How many of you reading this editorial have participated in teaching orthodontic residents at an accredited graduate program in the United States or Canada? Many of you participate as part-time clinical faculty with a commitment of 1 day per month up to 1 or 2 days per week. Part-time faculty members are truly the backbone of orthodontic education. I can remember back to my orthodontic residency and the immense amount of valuable clinical information that I gleaned from the part-time clinical faculty, all of whom had private practices in the nearby community.
Where do these part-timers learn their teaching skills? With whom do they share or pass along their techniques and experiences? Is there a place where these valuable members of the corps of educators can find camaraderie and support? Until now, the answer was no. But that dilemma will soon change.
A grass-roots effort has been underway for the past several years to establish a means by which orthodontic teaching faculty, both full- and part-time, can learn from one another and have a voice in the development of educational curricula for future orthodontic residents. Currently, matters of national interest that deal with orthodontic education are delegated to the Council on Education, which is responsible to the Board of Trustees of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). This council is composed primarily of full-time educators from orthodontic programs in the United States and Canada. However, this council is not, nor was it ever, intended to be a source of faculty development, sharing, and learning.
The American Dental Education Association is an organization to which many full-time orthodontic faculty members belong; it meets annually in conjunction with the American Association of Dental Research. However, this group comprises academicians from all disciplines in dentistry and, frankly, has not provided the context for most full-time orthodontic educators, and certainly has not focused on the needs of part-time orthodontic faculty.
In an attempt to provide a vehicle through which orthodontic educators, both full- and part-time, will have a source for learning, sharing, and developing pertinent teaching skills, the idea for the Society of Orthodontic Educators was born. When this idea was originally proposed, there was concern that this effort would set up a separate organization that could create potential future conflict. Therefore, it was decided that the Society of Orthodontic Educators would be incorporated into and advisory to the Council on Education of the AAO. This arrangement satisfied the organizers, and the Society has now been officially created and will have its first meeting during the AAO Annual Session in Philadelphia in May 2013.
The organizers of the Society of Orthodontic Educators strongly believe that this association of orthodontic teachers will be the voice for all educators of the AAO. This will be the grass-roots group to which the Council on Education will turn for information, ideas, and guidance regarding educational issues that face orthodontic departments in the United States and Canada. To that end, the Society of Orthodontic Educators is not just for chairpersons, full-time faculty, and career educators. After all, the bulk of clinical education is actually performed by part-time volunteers who not only are extremely valuable, but also need to be nurtured and listened to for their ideas on how to continually improve the educational process.
The Society of Orthodontic Educators will be a forum for faculty development for both full- and part-time faculty, with opportunities to share experiences, materials, and ideas about how to deliver quality educational experiences to the orthodontic residents who will be the future of our specialty.
So, when you read about the Society of Orthodontic Educators soon and have the opportunity to become part of this grass-roots effort to improve orthodontic education, please join this group and plan to attend its inaugural meeting on the day before the AAO Annual Session in Philadelphia. Look for information with the registration materials for this meeting. How do we ensure that the quality of orthodontic education will strengthen and improve in the years to come? By supporting the Society of Orthodontic Educators.