Not all of you knew Dr Vincent “Vince” G. Kokich personally, but many of you did. He was that orthodontist whose versatile knowledge and reputation transcended all disciplines of dentistry. If a member of the dental profession—either generalist or specialist—made any attempt to remain abreast of contemporary advances in orthodontics, Vince was a known entity. His sudden passing shocked us all.
From an ethical perspective, Vince personified the ethics of leadership. In his acceptance of the highly prestigious 2011 Albert H. Ketcham Memorial Award, he humbly explained his major failures and successes. He conveyed his traumatic sense of loss at age 10 when his father drowned at sea. He detailed his joyous discovery of his beloved wife, Marilyn, as well as his disappointment at his initial rejection from dental school. He spoke of that which was ultimately his good fortune—the collapse of a private practice opportunity that led him to his career in teaching, writing, and clinical care that he loved so dearly. His point was that his life, as for us all, was a journey of ups and downs: marred by disappointments, but preserved by resilience and perseverance. Success is not an entitlement or a genetic privilege but, rather, a goal that requires constant pursuit. It was from Vince’s setbacks—and his devoted work ethic—that his leadership qualities arose.
Dr David Chambers, the editor of the Journal of the American College of Dentists , has said that effective leadership arises from 2 perspectives: leading from within yourself, and leading from within your organization. Leading from within yourself demands an honest representation of your own values. The leader must display an authentic example of himself or herself and in so doing set an example for others. The core of the leader’s personal values, if attractive to others, is then emulated in both intent and action. Vince served as such a role model: in his impeccable dress and his articulate expression of his thoughts and beliefs, as he endeavored to develop sound answers to pertinent questions within our specialty. He was often direct in communicating his sentiments, but always honest and genuine. His commitment to that which he believed was obvious.
Leading from within the organization involves motivating your colleagues to do their best. Such leadership was plainly evident in all that Vince did. His contributions to the American Board of Orthodontics, including his strong role in the development of an objective assessment of pretreatment case complexity, to a logical analysis of posttreatment results, to his encouragement of examinees as an American Board of Orthodontics examiner, were all intended to enhance the quality of the examination process and the level of patient care. His frequent involvement in his organization of a multitude of landmark symposiums, including this year’s Biennial Angle Society meeting in Vancouver, are testimonies of the specialty’s respect for his methodical approach to the educational process. His contributions to the orthodontic literature are vast, spanning a plethora of articles, book chapters, and lectures, all with his honest intent to provide as much evidence-based information as possible. And despite the brevity of his tenure as editor-in–chief of the AJO-DO , he had already effectively amplified its eminent prestige that had been established by former editors. Unfortunately, Vince’s untimely passing shortchanged us, his readership, from his insightful, visionary dreams for the future of this publication.
As Chambers so aptly stated, the true value of leadership can be assessed if one were to ask, “Would the organization be as auspicious if that leadership had never arrived?” In the case of Dr Vincent G. Kokich, the answer is obvious.