According to Wikipedia, “Enlightened self-interest is a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong), ultimately serve their own self-interest.

It has often been simply expressed by the belief that an individual, group, or even a commercial entity will “do well by doing good”.

In orthodontics, as individual practitioners, enlightened self interest would entail things like making the profession look good by doing good work, looking out for patients’ best interests, taking and releasing transfer cases for a reasonable fee and being nice about it, teaching in a residency program and helping young orthodontists learn our trade and generally raising the bar.

As a group, such as in a membership organization, enlightened self interest would include advancing the profession through research, educating the next generation, advocating for the profession, educating the public about orthodonTISTS (as opposed to promoting orthodonTICS) and putting the best interests of the profession over ego, ambition and personal agendas.

Unfortunately, those of us in practice have traditionally been isolated and focused solely on our own self interests. Worse still, most of those who lead our membership organization have lost sight of the group’s mission, have come to believe the organization is the product and believe “time in service” is the currency that dictates  who’s personal agenda will be passed in the next session.

So what’s the big deal you ask?

When individual practitioners don’t act with enlightened self interest we become isolated, unhappy, unfulfilled and forget how to learn from or play nicely with others. In doing so we miss out on a wealth of knowledge and opportunity and camaraderie. When our membership organization loses sight of “doing well by doing good” we worry more about the survival of the organization than the survival of the profession, play politics to push through personal agendas and spend member money we cannot afford on things we don’t need.

So what can we do?

Lots of stuff!! Get connected! Get educated! Get involved! Get moving! Speak up! Ask questions! Demand transparency from our member organization! The various groups available today (such as ProOrtho, Orthodontic Exchange, Ortho101, Conversations Among Canadian Orthodontists, etc) are becoming incredibly powerful networks that allow unprecedented access to information about our profession, our patients and our membership organization while connecting practitioners on a personal level. Join some or all of these groups and and become enlightened in pursuit of your self interest. The profession will live or die based on how we all choose to pursue our self interest.

By the way, does anyone know where the AAO Board of Trustees and their entourage are spending the week after the AAO annual session? I do. Perhaps you should ask your Trustee why, how much it’s costing us and how such a junket is advancing the profession.