AAO Advocacy Conference: My Experience


Dr. Aseel Ismail, Boston University

I had the privilege of attending the American Association of Orthodontists Professional Advocacy Conference (AAOPAC) for the first time this year as I am about to finish my orthodontic residency at Boston University. As I reflect on this experience, I am reminded of the profound importance of grassroots advocacy and the integral role each of us plays in advocating for equitable, safe, and quality-driven orthodontic care.
One of the key takeaways from AAOPAC was the significance of grassroots advocacy. At its core, this approach emphasizes the power of advocacy and lobbying to influence change. The conference highlighted the idea that collective efforts, no matter how small, can contribute to the broader impact. It underscored the importance of engaging with our orthodontic community and fostering a sense of shared responsibility for our profession: to be the voices advocating for ourselves, our colleagues, our patients, and our communities. There are many facets to advocacy that converge to ensure legislative success at both state and national levels. Moreover, I learned that the legislative process is lengthy and requires collaborative and consistent efforts to achieve our objectives.
The event also provided me with a unique opportunity to learn from the experiences of established colleagues, revealing the evolving landscape of orthodontics and the distinct challenges we face at various career stages, whether those of residents, new practitioners, or the more established orthodontists.
Lastly, as with every event, I had the pleasure of connecting with fellow residents, future colleagues, and mentors who came together as a warm, welcoming, and empowering interconnected community!
Dr. Matthew Evers, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

During the last week of February, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) hosted their annual Professional Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C. This yearly conference provides an opportunity for AAO members to raise awareness to legislators for the most pressing and current issues facing the field of orthodontics. As a second-year resident serving as the American Dental Association and Dental Specialty State Liaison for Massachusetts through the AAO’s National Advocacy Network, I had the privilege of representing the Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s residency program and participating on a resident-led panel titled “The Changing Faces of Orthodontics.”
Among the many important topics that were discussed over the two-day conference, the primary concerns revolved around the ongoing student loan debt crisis, the intersection of teledentistry and access to quality dental care, consumer protection and the looming presence of direct-to-consumer aligner products, and the improvement of healthcare benefits to ensure that orthodontic care is available to the patients who need it most. As a resident, having the chance to speak directly to U.S. senators, listen to seasoned orthodontists grapple with these subjects, and share my first-hand experiences on several of these matters was invaluable. Attending this conference emphasized the critical role that advocacy plays in protecting our profession, but more importantly, protecting our patients.
Acquiring the skills necessary to advocate for policies that ensure safe and equitable oral healthcare for our patients is of paramount importance. As doctors, our communities depend on us to preserve their right to quality orthodontic care; however, in an era of rapidly evolving legislation and technology that constantly changes the face of our clinical work, we are faced with novel and challenging obstacles. Regardless, we must maintain the notion that our patients deserve to receive the highest standards of care, and we must collaborate to shield them from legislation that prevents them from doing so. Attending this conference has undoubtedly inspired me to continue honing my interest in policy and advocacy within the field of orthodontics, with the goal of the continued promotion of our beloved profession.