Overview of Event:
Student Professionalism and Ethics Association in Dentistry (SPEA), Annual Session 2017 was held at Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA on October 20-21, 2017. I had the privilege of representing SPEA Colorado Chapter at the conference. The focus of the conference was spreading awareness of the importance of SPEA for the future of dentistry and had sessions that focused on social justice and ethics, economics and future of dentistry, coping with difficult situations in the workplace, leadership and ethics. The conference was structured into two days. The first day featured American College ofDentists (ACD) Address, 3 keynote sessions, breakout sessions for the SPEA members with the ACD and also had some opportunities for SPEA members to present their thoughts. The Executive Director of the ACD, Dr. Theresa Gonzales, also addressed the importance of SPEA. The second day featured two keynote sessions along with Chapter awards, Chapter development breakout sessions followed by elections for the new officers.
What is SPEA?
The Student Professionalism and Ethics Association in Dentistry is a national, student driven association that was established to promote and support students’ lifelong commitment to ethical behavior in order to benefit the patients they serve and to further the dental profession.
The objectives of the Association are:
•Act as a support system for students in strengthening their personal and professional ethics values by:
1) Providing a resource for ethics education and professional development.
2) Fostering a non-punitive, open-forum environment for ethics communication
3) Promoting awareness of ethics standards and related issues within dentistry
• Collaborating with leadership of the dental profession to effectively advocate for our members
Why Did I Choose To Attend?
SPEA Annual session is the only national level conference held and I had a very keen interest in enlightening myself about what SPEA actually does. It attracts students from all the SPEA Chapters. Even students from SPEA chapter of Canada attended the session. The networking opportunities appealed to me, as did the opportunity to learn from various experiences.
I was particularly interested in sessions on chapter development and also keynote sessions identifying ethical cases since they would help me in future in my dental practice and also use the cases in discussion during various chapter events.
In addition to the conference sessions, networking with other colleagues was a valuable experience. I made good friends with the SPEA members of University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), School of Dentistry.
I also had the opportunity to attend the ADA meeting in the Georgia World Congress centre for a couple of hours on October 20, 2017. I was able to interact with some of the vendors at the exhibit hall and had the pleasure of seeing Peyton Manning LIVE! I was awed by the grandiosity of the conference.
What Sessions Did I Find Most Valuable?
During the conference, I was able to attend numerous sessions. I focussed on topics directly related to dealing with various ethical situations and what to do and what not to do in those situations. I especially enjoyed talks from Dr. Mike Meru. He brought a lot of positive energy to the session. He talked about a few cases and considerations that should be given in various situations.
What Networking Events Were Beneficial?
The Lunch sessions were most beneficial to networking. The organizing committee divided all the members into groups of six (first day according to the regency and second day was random). The lunch was organized at different local restaurants in downtown Atlanta. This gave me the opportunity to network with many students on a one-on-one basis. I liked the idea as opposed to planning a lunch session in one hall.
A few things that I learned:
1) Sessions involving peer discussions about ethics are much more effective than education alone.
2) Other than values and ethics, Inter professional education, Inter professional communication and Inter professional teamwork plays an important role in practicing good dentistry.
3) Cost barriers to dental care are declining slowly because more and more people are getting insured but still we don’t see as many patients as expected. This may be due to lack of education.
4) Along with dentistry, developing a side hobby is of utmost importance. It helps you be more precise and better at your work.
5) There are basically two levels of motivation. Love and Fear. Either of them works efficiently and then there is a grey area between them.
6) Few things that influence our decision-making process: Values, Risks, Social influence, Peers.
Summary of Conference Experience:
I was very pleased with my conference attendance. I learned new notions and suggestions that would help our chapter develop more. In addition, I gained valuable experience that couldn’t be obtained anywhere else. I understood that SPEA is not just about ethics, but also about learning to be a support to lower class men, promoting inter professional education, sharing ideas to develop dental practice and many more things. The conference was very organized and the speakers provided candid opinions on the subject matter at hand, making the information extremely valuable. In addition, the meals and refreshment breaks were extremely nice and allowed me to save on my travel budget. All the attendees were given a pair of socks with the SPEA logo on them, which was a very unique and an interesting idea. As an international student, the networking experience was very beneficial.
This was my first time ever attending a conference in US alone. My husband did join me on the second day. I enjoyed exploring Atlanta, especially the Ponce Market. We explored the downtown area a little and treated ourselves with amazing Indian food. For us, eating India food here is like a delicacy.
I was very pleased with all that I received at the Annual session and also hope to attend the next one in Hawaii in 2018.
One of the sayings that I am going to inculcate in my daily life:
“Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” - Wayne Gretzky