He left with his family to reside in Kiev until he received permission to travel to the United States. How many of you reading this message right now are children of immigrants that have sacrificed for you? I have often listened to the names of our resident award winners over the years and those names reflect the changing dynamic and backgrounds of our future endodontists and our own AAE. It is an understanding that new immigrants have recognized throughout our history; that a ticket to the middle class and advancement within our society often comes fastest, through schooling and joining a profession, frequently within healthcare. Look at the doctors and scientists we have witnessed on television facing this menacing pandemic. They are names that we certainly recognize as universally part of our immigrant fabric in America. The future of the American Association of Endodontists is our young membership. A multitude of backgrounds and cultures with a common purpose and cause. You will be the leaders of our future and there is no greater way to honor those who sacrificed so much for us to be here than to contribute and support our remarkable specialty.

I have personally felt the dedication and devotion to the AAE of our past president, Dr. Keith Krell. Recently, I asked staff to show me Dr. Krell’s history of almost 40 years of service to the AAE and I was astounded. In looking at a list of 70 or more contributions to our Association on that list, including President of the American Board of Endodontics, President of our Foundation for Endodontics and now past-President of the AAE, it is a remarkable record of dedication to our Association and each one of us has benefitted from his leadership. He has truly shown us a way to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Another major inspiration in my life was the man who I had met early in my career and decided I wished to study with as an Endodontic resident at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life and it influenced me as much as anything in my background. Sam Seltzer, who was my program director, was a gift. He inspired, challenged and held you accountable for being the best you could be. When Sam was not traveling for a lecture or presentation, we were very lucky to have been able to sit with him every morning and engage in all kinds of conversations. Sam had a million jokes… most of which would be terribly incorrect today, but the bonding that occurred with us residents was very personal and meaningful. When educating his students, if you asked a question, Sam Seltzer would not answer…. but ask you another question.  He was the consummate teacher.

And so, here we are today. We all have our own experiences. We all got here through the efforts and hard work and dreams of those who came before us.  We have an obligation to make our specialty stand above the fray. To participate in our leadership and to support our ideals. I promise to spend every day of this my Presidential year, to promote Endodontics and to advocate for Endodontists. To promote with all my energy the importance of our work in maintaining health and the value of saving your natural dentition by utilizing the skills that only a specialist can provide. I will promote our competency guidelines to every group I encounter and I will argue to third party payers that utilizing an endodontist makes sense economically because paying for a root canal by a practitioner who does not have the skill and knowledge makes no sense economically when you must pay a second time for someone with the skill and understanding to retreat it the right way. Our specialty deserves strong advocacy. We have so many valuable and important position statements on endodontic safety and the importance of saving your natural dentition in health. Our Colleagues for Excellence series of monographs demonstrate our willingness to educate and share our distinctive specialty with others. Our “white papers” on competence in our field and what the standard of practice should be for anyone who wishes to perform endodontics on a patient are touchstones for our specialty. We, endodontists, determine those standards and our White Papers are very clear regarding the norms that must be upheld in diagnosis, treatment planning, and the treatment of endodontics on a patient. They are intended to identify the competence required in order to protect patients as well as inform third parties who deliver and pay for care, our schools and State boards, etc. Additionally, as an interested third party, the legal profession is just as attentive to our competency papers in determining the kind of negligent care that injures; and unfortunately, patients can suffer serious injury from negligent endodontic care.

Therefore, the leadership of the AAE is in your corner, and I hope you have visited our website numerous times during this pandemic to witness how the AAE is fighting for you and our patients. We are tirelessly promoting and advocating for endodontics and endodontists. We need your collaboration and we need your volunteerism. We need you to support our Foundation so that we can fund the research necessary to keep our discipline strong and up-to-date. We need you to become Diplomates in order to show the world we belong to our own special mastery of  knowledge and science …. and finally, we need to support each other because we are all engaged….together…. in a great undertaking during a crisis that affects us all.