State of the Profession: A Reflection with Dr. Richard Reed

U.S. News & World Report once again ranked the Orthodontic Profession among the top 5 Best Jobs, recognizing great jobs as ones that challenge us, are a good match for our talents and skills, pay well, aren’t too stressful, offer room to advance, and provide a satisfying work-life balance. The ability to remedy dental health problems while building meaningful relationships with our patients certainly affords us a gratifying career. Whether the individual is a new graduate, an orthodontist who has reached retirement, or someone in the middle of their career, we hope this to be true.

Over the course of 2017, each of our six NESO eNews publications will feature a State of the Profession as depicted by a NESO Alumni in each decade of life (30’s-80’s). We’ve asked our Alumni to share some of their personal background and experience to shed light on how the profession has evolved, offer explanation of the changes that have occurred, outline how the responsibilities of an orthodontist vary over the course of one’s career, and offer a projection of where our top-ranked profession is headed.

State of the Profession - Reed HeadshotOur March eNews featured Dr. Ron Cortese (80’s) of Rochester, NY. In this month’s publication, we feature Dr. Richard Reed (70’s) of Burlington, VT.

Dr. Reed received his undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont and dental degree from the University of McGill prior to serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. After serving our country, he completed his orthodontic training at the University of Buffalo and then returned to his home state to open his own practice in Burlington, Vermont. What started as a small single office location grew into a practice that included four offices and five doctors.

After 41 years in practice, Dr. Reed gracefully retired and today enjoys spending time with his family and being on the golf course; he remains active in our field working for the State of Vermont, reviewing orthodontic cases for insurance approval.

State of the Profession through the Loupes of Dr. Richard Reed:

After spending three years of undergraduate work at the University of Vermont, I left for the University of McGill dental school with my college sweetheart, Barbara (we’ve been married for 58 years this summer). With four years of dental school behind me and a deferment for school from the Navy during the Vietnam War, my wife, two children and I left for two years at the Great Lakes Illinois Navy base.

While in the Navy for a year and a half, I had the chance to see many of the dental specialties. I had such a great experience in orthodontics at McGill, we decided to apply to orthodontic programs. I was fortunate to be accepted at the University of Buffalo orthodontic program. (We headed off, now with three kids in tow, as well as my father, who said, “Haven’t you had enough education?”).

After receiving my certificate in orthodontics and MS from the graduate school in 1967, we moved back to our hometown of Burlington, Vermont. I knew the start would be difficult, as I was the third orthodontist office to open, and at the time, there was no orthodontic insurance in this small rural state. The practice flourished over the years, and before I retired from Champlain Orthodontic Association, we had five orthodontists and four offices serving the area.

My initial experience in orthodontics under our chairman Dr. John Cunat was .022 edgewise with steel ligation (he felt students would make fewer mistakes with the heavier mechanics). Because of the courses we got to take when at Buffalo, and the Gugino-Ricketts influence, I started with .018 brackets with steel ties. At the start, with no word processing or internet, all records were written—now they have gone paperless. Patients were seen at three- to four-week intervals—now at six- to eight-week intervals. Orthognathic surgery had its beginning in our practice in the early ‘70s and continued to grow. There was the advent of porcelain brackets, Invisalign and self-ligating brackets that helped the profession progress. Toward the end of my time in practice, the new flexible wires made treatment more efficient and TADS were being used to help with anchorage and closing open bites.

My sister, Marilyn, was born with spinal bifida, which stirred my interest in helping children with special needs. Because of this interest, shortly after starting the practice, I attended a week-long course at the Lancaster Cleft Palate Center. With the help of one of the new plastic surgeons, we formed a cleft palate team and continued to see patients in the team format for 35 years.

Because of this involvement, I was able to travel with a global health outreach organization to Hanoi, Vietnam, to lecture and give insight into the up-to-date management in the field of cleft palate treatment. I traveled to Hanoi with a team of plastic surgeons from the Mayo Clinic and a dental team from United States. This experience left us all with empathy for and understanding of the hardships many people in third world countries experience. By sharing our knowledge and experiences, we received so much more than we gave.

One of my most enlightening experiences in practice happened in 1993. I presented my cases for board certification and received my certification in April of that year. I always felt it very important to keep up with the progress in the field of orthodontics by keeping up with continuing education. Giving back to your community, whether it is through a school board, dental organizations or outreach groups, is also important for both the growth of the practice and the orthodontist.

Retiring after 41 years from what has been an enlightening and rewarding career, I was able to stay involved in the field. To ease into retirement, I have kept a job with the State of Vermont Medicaid Department, one day per week, approving orthodontic cases for treatment.

I am encouraged by the future of orthodontics. The orthodontists of today have had excellent training from the universities, and have the ability to enhance the profession with technology and social media. They can connect with patients and families in ways we could not in the past. I feel there continues to be a bright future for the orthodontic profession. Our role in oral health, as well as giving confidence to patients with the power of a beautiful smile, will only enhance and grow the profession for years to come.