A Voice in the Arena: New Beginnings, New Opportunities by Dr. Chad Foster

Orthotown Magazine 

In his first column as Orthotown editorial director, Dr. Chad Foster explains his goals for the publication and online community

by Chad Foster, DDS, MS, editorial director

It is a great honor to become the editorial director of Orthotown. I have big shoes to fill as Dr. Dan Grob departs the role; I’ve always enjoyed the insights he regularly shared. I consistently found in his writing a few characteristics that I so admire—vulnerability, tolerance and humility. Thank you, Dan! You were and are, as President Theodore Roosevelt described, “the man in the arena.” [Editor’s note: If you aren’t familiar with this particular speech, which also inspired the name of Dr. Foster’s monthly column, we’ve excerpted it in the pull quote below.]

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — President Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve practiced orthodontics for just over 10 years, and for me and many readers, it’s more than just a career or a means to make a living. I own and operate a single-location, single-doctor practice in Phoenix, where I spend on average 30 hours a week in clinical practice. Outside of those hours (and often well in excess of them), I discuss orthodontics: I read it, I write it, I review and share cases, I benefit greatly from the sharing of others, I think about patients long after the day is done, I run the business, I strategize how to better lead a team that I truly love and that absolutely drives me crazy at times, and I question in almost every way what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and if I am doing enough or could be doing better. And unequivocally, I love it!

Orthodontists spend a large amount of their waking lives working in the best career on the planet; our years of pushing, sweating, sacrificing and overachieving gained us membership into an elite and fortunate vocation indeed.

Membership earned, where do we find ourselves within our specialty and among our equally distinguished colleagues? Coming out of residency, likely feeling a bit isolated. No matter where the first day practicing in the “real world” occurred, in many ways on that day we became the kings and queens of our own castles … and heavy lies the crown. For most of us, that was enough to scare the heck out of us—and rightly so! So, we do our best to remember lessons learned in residency, pursue continuing education, and consult our trusted peers. Eventually we all find our groove of systems and philosophies we prefer, mentors we admire and look to emulate, and find the confidence to dig in a little bit on where we stand.

Finding—and cultivating—community online

Speaking of continuing education, one of the biggest developments in my 10-year frame of reference has been the emergence of the online orthodontic communities. The three I’m most involved with are Orthotown (of course!), and the Orthodontic Pearls and Orthpreneurs groups on Facebook. If you haven’t yet explored these online communities, I’d strongly recommend doing so: The discussions, cases shared, and personal and business tips offered have become some of my most valued learning experiences.

In these groups, I have witnessed colleagues doing a very brave thing: being vulnerable. Vulnerability in the world of social media, no less, where the cloak of anonymity often fuels self-righteousness, shaming and a zero-sum mentality to differing viewpoints. I see this bravery exemplified in the form of colleagues asking tough questions, sharing controversial opinions or offering records of cases that could be widely interpreted and criticized.

It’s my opinion that those who are willing to selflessly share in this regard—whether online or in print—and for no other reasons or ulterior motives are among the very best of our kind. As one who reads these publications and online posts, I personally benefit greatly from them, whether it is a phenomenal “heroics” case, a lesson learned from a mistake or tough case, or a case treated in a totally different way from how I personally prefer to treat. Most importantly, I have great respect for those who vulnerably step foot in that arena. That is exactly where I hope to contribute in some small way as the editorial director.

Encouraging tolerance and innovation

My job is to be the kind steward of the Orthotown arena. With conscious acknowledgment given to my own personal preferences, biases and, at times, myopic perspectives, I aim to specifically and purposefully grow the tolerance of this platform. In my opinion, tolerance is the best soil for education and innovation to flourish in.

My goal is to lift up those who want to share—those who love orthodontics and want to contribute to the life of our profession. I want Orthotown magazine and the online community to be homes for those voices.

To those who wish to step into this arena, I hope to be your biggest fan! I will be cheering from the stands and supporting you in any way that I can. Putting myself in Dr. Grob’s shoes, if I could picture myself stepping down from this position some number of years from now, I’ll consider my tenure time well spent if I served as that kind of steward.

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