IN THE BEGINNING the journey.
Louis I Grossman Luncheon, American Association of Endodontists April 7, 2005 Dallas, Texas.
When you are asked to give a talk on the history of anything it proves only one thing; that is – you’ve been around a long time and perhaps too long! I’ve been asked to talk about the origins of the College of Diplomates, which was officially organized here in Dallas almost 10 years ago.
Stuart B. Fountain D.D.S., M.Sc. (Dent.)
Louis I Grossman Luncheon American Association of Endodontists April 7, 2005 Dallas, Texas
To understand the background behind the formation of the College you need to follow a winding pathway over more than 50 years. And I hasten to add that I was not at the starting line of that 50 year path! To get perspective let’s start with the establishment of the American Association of Endodontists. Interestingly Dr. Louis Grossman had sent out an invitation for his friends to come to the formation of the “American Root Therapy Association.”
The AAE was formed on February 25, 1943 at the Palmer House in Chicago, in the midst of World War II. There were 19 or 20 Founders there that night. All the “Saints” of endodontics were there that evening including Drs. Louis Grossman, Edgar Coolidge, Harry B. Johnston and Ralph Sommer . At that time endodontics was still trying to overcome the stigma of “focal infection” within the profession and in the minds of the public. I’ve always looked at these men as truly courageous pioneers. But it took 20 more years of work and documented scientific research to largely overcome the image of “focal infection” and accumulate the body of scientific knowledge about endodontics, plus political persuasion within the American Dental Association before Endodontics was approved as the 8th specialty of Dentistry.
On October 17, 1963 The House of Delegates of the American Dental Association formally approved Endodontics as the 8th specialty during its Annual Session in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was a voice vote and I’ve been told by some who were in the room that day that it was a close voice vote. It just so happened that Dr. Darl Ostrander of Michigan ( the same Ostrander as ” Sommer, Ostrander and Crowley’s textbook on Endodontics”) was Speaker of the House of Delegates and was presiding that day. It was his interpretation that the voice vote was in the affirmative and declared that the Resolution passed. Talk about getting a winning tip-in at the buzzer that was one that has affected all of our careers! (JADA: 67:p.708, Nov. 1963)
To be recognized as a specialty it was necessary to have an official Certifying Board. Consequently the American Board of Endodontics was promptly established after gaining ADA approval with many of the great people of endodontic fame being members of the first Board. I was a junior in Dental School in 1963 and when I got my first “A” in dental school in Endo that Fall and then heard about this new specialty of Endodontics having been established, which meant a wide open playing field to run in, my career path was set! And a year later I told my wife I needed more schooling ! It was the second best decision I ever made after marrying her!
Things were great for the next 25 years. We’re gradually getting more graduate programs and more graduates from those programs. We’re steadily getting more diplomates, but not in the numbers we are getting here today. I think there were only 6-8 of us who were certified as diplomates in 1970.
Then a major, major setback occurred in 1989. The Council on Dental Education of the American Dental Association had a review of all of the 8 dental specialties to redetermine if they justified their specialty status. It was an attempt at recertifying entire specialties! We prepared a lot of material and submitted it to the Council. Then the shock hit. 2 specialties had been put on hold for further review, Pedodontics and Endodontics!! You can imagine the shock waves that went through the AAE. Could it be that our specialty as a whole would have our certification withdrawn?! Could it be that we’ve spent years in training, in developing graduate programs and have it all declared invalid?! The Council on Dental Education was questioning whether there was a sufficient “body of knowledge” about endodontics to justify our existence as a specialty. For the past 4 years we had put together the justification for our status as a specialty! The agonizing hold was subsequently lifted after superior leadership by Joe Maggio and Gerry Deitz, we were recertified, and our status as a respected specialty has continued.
That traumatic experience on the AAE and its membership stimulated a variety of responses. It pointed out the need for continuing quality research in the field of endodontics, but that would take a lot of money. So the AAE Foundation campaign was ramped up to the amazing 20 million dollar figure it is today. ( 15.7 Million invested in 2005, plus 5.1 Million in outstanding pledges) It also increased our individual determination to be involved in the affairs of the ADA at the highest leadership level. Over the next 15 years we have had numerous members of Councils, Chairs of Councils, at least 4 ADA Trustees, 3 ADA Vice Presidents, the current ADA treasurer Mark Feldman, and finally in 2001 we got our first ADA President Dr. Greg Chadwick, who will be remembered as one of the great ADA Presidents. We always want to be in a position to make sure that embarrassment of potentially having our certification as a specialty taken away from us, never happens again. I pause here to challenge all the diplomates in this room to be involved in the affairs of your local and state Associations and in the ADA. It’s not only good for your practice, it’s also good for our specialty, and for the entire dental profession. And you’ll have a lot of fun and make a lot of life long friends along the way.
You can imagine that the American Board of Endodontics was also shaken by the possible loss of our specialty certification. The members of the Board looked for ways to increase the numbers of candidates for Board certification as well as successful diplomates. It was felt that the Board exams were so intimidating that not many of the specialty program graduates were even considering going through the arduous certification process. But we needed to increase the number of diplomates to further strengthen the justification of the specialty. And they were not going to water down the exam process to do it!! What was needed was a “coach”, a mentor for these potential candidates to guide the candidate, and to provide a source of encouragement plus a friendly face and voice in the process.
We also needed to provide more recognition for the successful candidates and generally elevate the status of a certified Board diplomate. The Board was already handling the arrangements for this Grossman luncheon for example. But the members of the Board were so involved with the case history reviews and the examinations they just didn’t have the time to provide these functions. Plus a Board member couldn’t mentor someone he would later examine.
The Birth of the College of Diplomates …
A couple of the other specialties had an organization called the College of Diplomates that provided support to their Board to do some of these things. In talking among themselves the members of the American Board of Endodontics came to the consensus that what we needed was a College of Diplomates.
It all started at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu…..
In 1993 I had the true privilege of serving as AAE President during the celebration of our 50th anniversary back in Chicago. So when the AAE meeting was held in Honolulu in 1994 I was relaxed, laid back and enjoying the meeting and visiting my friends. I’ll never forget, and I can visualize it right now, having Dr. Lamar Hicks, who was then President of the American Board of Endodontics, approach me in the courtyard of the Rainbow Hilton on Waikiki Beach and say, “Stuart, you got a few minutes. I need to talk with you a few minutes. Let me buy you a drink.” The next time someone says that to me I will recognize it’s going to cost me money or time or both!
So here we are, Lamar Hicks and I, and I think that Lou Rossman and Sandy Madison were in on that first round of Mai Tai’s, talking about this new concept for Endo called a College of Diplomates. In retrospect I recognize that not only had the Board decided they needed a College of Diplomates they also had decided they needed a flag bearer, (slave ?) for the College of Diplomates and they were closing in on me like one of Captain Hicks’s guided missiles!!
The Board needed a College of Diplomates but they couldn’t create it themselves. They didn’t have the time. Two days later we called an impromptu meeting of all the Diplomates we could catch in the hall and asked them to listen to the concept. We had gathered 23 Diplomates to talk about it in an impromptu manner. After explanation and discussion there was general consensus that such a thing would be good for the specialty. We were encouraged to put together a draft Constitution and Bylaws and bring it to the AAE meeting the next year in Orlando where we could talk about it further and give it additional thought.
So we began to pull together a draft Constitution and Bylaws. During that year we got encouragement from the officers of the Board, Lou Rossman, Ed Skidmore and Sandy Madison. But we also had our detractors who said, “what do we need another organization to pay dues to and cause us to go to more meetings!”
We arranged for a room the next year in Orlando in April 1995. We publicized the meeting and talked it up in the hallways. When the meeting started we again explained the concept and distributed the draft Constitution and Bylaws. This time we had more diplomates in the room, about 40 – 50 people, and we had a draft of a Constitution and Bylaws for them to look at. Again there was a strong consensus of the group that we should continue on and bring the official Constitution and Bylaws to an official vote at the next AAE meeting in Dallas in 1996. We formed an interim Board of Directors composed of Lamar Hicks, Lou Rossman, Leif Bakland, Martha Proctor, Eric Rivera and myself. Lamar Hicks and Lou Rossman were to develop the finalized Constitution and Bylaws, Leif Bakland and Lamar worked on the instructions for mentors and Martha Proctor and Eric Rivera were to recruit recent diplomates to serve as mentors. My job was to get the official approval of the AAE Executive Committee and Board of Directors to create the College.
By April 1996 all of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. The leadership of the AAE was fully aware of our work and had no objections, the formal Constitution and Bylaws had been prepared and the beginnings of a Mentor Manual were in place. We had arranged for an auditorium room here at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas and widely publicized the purpose and meeting time prior to and during the AAE meeting. We distributed the Constitution and Bylaws and had about 45 minutes of spirited discussion.
One of the happiest days of my professional life was when we got a strong vote of support and approval of the Constitution and Bylaws. It was April 26 ,1996 and that is the date we claim as the birth of the College of Diplomates. For those of us on that initial Board of Directors there was a tremendous sense of validation of our efforts over the previous year. To quote Lou Rossman, “I loved the loud ‘Aye’ vote but when we waited that long 4 or 5 seconds for the ‘Nay” vote that no one voiced, a shiver ran up my spine as I realize I was witnessing the birth of a new organization for the benefit of the specialty of Endodontics.” We were absolutely thrilled that we had 156 Diplomates to sign up at that meeting to be Charter Members. We had prepared a slate of officers and Directors and they were approved as well.
Ace Goerig resigned during the year and was replaced by Ed Strittmatter as a Director. Having reached that milestone we scrambled over the next couple of years to get officially chartered in the State of Illinois, which finally happened on March 20, 1997 but that’s just a legal date. We had to develop a dues structure and collect dues. We set up an opportunity for Life Membership because we needed operating money fast. We are eternally grateful for the 68 Life members. Tom Mork did a tremendous job of holding the organization together while moving his office and having back surgery, all the while tabulating dues for nearly 400 new members and taking minutes during the bi-monthly coast-to-coast conference calls.
The Logo had to be created and adopted. It so happened that I was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of my local community college at the time. So I arranged with the Graphic Arts department to hold a competition in the graphic arts class for the best logo design. We put up a prize of $500 for the winner.