It was a breezy afternoon in the middle of the week, April 2018. I popped out from the Russian Healthcare Ministry building located in the very center of Moscow. I had just handed to the authorities the Young Russian Orthodontists’ Manifesto and been through a useless debate on if we need any improvements in the orthodontic education in the country. The authorities made it quite clear to me: they are not going to move a finger to make any change.
Few months ago, I made a promise to myself not to write anything more on the post-Soviet orthodotniya. This steals my time and ruins my mood. However, the topic of orthodontic education is a global and critical issue which affects the most vulnerable in the community: the young specialists. This probably excuses me for writing this piece.
For more than a decade we have a well-defined guidelines telling us how an orthodontic postgraduate program should look like. Unfortunately, the post-Soviet healthcare implies that a quality orthodontic education is not that necessary. Actually, it grants us with alternative options for gaining “knowledge”. Being a mixture of an uncontrolled market and a Soviet bureaucracy, the post-Soviet orthodontiya derives its “intellectual” grounds from the two major sources: short-term courses backed by companies and government-backed programs called ordinaturas. The former is nothing new for a westerner, the latter is, on the other hand, a very authentic local phenomena: the programs run in a native language by self-proclaimed professors and phDs who never publish their texts in the peer-reviewed journals and commonly deny obvious orthodontic facts claiming that extractions are not necessary, mandibles can be grown and wire-bending is something you should not even think of.
The situation is clearly not alright. However, we have to admit that the orthodontic education has challenges not only in the former Soviet states. The shortage of academic staff, the impingement of the market and the rising number of orthodontists per capita are, in my view, among the major factors contributing to the inadequacy of orthodontic education globally. My sincere belief is that the manifesto mentioned above contains the measures that may be applicable anywhere around the world.
The establishment of mentorship in orthodontics can not be overestimated. Some of our knowledge can only be transferred with in-person guidance and proper communication. We also have to be well aware of the expertise and trustworthiness of the mentors.
2. Board Certification
Board certification is a form of active real-life self-education. It makes you observe your work retrospectively in details and teaches you a lot of your own weaknesses. I strongly believe that one day the orthodontic specialty will come up with a united international board.
3. English language
It is surprising how many people who want to become orthodontists are deprived of the most essential thing a human being should posses. A language. The great wealth of orthodontic literature is written in English and thinking that you can study the specialty in Russian, Ukranian or Kazakh language is naive.
Despite considering all the above vitally important, I urge young post-Soviet orthodontists not to waste their time trying to enhance the poor orthodontic infrastructures they are surrounded with. Truth to be told, this is beyond our abilities. We should delegate this responsibility to the powerful organisations, such as the WFO, AAO, etc. Meanwhile, we have to spend our time on what we can and have obligation to control – diagnosing, treatment planning and proper care of our patients. I urge young folks to keep distance from the post-Soviet orthodontiya and focus on self-improvement and our direct obligations. And if this requires to move abroad – let it be.
For those interested in the in-depth issues of orthodontic education, I highly recommend getting acquainted with this book.