Healthy relationships require a nurturing of respect, a steadfast commitment to truth-telling and transparency. In advance of making any decision or making declarations of right and wrong, we should ask ourselves, “is this action for my best welfare, your best welfare or both of our best welfare?” Predicating one’s actions on the what’s only good for ourselves is a terrible way to go through life. This is how some of us get into trouble with our family, our colleagues and our patients and balancing the scales is a constant internal struggle for all of us. The greater the authority and prestige one possesses, the more measured one must be in the assessment. So when someone in leadership or prominence acts in a selfish and self-important way, it’s not good for them, their community or the orthodontic specialty.
In our discussion of the July 2016 AJODO ethics article by Greco, Grubb and Vaden, we presented to you an ad rem argument against intolerance and elitism rather than one that was ad hominem. The articles’ calling out dissimilar colleagues as immoral is just downright mean spirited and needed to be addressed no matter the status and perceived importance of the authors.
We have found that the reason why prominent orthodontists get away with this type of behavior is their self-professed altruism toward the specialty. According to them, tehy do everything out of the love for the purity of the game and to root out any Pete Rose who might bet the other way. Well, we aren’t convinced of the selflessness of intolerants and thought we’d shed some light and heat on the truthiness of orthodontic altruism. Below is the 2014 IRS 990 form for The Charles H. Tweed International Foundation for orthodontic research and education. Many orthodontists believe that the course directors and course instructors graciously give 3 weeks out of the year to teach neophyte orthodontists how to practice clinically. This is certainly what they tell everyone. If you were only to read page 7 part VII, you would see no reported compensation to officers, directors, trustees or key employees and this would reinforce the selfless construct. However, if you move on to page 10, part IX, you see that the course director fees are $226,124. It so happens that there are 2 course co-directors and an assistant course director who give the 3 1-week courses. This would mean that evenly divided they would each receive $75,374 (in case you were wondering we verified this fact). Wait a minute, the foundation’s Executive Director is also a co-course director, so there goes the loophole to part VII’s non-compensated leadership. Not a bad 3-week gig.
To be clear we have zero problem with someone, anyone making money for rendering a service. People should be paid for producing results and the greater the results, the greater the pay. That’s the American way! The problems arise when people pretend to be doing things out of the “goodness of their hearts” and to “sacrificing of themselves for the greater good” or claim to have “no vested interest” while tipping the scales and the policies of the establishment, the AAO, the ABO or the various orthodontic residency programs in their favor. All the while denying that they have any interest in doing so other than “defending the profession”.
What motivated our decision to point this out to you? Your welfare and the welfare of the orthodontic specialty. Next time you’re sold a bill of goods by a group/person who portrays themselves as altruistic or well-meaning, you better take out the bullsh$t meter and test it out! Follow the money. Those who are most tolerant tend to be those who are most transparent and truthful. The intolerants…not so much.
Marc Ackerman & Ben Burris