No matter how much outside research I read about ASDA’s National Leadership Conference (NLC), I still had my doubts. Will this conference help me as a pre-dental student? Will I walk away from it feeling more energized about dentistry? I read that there were personal development opportunities available (but then again, that’s what my Bridezilla sister told me about being her Maid of Honor!)
I didn’t exactly know what to expect at NLC, but I had a general idea. I expected the conference to be full of informative breakout sessions and like-minded people passionate about dentistry. However, I didn’t expect to meet people who were sincerely interested in my journey to dental school. I didn't expect to be on the edge of my seat during the presentations and to develop a drive to be more engaged in ASDA. NLC went beyond the scope of my expectations and truly provided many unique opportunities for pre-dental students. Here are three unique opportunities NLC can offer for pre-dental students:
1) Connect you with a mentor. There are no dentists in my family and few dentists in my life, so it’s hard to find someone who understands the journey to dental school. That’s one reason why the NLC mentorship program can be so valuable. Pre-dental students had the opportunity to be paired with a dental student from schools you want to apply to. It was extremely reassuring to share my challenges and triumphs with someone with prior experience. My mentors allowed me to pick their brains about their schools, gave me great advice on applying, and connected me with other leaders. Yet, I quickly learned that I didn’t have to go through the mentorship program to connect with leaders at the conference. The ASDA leaders, alumni and dental students were all very encouraging and had unique insights into the breadth of dentistry. Connecting with dental students is a great opportunity for pre-dental students to access a supportive community and to be involved in a strong network.
2) Prepare you to become a well-rounded professional. I was truly impressed by the variety of topics and lessons among the four education tracks offered at NLC. In the Business and Financial Leadership track, I learned how to build my personal brand. This skill is not only important for business professionals, but also for pre-dental students. We should be able to communicate what makes us unique from other applicants. In addition, the pre-dental workshop was one of the best comprehensive resources I have ever seen. The workshop highlighted how to enhance your application and how to be innovative in order to stand out. The wide collection of topics and workshops provide a unique training opportunity for pre-dental students and prepare you to become an outstanding applicant and health professional.
3) Engage you in issues related to dentistry. Sometimes as pre-dental students, we can become overly consumed with the details of applying to dental school. With the stress of submitting the perfect application, it’s hard to look past dental school and easy to forget current issues that dentists face. Dr. Shenkin’s presentation on how dentistry's hot topics impact your future quickly energized me and kept me on the edge of my seat. As aspiring dentists, we need to be aware of the dental landscape we will eventually work in. The presentation shed light into the growing number highly indebted dental students but a decline in adult utilization of dental services. Another challenge dentists are confronting is the increase in adult Medicaid dental benefits but stagnant government funding.
The advocacy breakout sessions at NLC allowed me to go beyond dental school basics and dive into policy issues regarding our future profession. As pre-dental students, we can be engaged in organized dentistry now and being an ASDA member is a great way to start. I never truly understood the magnitude of my ASDA membership and the unique opportunities it offers for pre-dental students until attending the National Leadership Conference. Though I walked into the conference with worries and doubts, I left feeling confident in my future career and in myself. I encourage other pre-dental students to join ASDA and to take your involvement further by attending national events.
~Lynn Doan, Pre-Dental ASDA Member