Although I agree with the general tenor of the May editorial (Kokich VG. It’s our duty! Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop 2011;139:573), I must take issue with the title and tag line: “It’s our duty!” Service to the community is an important component of any profession, but this service can take many forms; it is not mandatory for a professional to provide free treatment to those who might benefit from our services. Whereas I respect the efforts of the organizations mentioned in the editorial, we don’t all “need to play a part in this [particular] noble service.”
Community service can take many forms, including participation in social, political, and religious organizations. Professional service can include serving as an officer in organized dentistry, serving as a part-time educator, or combining community and professional service by serving on a cleft palate-craniofacial team. I believe that many of us provide pro-bono or reduced-fee orthodontic treatment to members of our communities (hopefully, by design), but many of us have also dealt with the difficulties involved with participation in federal or state assistance programs. Unfortunately, although most patients are grateful for the care we provide, too many value the treatment based on their own out-of-pocket costs: ie, it’s worth what they paid for it.