** Originally published as the Editor’s Note for the Q2, 2016 Edition of The Progressive Orthodontist Magazine We orthodontists love tradition and once again it’s time for our favorite, the AAO Annual Session. It’s not surprising that the meeting that’s been around the longest and is put on by the group that was founded first is our favorite because, by nature, we abhor change and love a substantial lineage. That being said, it’s interesting what people talk about most when they describe their annual session experience. By far the most popular activity is “catching up with friends and classmates from across the country and around the world” and that is an awesome thing that I enjoy as well but it’s also interesting to point out that this could be done anywhere, anytime and for a lot less money! “Walking the exhibit hall” is easily the second most favorite activity. I also enjoy checking out what the vendors have to offer, but I find it ironic that the vendors pay big bucks to be there, AND the members also pay big bucks to have the privilege of being sold. That wouldn’t be so bad except we ALSO pay a couple of grand in annual dues to the AAO… I find it strange that we so docilely accept this financial arrangement when we will fiercely fight over every nickel and dime when it comes to other aspects of our practices. “I’m an AAO member because I need the Professional Liability insurance” I hear all too often, and that is usually combined with, “the AAOIC rates are as good or slightly better than other insurance companies.” This may be true, but you need to remember that there is nothing magical or different about the AAOIC insurance, AND you have to pay a couple grand in dues annually to access this awesome pricing so be sure to include the cost of your AAO dues in your rate comparison. “I like to go to the AAO annual session for the interesting, relevant and fresh speakers. I especially like the wide variety of speakers I’ve never heard before…”, said no one, ever. And that’s sad. If nothing else the AAO annual session should be THE showcase of the best the profession has to offer but instead it’s a dusty old menagerie of tired old speakers getting paid big bucks to do the same old speeches they have been doing for the last 20 years. The AAO speaker lineup reminds me of a grandmother’s plate or spoon collection that’s comprised of items that were once dearly loved… and gets about the same amount of attention from annual session attendees. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule when it comes to AAO speakers, but they are far too few given the large number of brilliant minds and successful practitioners out there. While I’m on the subject I have to ask, why does the AAO pay speakers to have access to our membership? Shouldn’t it be the other way around – whether it’s a vendor or someone promoting themselves and their brand? I can see letting the academics speak for free because we can never get enough talk about rat mandibles but beyond that speakers should have to pay to play and the revenue used to offset member expenses. The way the system currently works just supports an old boy network of bland speakers who don’t offend and don’t risk saying anything new or interesting for fear of not getting invited back for another paycheck next year. Many of these orthodontist orators are truly “professional speakers” and literally make more money speaking than they do in practice. Some of the speakers have never practiced or failed trying to practice, yet they are presented as business and culture experts. Some AAO speakers even supplement their income by teaching non-orthodontists how to do orthodontics. I know it’s amazing and unbelievable but none of these “small issues” stop these regulars from being “experts” that our member organization holds up as examples for young doctors and residents to admire and emulate. Of course people have the right teach PCDs ortho or do whatever they want on their own time, but does it make sense for The American Association of ORTHODONTISTS to promote and pay them big bucks? It does if you’re a member of the old boy network I guess. However, people are becoming aware, and awareness is the first step in meaningful change. This year’s annual session might get interesting if those who are disenchanted actually show up and speak up. But it probably won’t if I know orthodontists like I think I do. As a contrast to the AAO, we have a fantastic magazine for you this quarter. Dr. David Butler is our Cover Doc, and he’s a shining example of all that is right in the world of orthodontics. We have a big issue packed with awesome content this quarter so be sure to check it out, cover to cover. We even have teeth pictures here and there for your viewing pleasure and the world’s first Orthodontic Centerfold. See you in the exhibit hall! P.S. If you want to attend a meeting filled with Professional Doers instead of “professional speakers”, you need to check out The 2016 MKS Forum. Last year was awesome. Ask anyone who attended. You won’t be disappointed! Ben
The AAO Annual Session Is The. Best. Thing. Ever.