State of the Profession: A Reflection
U.S. News And 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 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 features 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.
Our previous eNews publications have featured Dr. Ron Cortese (80’s) of Rochester, NY and Dr. Richard Reed (70’s) of Burlington, VT. This month’s publication we feature Dr. Ron Bellohusen (60’s) of Elmira, NY.
Dr. Ron Bellohusen received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh prior to being drafted and serving our country as a junior Naval Officer. He later returned to receive both a Masters Degree in Organic Chemistry and his Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry from the University of Pittsburgh. During his time in dental school Dr. Bellohusen served as National President of the American Student Dental Association. He spent 14 years in general practice before completing his orthodontic residency at the Eastman Institute for Oral Heath and starting his orthodontic practice in Elmira, NY. Dr. Bellohusen is ABO Board Certified and a Clinical Associate Professor at the Department of Orthodontic and Dentofacial Orthopedics at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health. He is the current Secretary of the North Atlantic Component of the Edward H. Angle Society, on the Board of NYSSO, and a member of CDABO, the American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists, and Pierre Fauchard Academy. Outside of the office, he enjoys traveling, sailing and spending time with his family in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of New York!
State of the Profession Through The Loupes of Dr. Ron Bellohusen:
The journey that has brought me to this point in my professional career in orthodontics has indeed been a convoluted one. Always interested in biomedical research, I began with an early post-college position as a research technician at the National Heart Institute, Bethesda. This was interrupted by the draft and a two and one half year tour as a junior Naval Officer. Upon release, I was accepted into the PhD Program in Organic Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, ultimately anticipating a combined MD/PhD degree and a return to the National Institutes for Health, as a principle investigator. However, my younger brother, also on his way to an MD degree, and I were discouraged by several physicians, who were dissatisfied with medicine as a career, and research funding was in significant decline. We decided that dentistry held more promise than medicine, providing autonomy and independence in a health care profession, and not requiring the extended indentured service in the form of post-doctoral internship and residency. I completed my Masters Degree in Organic Chemistry and we were both accepted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. We obtained a well-rounded education with advanced training opportunities in all of the specialties. I was also active politically and served as the ASDA National President and Board Chairman. Dr. Viken Sassouni was Chairman of the Orthodontic Program and I was offered a resident position. However, my wife Gail and our children of three and five had seen little of me during graduate and dental school, and knowing the demands of the ortho program at Pitt, I would have missed their entire childhood. I reluctantly declined.
We found an opportunity to practice general dentistry in the small community of Horseheads, NY. During fourteen years of general practice, my fondness for ortho continued through several courses for general practitioners and a selection of cases that were appropriately challenging. While President of the Sixth District Dental Society and an ADA Delegate, I came to know Dr. Robert Baker, Sr., who practiced in Ithaca, NY, with several satellite offices throughout the Finger Lakes. He was also on the faculty of the Orthodontic Department at Eastman Dental Center and strongly urged me to apply to Dr. Dan Subtelny’s program. I had an associate who agreed to buy my general practice, should I be accepted. I was forty-five years old; a most incredible long shot to say the least. I will always remember the incredulous look flashing across the desk as I told Dr. Subtelny that Eastman was the only program to which I had applied. Much to my surprise, I was accepted! And those three and five year old children that I mentioned above were now undergraduate students, one at the University of Rochester and one at Nazareth College. They and their mid-life-crisis Dad all students together in Rochester; who could ask for a more uniquely remarkable life experience! And Gail, a model Montessori educator, supported us all back home in Elmira.
Dr. Tom Hanewald, another Eastman Ortho graduate who practiced in Elmira, NY, was looking for a transition to retirement. This gave me the opportunity to return to the area of my established general dentistry practice, where I was already known, a significant advantage for someone who was essentially starting over at forty-seven years of age. I have had the good fortune to practice orthodontics in Elmira for twenty-three years, with a most dedicated, talented and caring support team that surpasses any that one could ever imagine.
In addition to private practice, I have had the privilege of being a part-time faculty member in the Orthodontic Department at Eastman since I graduated. The continued intellectual challenges presented by outstanding and gifted residents along with being in a major university academic environment, have provided the opportunity to stay abreast of emerging research and technology. Dan Subtelny strongly encouraged all of his graduates and especially his faculty to become ABO Board Certified. It was a rigorous process, but Dan had prepared us well and I found it to be gratifying at every step of the way. As a very active and founding member of the Angle North Atlantic Component, Dr. Subtelny also vigorously supported our involvement in the Angle Society. My membership, and now going through the chairs in the North Atlantic Component has further broadened the scope of required academic and research involvement. Finally, as a board member of the New York State Society of Orthodontists, it has been both enlightening and sobering to be involved in and aware of the complex political forces that influence the way in which we are able to maintain, protect and enjoy the privileges of our specialty.
So for me, reflecting back comes with a great deal of gratefulness; gratefulness for family who have made sacrifices, friends and mentors who have provided extraordinary opportunities and unparalleled training at every level, and the many patients and families, who have put their trust in me and our team and the care we provide.
Looking forward, I know that science and technology will rapidly continue to enhance and improve the way we deliver care to our patients. The Orthodontic Program at Eastman was built upon a strong core of understanding growth and development and fundamental biological principles. We also had the opportunity to experience a variety of clinical techniques, including Bio-Progressive, .018 Roth , .022 McLaughlin, functional orthopedics and even Young-Kim’s MEAW technique.
Although I rely foremost on those fundamental concepts that Dan Subtelny’s infamous “Hot Seat” engrained in us forever, I am not using the same technology that I used three to five years ago. The envelope of influence of orthodontic treatment in medicine and dentistry is becoming more comprehensive, and global multidisciplinary treatment planning across the health care spectrum will become the norm for every patient. This will require major revisions in all advanced specialty training, which is already underway at Eastman. Having done orthodontics both as a general dentist and a specialist, I believe orthodontics will continue to be a strong specialty, especially within the emerging complex model of comprehensive health care.
On the far end of sixty, I look forward to being active in some aspect of our specialty for years to come. Observing the transformation, both dentofacially and in personality and self-confidence, of patients going through treatment is a pleasure few health professionals will ever enjoy. As orthodontists, we experience it each and every day of our life. After reading many notes and letters of thanks and appreciation from former patients who are pursuing and have even gone on to careers in dentistry, including orthodontics, I know we have a special opportunity to not only produce attractive facial features, terrific smiles and good occlusions, but profoundly change peoples’ lives. I look forward to the future with the same enthusiasm and anticipated joy that I experienced the day Dr. Subtelny handed me my Orthodontic Certificate. Our specialty offers great promise!