by Marc Bernard Ackerman, DMD, MBA

 I am very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to engage in full-time private practice orthodontics and part-time teaching, full-time teaching and part-time orthodontic practice, and believe it or not full-time hospital orthodontic practice with full-time teaching. My current Chief of Dentistry has been an amazing supporter and encourages the concept of the patient-centered practice and resident-centered teaching. She has taught me how to better understand how to connect with the current generation of residents (Millennials). I would offer the suggestion that we ditch this not so flattering term and refer to them as the Aspirationals.

You’re probably thinking we were Aspirationals, so why should this generation be thought of any differently! Trust me, they should. This group is the most educated generation in Western history and is willing to put themselves into tremendous debt to get more and more expensive pieces of paper to hang on the wall.  This group is tech savvy. The Pew Research Center has referred to them as “Digital natives in a land of digital immigrants.” The Aspirationals are the most community minded since the post-depression era in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  They want to make the world a better place and believe that we all can.  They are “conscious capitalists” meaning that they support corporations that benefit all the stakeholders involved including customers, employees, investors, communities, suppliers, and the environment. Take for example the #DeleteUber campaign as a reaction to the allegations of sexual harassment of female employees at Uber. In sum, the Aspirationals are adventurous, nomadic, multi-tasking, confident, results-oriented, and compassionate team players.

So at this point you are probably thinking who is Ackerman talking about? I’ve never met one. Well, therein lies the problem. You get to meet these cool cats after they’ve been ground through dental school and orthodontic residency. They are all not the same people after that experience.  The lock-step dental curriculum does not allow for much deviation and exploration. Orthodontic residency is indoctrination into the dogma of occlusionism.  I was once told by my residency Chair, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!” For those of you who know me, you understand that this comment only made me more of a relentless iconoclast.

The malignant transformation of the Aspirational to the Egotistical is partly our fault. Imagine getting to the end of your formal education, you’re trying to bench press over $250,000 of debt, and you come to the realization that the kind of job you wanted doesn’t necessarily exist. In some cases it never existed. However, in many cases, the allure of orthodontics from a 22 year olds’ perspective may have been way off base. Not to mention the fact that will soon learn that there will be over 400 other graduates this year and perhaps half the number of traditional jobs out there.

Who had the responsibility to mentor the Aspirational in their pursuit of being an orthodontist? We did. What I am trying to convey is that the orthodontic landscape today must be navigated carefully and cautiously. The chance for success is still there but how one defines success is critical to achieving it.

I love practicing orthodontics and I am sure that the readers of do too. So as a community of colleagues let’s help the newbies, the sort-of newbies, and even the oldies but goodies when they’re in a place of need.  That’s my aspiration.

My email is . No matter what you need to talk about, I am happy to listen.