On March 1, 2020, the AAO was working to complete a strong year of member services, programs and advocacy that would culminate with the planned Annual Session in Atlanta. For many of us the expression, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans*,” was about to come true in ways we never imagined.
AAO leaders and members faced unusual challenges during 2019-20. Nonetheless, with expert leadership and a dedicated team, we finished the year with many successful efforts addressing the needs of members and the specialty and adding value to membership. Highlights include:
● Advocacy Efforts Succeeded with Medical Device Tax Repeal and Direct-to-Consumer, COVID-19-Related Initiatives
- The AAO brought the orthodontic perspective on numerous issues, including direct-to-consumer orthodontics concerns, to policymakers and state dental boards during 2019-20;
- During the COVID-19 pandemic the AAO has intensively engaged policymakers and regulatory agencies producing guidelines impacting orthodontic practice in areas such as PPE and infection control.
- A key success: Passage of bipartisan legislation by the House of Representatives and the Senate, that – with President Trump’s signature – permanently repealed the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax. The AAO had advocated for the repeal for several years.
● Consumer Awareness Program Launched Influencer and Anti-Bullying Campaigns, New Parody Video Series
- The AAO Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) launched its first three influencer campaigns on Instagram during 2019-20, reaching 1.99 million moms of young children and producing nearly 140,000 engagements (likes, shares and clicks through to the AAO consumer website).
- The year concluded with the launch of the “Happy Mouth Now” series of parody videos. During its first two weeks online, the first video produced over 1.4 million engagements.
- ln October, the AAO initiated its first anti-bullying campaign, successfully engaging many consumers and AAO members with this issue in conjunction with the observance of National Orthodontic Health Month. (Details of the 2020 anti-bullying campaign will be announced in August.)
- During 2019-20, the all-digital CAP, which includes ads that are behaviorally targeted to individuals who are researching orthodontic treatment topics online, brought approximately 5.9 million consumers to the AAO consumer website.
● Diversity in Leadership Effort Culminated in Appointments of At-Large Trustees
- The AAO continued its long-term focus on inclusivity and evolving leadership to be more diverse, continuing to aid emerging leaders in acquiring skills, knowledge and tools useful for advancement in leadership via the Leadership Development Conference and the online Leadership Network.
- In May, the 2020 House of Delegates approved a proposal for up to three at-large trustees to be added to the AAO Board of Trustees, to be selected based on demographic diversity or expertise and become voting Board members. In June, the Board announced the appointments of two at-large trustees, Dr. Dale Anne Featheringham and Dr. Alexandra Thomas.
● Support for Orthodontic Innovation Advanced with Innovation Fund Investment
- The AAO presented the second Ortho Innovator award to EasyRx, a company that offers orthodontists state-of-the-art tools to streamline and centralize digital workflow;
- The newly formed AAO Innovation and Transformation Fund, which can be used to develop new products and services for orthodontists and patients by building, partnering or investing – made its first move by investing $100,000 in PhotoDynamic. The Halifax, Nova Scotia-based start-up has developed a patented light-activated antimicrobial oral hygiene technology designed to kill bacteria causing plaque, the leading cause of white spot lesions.
● Members Received Discounts Via New and Enhanced Endorsed Programs
AAO Member Discounts help our members save money on practice management resources, staff development, and personal products and services offered by trustworthy, vetted companies. In 2019-20, the AAO Endorsed Programs roster expanded to include:
- Black Talon Security, provider of cybersecurity, HIPAA compliance and PCI (Payment Card Industry) solutions designed for dental practices;
- SmileSnap, provider of a HIPAA-compliant virtual consultation and virtual visit technology;
- Audi America, which offers AAO members the opportunity to save up to $2,000 on new purchases or leases of selected models.
In addition, SoFi (Social Finance, Inc.) agreed to re-negotiate its Endorsed Program terms and now provides even greater savings to members who qualify for consolidation and re-financing of their student loans.
● Membership Renewal Updates Aim to Make Life Easier for Members
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on member practices, the AAO made several changes to the 2020-21 (June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021) membership renewal process. Rather than issuing membership dues invoices in early June, invoices are being delayed by two months until August 3. For U.S. and Canadian Active Members, dues rates will be the same as 2019-20 and the Consumer Awareness Program (CAP) assessment will be reduced by more than half to $300 ($240 for Canadian members).
Also, in addition to the traditional three- and six-month installment plans for dues payment, this year members who begin submitting payments in August may pay in up to nine installments through April 2021. There is also a new opportunity for those who pay their invoices using ACH (electronic bank account) transfer from U.S.-based financial institutions. A one-time, 3 percent discount on AAO member dues and the CAP assessment is available.
● Virtual Annual Session Brought Orthodontists Worldwide Together Online
The AAO’s first-ever virtual meeting, AAO 2020: A Virtual Experience was May 2-3 and provided more than 36 hours of clinical, practice management, and sponsor content for the 11,000-plus registrants from 58 countries. Members registered at no cost – receiving free CE credit for the clinical and practice management lectures – and all registrants received free web access to the entire archived program.
● COVID-19 Resource Center Provided a One-Stop Shop for Information, Tools
- In mid-March, the AAO launched what would become the comprehensive COVID-19 Resource Center, with regulatory, financial, HR and patient communication recommendations pertaining to office closures. Members received access to an extended series of free webinars, many of which included CE.
- As states began announcing plans for reopening, the Resource Center pivoted to provide a vast quantity of reopening information, tools and resources pertaining to infection control/safety, PPE, bringing team members back to work, COVID-29 specific forms, patient communication ideas and more.
Updates to the COVID-19 Resource Center continue on an ongoing basis.
● HOD Initiative for Transparency in Governance Engaged Members
For the third year since introducing the option in 2018, the AAO made available a convenient online tool for members to review and comment on proposed resolutions coming up before the House of Delegates. Member comments were considered during Reference Committee discussion as resolutions were finalized prior to the 2020 HOD meeting and voting on resolutions.
● 2020 Winter Conference Attracted a Record Number of Residents
The 2020 Winter Conference, with its first-time focus on treatment of open bite, brought nearly 700 doctors to Austin, Texas. Among the attendees were 132 orthodontic residents – a record for student member attendance at the meeting.
● Career Center Launched a New Service: Staff Recruitment Support
With the goal of helping members find candidates for team positions with greater ease and cost efficiency, the AAO online Career Center introduced an option for orthodontic staff recruitment.
* Original quote by Allen Saunders. John Lennon later used it in the song, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”.