The first time I heard about ASDA, I didn’t even realize I was hearing about ASDA. All I knew was that I wanted scrubs with the CU School of Dental Medicine logo on it. Since then, however, ASDA has completely changed my dental school experience for the better.
When ASDA was first introduced to our class, a lot of effort went into explaining what it was, and yet, I still found myself struggling to understand it. When I would ask different members about ASDA, they would all give me different answers. Finally, after about a year, I realize that the reason I was having trouble understanding ASDA is because ASDA is everything. It is so all-encompassing that sometimes it can be hard to explain. It wasn’t that nobody knew what ASDA was, it was just that ASDA was something different to everyone.
Simply put, ASDA is the American Student Dental Association which is the nation's largest student run association whose mission centers around protecting and advancing the rights, interests and welfare of dental students. But what does that mean exactly, and more specifically, what does that mean to you?
Well, to better explain ASDA and make its mission, purpose and benefits more clear to those who are less familiar with it, we have decided to literally spell it out for everyone. The letters "ASDA" stand for the American Student Dental Association. But to us, ASDA also stands for the four pillars of Colorado ASDA: Advocacy, Service, Dentistry and Activities. We have decided to focus on these four categories because everything within ASDA can fit into them (and it also conveniently spells out ASDA). We have tried to restructure the chapter's resources to follow this theme. You may notice that even our blog categories are set up to reflect this new focus, as will our website once we get that fully up and running. Of course ASDA is more than just this, but these four words are where everything starts.
Advocacy. Advocacy is what makes ASDA unique from any of the other dental student organizations out there. Locally, we work with the Metro Denver Dental Society and the Colorado Dental Association to educate our state representatives on current issues facing our profession and topics affecting us as students. Nationally, we represent about 92% of all dental students, so people listen to us when we vote in a new policy and take us seriously as an organization.
Service. Service is why most of us sought a career in dentistry in the first place. Our chapter is always organizing service and community outreach activities. From helping out at COMOM to volunteering at the Fifth Gear Kids events, there is always something that you can get involved in to help out the community around us.
Dentistry. I have had numerous people from my class ask me what ASDA is. Before now, the only way that I could really explain it is "everything dentistry outside of dental school." Even though that answer isn't as complete of an answer as I would have liked to give, it still is true. ASDA is where you learn everything about dentistry that you don't learn in dental school. ASDA teaches you to be a leader in your practice and in your community. ASDA shows you how to manage your finances while you are in dental school and ways to manage your business when you graduate. ASDA helps you to prepare for things that you might not even realize that you want to know yet, like integrating new technology into your practice without overdoing it and what things to look for when searching for an associate position.
Activities. The activities that Colorado ASDA puts on are awesome. If you participated in Thrush Week and the Amalgames (see our Facebook Page for pictures), then you know what I'm talking about. If you didn't, then it's not too late. We still have plenty of things coming up in the near future (be on the lookout for "Shimstock," our music and talent competition coming in October).
I got involved in ASDA without even fully understanding what it was because I could see potential-- not only in the chapter, but in myself through the chapter. ASDA was the only student organization, in my mind, that had everything... and best of all, it was free!
Since deciding to get involved, I have had some of the most amazing opportunities of my life. ASDA motivates me to step just far enough outside my comfort zone that I do things I have never done before, but not far enough that I regret my participation. It pushes me to meet people, helps me find mentors and gives me the resources that I need to succeed (and not just on boards).
ASDA is a lot of things to a lot of people and our chapter here at Colorado is expanding to become more than it has ever been before. To me, Colorado ASDA is opportunity. It is fun. It is my creative outlet. It is networking. It is the best experience I have had in dental school and it has become a big part of my life. I believe in everything that this organization stands for and choosing to become involved has been one of the best decision I have ever made. I can’t imagine dental school without ASDA, nor would I ever want to. ASDA is about getting involved and having a voice-- so get involved and say something. You might just be surprised at what can happen because of it.
~Kyle Luis Larsen, Class of 2017, Colorado ASDA President-Elect