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“Midwinter Meeting is a must-attend event that is a one-stop shop”

Dr Michael Durbin, the 2023 president of the Chicago Dental Society, believes that involvement in organised dentistry offers valuable continuing education and mentorship opportunities. (Image: Chicago Dental Society)

Preparations are already underway for the most exclusive dental event of the Chicago Dental Society (CDS), the Midwinter Meeting. The 158th iteration of the event will be held at McCormick Place West in Chicago in the US on 23–25 February 2023 and is sure to bring plentiful networking and continuing education opportunities. In the run-up to the event, Dental Tribune International had the opportunity to speak with the 2023 president of CDS, Dr Michael Durbin, about some of the technological advancements that have taken place in the last decades and the role of younger dentists in maintaining the high level of respect and influence that the dental profession has earned over the years.

Dr Durbin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your background in dentistry?
For more than 30 years, I have operated private orthodontic practices in Des Plaines and Long Grove in Illinois. Throughout my career, I have been heavily involved in organised dentistry, holding leadership positions with CDS, the American Association of Orthodontists, the Midwestern Society of Orthodontists, the Illinois Society of Orthodontists and the Illinois State Dental Society. In 2022, I was awarded the inaugural Raymond George Sr. Award for Outstanding Donated Orthodontic Services from the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation. I graduated with honours from Loyola University Chicago and went on to earn my dental degree and master of science in orthodontics from the University of Illinois Chicago College of Dentistry.

What motivated you to choose this profession and to open your own dental practice?
My initial motivation in choosing orthodontics as a profession was the positive experience I had as a young orthodontic patient. I had a very severe overbite as a child, and I was self-conscious about how it affected my appearance. I started the first phase of treatment at 10 years old and eventually progressed to fixed appliances. I was amazed at the changes that were occurring, and I felt more confident as my appearance improved. In addition, my orthodontists really seemed to enjoy their work, and I could see that working with kids and teens would be a great career.

Shortly before graduating from my orthodontic programme, one of my instructors enquired about what I planned to do after graduation and wondered whether I would be interested in purchasing his practice. I visited the practice and found it was a good fit, and that is how I became the owner of my practice.

You have over three decades of experience in orthodontics. What are some of the highlights of your career in terms of significant advancements in the profession?
There have been tremendous strides in technology over the past 30 years. My son, Peter, just graduated from his orthodontic residency, and while the didactic material related to tooth movement and the biology of growth and development were taught in a similar fashion, the practice of orthodontics has changed considerably. The typical orthodontic office is now completely digital, from photos and radiographs to scanning and fabrication of clear aligners in the office. All of this has changed the way we practise today. The increasing use of truly customised orthodontic bracket systems has improved finishes and resulted, in some cases, in shorter treatment times. We are still dependent on the compliance of our patients with treatment, but even that has been enhanced over time through the use of technologies such as remote monitoring of patient progress and hygiene. There really is no limit to where technology may take us in the future, and it is exciting to watch all of these changes take place.

“While the didactic material related to tooth movement and the biology of growth and development [are] taught in a similar fashion, the practice of orthodontics has changed considerably”

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being a dentist?
One of the issues with the many technological advances that have taken place over time is that it can be difficult to incorporate some of these new technologies into the systems we currently use at the office. Dentists are constantly weighing the benefits of new technologies and determining how and when to make the switch. In the end, we make this decision based on how we can better treat our patients and continue to provide high-quality care. This is one reason why the exhibit hall at the Midwinter Meeting is such an attraction to dentists across the country. You get to see, learn about and try out the latest technologies to decide whether a product or service is the right fit for your practice.

You have held multiple leadership positions in CDS as well as with other organisations. This year, you were elected as president of CDS for 2023. What do you wish to achieve in your role?
CDS is a historic organisation, and it is an honour to hold a leadership position and be president in 2023. Recently, the CDS board of directors and the professional staff met to discuss the future strategy for the organisation. Based on feedback we’ve sourced from members, non-members and exhibitors, we have identified five areas of focus for the next three to five years. These include membership, communications, diversification of revenue sources, leadership development and, of course, the Midwinter Meeting.

I am most excited to play a role in fine-tuning the plan and facilitating the implementation of this plan in the upcoming year. I would like to see us continue to build upon CDS’s reputation, expand our membership and further cement the CDS Midwinter Meeting as the “respected leader in scientific dental meetings”. We have a committed board of directors and a very talented professional staff that are all working together to make this happen. CDS means a lot to me and many other dentists across specialties throughout Chicagoland, and I’m grateful to be a part of its success.

What is this year’s theme, and what does it mean to you personally?
Rather than focusing on a specific theme for the 2023 Midwinter Meeting, we chose instead to keep the focus on the variety of features and many benefits the meeting has delivered for the past 158 years. Ultimately, the Midwinter Meeting is a must-attend event that is a one-stop shop, delivering important experiences such as networking and exploring the exhibit hall and, most famously, providing continuing education—all under one roof. Of all the benefits the Midwinter Meeting provides, I think that continuing education is the biggest reason to attend. We have more than 120 of the world’s best educators in the industry all in one place, offering more than 240 courses. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for dental professionals at every stage of their career to expand their knowledge and skill set to help meet licensure requirements, learn how to better run or manage a practice and help provide patients with the best care possible.

What will distinguish this year’s Midwinter Meeting from past ones?
The CDS staff and Midwinter Meeting planning teams have spent years scouting the top speakers and educators in dental education, and this year’s meeting will once again offer an exciting and varied selection of courses. While there are lots of old favourites in the line-up, there are also a lot of up-and-coming experts in the field who will be presenting. Not only are there incredible courses for dentists, but there are courses for every member of the dental team. There is no better place to earn continuing education credits—not only to meet licensure requirements but also to advance your knowledge as a professional to stay current on the latest information and techniques in the industry and be at the top of your career.

In addition to continuing education, there are many other distinguishing characteristics of the Midwinter Meeting, such as its exclusive networking opportunities. This year, there will be returning favourites, like the dental student reception, early career dentist reception and Brews and Bargains networking event. There will also be new events, such as the ice cream social, which will be held in the exhibit hall on Thursday, 23 February. Not only are these events excellent networking opportunities, but they also allow us to explore the latest dental innovations and technologies from more than 450 exhibitors.

Of all the benefits the Midwinter Meeting provides, I think that continuing education is the biggest reason to attend”

We are also excited about a few additional social events we have planned for the meeting. Psychologist and humourist Bruce Christopher will headline our general session on Thursday morning to kick us off and get everyone excited. We will have a Friday night concert featuring Tributosaurus at the historic Park West. On Saturday, we will close the meeting with the President’s Dinner Dance, featuring the Opal Staples Orchestra. We encourage our attendees to make a weekend of the meeting by coming for the learning but staying for the fun!

Throughout your career, you have received various fellowships and earned professional awards for your contribution to the field. What advice could you give to dental professionals who are just starting their careers?
As I mentioned, my son just finished his residency, so I have many opportunities to talk to younger dentists. I always encourage them to continue educating themselves, as dental school can’t possibly teach someone everything he or she will need to know to deliver high-quality dentistry to patients. The Midwinter Meeting is a perfect place to continue educational process. I also encourage younger dentists not to be afraid to say yes when they are tapped on the shoulder and asked to get involved with their profession.

I am on the tail end of my practice career, and while I still have a passion for improving our profession, our younger colleagues truly have a vested interest in making sure their profession maintains the high level of respect and influence that it has had over these many years. Involvement in organised dentistry also offers mentorship opportunities that are so important as we all continue to learn about new products and procedures.

Finally, I tell them to remember that it is not just a mouth we are working on; we are working on the whole person. The relationships we develop with our patients are so rewarding, and this only comes when we take the time to develop those relationships. The happiest dentists I know are the ones who remember this.

CDS Chicago Midwinter Meeting Continuing education Dental events Dental profession Dental technology Orthodontics

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