I know very a few about my genealogy. As many families in modern Russia, mine for generations had been unable to communicate with the relatives outside the USSR.
I started this year with a short trip to Italy to pick up my DNA kit and do a test to finally find some data on my ancestry. Unfortunately, there is no shipment to Russia.
I have no intent to go into personal details since this blog is dedicated primarily to orthodontics, but I can’t help feeling that knowing your own history is not less important for a specialist than for an individual.
I wrote many times on this blog about the situation with orthodontics in the former Soviet Union. In a nutshell, it is far from being perfect. Since 1990s, several orthodontic manufacturers have found their ways to the Russian market, however no high-quality postgraduate orthodontic program has been established. As a result, young orthodontists were left alone to educate themselves by themselves in the brutal environment of wild capitalism.
Getting to know your roots
During my orthodontic education in Russia I had seen a lot of patients, but very few were properly diagnosed and adequately treated. Therefore, my first thought after I finished the residency was “I don’t want to have anything in common with my ‘teachers’.” I know that many young Russian orthodontists had similar thoughts in their minds. And as many, for the first several years in practice I would spend everything what I was making on travels abroad.
The first major orthodontic event I visited was the 8th international orthodontic congress in London in 2015. The scientific chair of the congress was professor Kevin O’Brien, a well-known proponent of the evidence-based approach, whose popular orthodontic blog I had been later translating weekly into Russian from 2017 to 2019. Going to the congress being employed at the Russian state dental clinic felt like escaping from an orthodontic Gulag. It was at that congress I first came across the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, the most respected orthodontic periodical that chronicles the history of the specialty starting from 1915. A year later, I would sit in front of the editor-in-chief of the journal, Rolf Behrents, in Saint-Louis, Missouri, interviewing him. He then said to me simple and powerful thing: “People who don’t know history are destined to make the same mistakes that were made in the past.”
During that US trip in 2016, I met a dozen of American orthodontists and got to know the traditions of my extended orthodontic family first hand. Openness is perhaps the most beautiful of those traditions. Presenting your finished cases for a board examination is one of the main ways how the openness is practicing. I came back to Russia motivated, completely forgotten of the invisible Iron Curtain I had just crossed. I wrote and published online the Young Russian Orthodontists Manifesto describing the lack of orthodontic infrastructure and pointing out the urgent need to form a national board. I got fired just a few weeks later.
I now consider those events a true blessing. Today I have no connections with the organized post-Soviet orthodontiya with its neglect of the English-language literature and adherence to removable appliances. I now work in a couple of private dental clinics in Moscow and try to be as good of an orthodontist as I possibly can.
I am thankful for the support I have been always receiving from the international orthodontic community both in person and online. I have lately become convinced that the idea of the national board was somewhat precocious for the country where orthodontics is still in its apostolic age.
However, I think that powerful orthodontic organizations such as AAO and WFO should care and provide support for their distant relatives who are in need. Meanwhile, local governments should help them to do it. I really can’t see any other way to bring orthodontics to the post-Soviet world. A good orthodontic program with trustworthy mentors seems to be a sensible first step.
If the world continues to stay divided, the history will never be learned, and mistakes will never be overcome.