Mentorship is Powerful

I am an orthodontist. I went to college for four years, dental school for four and finally orthodontic school for 3 years. I started an orthodontic practice and became board certified. I teach at the dental school. I work hard for my patients to give them each individualized treatment custom to their needs and strive to get the best possible outcome in every case. I love my job. I thought all this meant I was a great orthodontist.

Then a few years ago, I was approached by a group of orthodontists that I consider to be leaders of the industry (members of the Edward H. Angle Society). To my surprise, they were interested in me and my work and I was asked to consider joining. I was at the same time flattered and unsure, but decided to take a chance and started the long, grueling process to become a member. The first step of this adventure was a presentation of completed cases: including photos and dental models to show this intimidating crew what I was made of. In spite of my nerves, I passed the first test. The next challenge entailed treating 5 complex patients under the watchful eye of the entire society. I’ve presented each case to the group each year for 3 years showing my progress and thought process. I can’t count the number of hours this has taken me or the dollars I’ve spent traveling to the meetings. Not to mention lugging around my 50 pound bag containing stone dental models and thick notebooks overflowing with my reports to numerous locations. I stayed up to all hours several nights for weeks prior to each meeting because I didn’t want to compromise on the quality of my work, patient care or miss out on time with my family. So many times I wondered: “Why am I doing this?”

Well, I just returned from the annual meeting and I finally get it. I get it. I’m really a part of something special. The Angle Society is not just a group of orthodontists with bragging rights because they have insane tooth-moving skills. It’s much more. They are an extraordinary group of orthodontists that hold themselves to a higher level of moral and ethical standards. They believe in what they do and they are always striving to better themselves. I’m a young affiliate (meaning, I’m not a full member yet) and I learned a lot this past weekend, as expected. But, to my surprise, I also showed my colleagues things and THEY learned from ME! That’s an inspiring feeling.

I had amazing conversations with orthodontists that are well-known and respected in the orthodontic community (I’m talking celebrity status in my world). I had no idea how inspirational that would be for me when I started. I came back to work after this meeting with more energy and determination for my patients because I know I will continue to become a better doctor. In addition to improving my ability to treat patients, I will strive to be a better mother based on some well-timed advice from a self-proclaimed feminist, Dr. Peter Shapiro (AKA the Tom Brady of braces). I told him I love my job, but confessed that I sometimes feel guilty working with two young kids at home. He told me it was simple: do what you love. He said this is what my kids will remember and inspire them the most. I shouldn’t feel guilty about following my dreams and working full-time. He told me to get out there and make lots of children’s lives better by improving their smile. That will, in turn, make my boys smile more, too. How simple. He’s right. In fact, I brought my oldest son to join me at OHSU this week during an orthodontic lecture. I’ve never seen him so excited. He looks up to me as his mentor and I take that job seriously.

Dr. Crowe’s 4 year old son at OHSU pretending to give a lecture using two microphones.

Dr. Jen Crowe with Dr. David Hatcher (Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist, author, teacher, expert and dental celebrity) at the NW Angle Meeting in Victoria, BC.

Now, when asked why I do this, I can answer. Becoming a member of this society isn’t for the faint of heart. But, it makes me a better orthodontist, a better mentor, and oddly enough even a better person. Mentorship is powerful. Thank you, Northwest Component of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists for pushing me to be the best I can be.

If you are reading this blog entry and want to find a great orthodontist in your area, it’s easy. Just find an orthodontist that is an Angle member and you can’t go wrong.

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