The president of the AAO Foundation Board of Directors provides a status report on the Foundation’s initiatives and work for the specialty. 

By Orhan C. Tuncay, DMD, FCPP

When asked to support a cause, the inevitable question is “What’s in it for me?” Indeed, justified. That’s why the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) Foundation has been working with one purpose: Looking after the practicing orthodontist and their patients. 

The AAO Foundation was created to preserve the specialty of orthodontics, based on the belief that orthodontists don’t want to relinquish their “specialist” status. The Foundation was set up to work with orthodontists as a group and to build an endowment fund where the interest accrued would support advances in the field. This model has subsequently been adopted by other specialties in dentistry with much success. 

Today’s AAO Foundation is keen to fund AAO members’ research projects to create new knowledge, new materials, and novel technologies. The Foundation seeks out advances that are so special that they may only be employed by the orthodontic specialist. It is focused on securing the future of orthodontics for the orthodontist—and for the orthodontic manufacturers. I believe, it will be a sad day when orthodontists are asked to call themselves dentists and not orthodontists. 

As president of the AAO Foundation Board of Directors, I wanted to give you an update on the initiatives the Foundation has undertaken in the last year and their impact. The following initiatives are now part of the AAOF-Board of Directors mission. 

Residents’ Inclusion

Among the most exciting is the inclusion of orthodontic residents as board members. Their presence has led to decisions that have been spectacularly successful. These resident directors are responsible for the distribution of the Fred A. Garrett Resident Gift awards to all orthodontic residents, which offsets their costs to attend the Annual Sessions. We, as a board, foresee how these gifts will yield stronger bonding and networking among all residents for the duration of their careers. 

Also on the resident front, the Foundation has committed to an initiative aimed at finding a means to enable residents to start a retirement plan while in their residency. The Residents’ Retirement Plan (RRP) would allow residents to keep adding to their retirement portfolio over the course of their career. Our hope is that through the RRP, residents will realize the importance of having started planning for retirement early and the power of compound interest. The Foundation aspires to support every orthodontist from residency to retirement. 

Annual Session

As part of this year’s virtual Annual Session, the Foundation organized and sponsored “The Business of Orthodontics” virtual seminar series. These presentations were timely, powerful, and inspirational. We were pleased to see that these sessions connected with attendees. AAO Foundation Board Member and Gaidge CEO Ryan Moynihan’s session “Mastering the Patient Journey: Mapping Success and Profitability Using Business Intelligence and Data Visualization” had 3,694 attendees, while fellow Board Member and Partner at Bentson Copple & Associates Chris Bentson had 3,700 attendees at his session, “Trends for the Next Decade, Practice Modality Options, Valuation Norms.” And tax attoryney, CPA, and MBA John McGill’s session, titled “Create the Synergy for Your Financial Success,” had 3,247 attendees. 

Rapid Assessment of Evidence

We have seen a great response to our Rapid Assessment of Evidence (RAE) initiative. Through this program, any AAO member can submit a request to assess the evidence behind a new product before sinking money into it. To initiate an assessment, AAO members fill out a form on the AAO Foundation website and supply information on contacts and leads to aid the investigation’s early stages. Findings from this collaboration between industry and academia are expected to help manufacturers improve products and to create accompanying products. Reports from the RAE review committees will be published in the AJO-DO

Grants Applications for Business of Orthodontics and COVID-19 Research

PARC, the Planning and Awards Review Committee, is at the core of the AAO Foundation’s actives. Recognizing the external forces that are trying to take over orthodontics, the committee announced its interest in receiving grant applications to study the “business of orthodontics.” PARC hopes this will be a rewarding opportunity for orthodontic faculty to collaborate with their counterparts in their universities’ MBA programs. In addition, PARC recently announced its interest in receiving applications to study COVID-19 related topics. These proposals can be in biological sciences or practice management. 

We Need Your Support

These novel initiatives join our existing programs such as GORP, PARC grants, and the like. And like our existing programs, these new initiatives are funded through donations from the AAO membership and orthodontic staff. 

Board member Rosemary Bray has worked to inspire her colleagues and orthodontic staff members to donate and be part of the Foundation. There are so many ways to give. 

As Bentson puts it, the work of the AAO Foundation is not just about funding grants.

“If the orthodontists and companies who have benefited from this great specialty do not give back, the future will not be the same,” Bentson said. “I see it as a responsibility. Also, it is an honor. I think we simply need to continue to evolve before we disappear. As I talk to doctors and have them remember back through their career why they chose the specialty, it was to change people’s lives. Giving is a way to maintain the specialty so that we can continue to do what we do for years to come.” 

AAO Trustee John Callahan, and long-time member of the Keystone Society, echoes this sentiment.

“I am at a stage where I look back at what orthodontics has done for me personally and I certainly want to give back to my profession,” Callahan said. “As somebody writing my estate, I want to make sure my monies go directly to what is important to me. The one place I know for sure that is going to happen is with the Foundation, which is ensuring we have the best research and education possible. So family first, supporting the profession second—but definitely both are a part of my estate.” OP

Orhan C. Tuncay, DMD, is president of the AAO Foundation Board of Directors, the charitable arm of the American Association of Orthodontists. A professor in the department of orthodontics at Temple University, Tuncay is in private practice in Philadelphia. He is also a member of the Orthodontic Products Editorial Advisory Board.