As a first year dental student, I certainly didn’t start out with a very firm grasp on what ASDA was and how it could help me to become a more informed and capable dentist. However, as I’ve progressed through my first year I have become more involved in ASDA and learned what a valuable asset it can be to us as dental students. This February, I had the privilege of being sent to Boston for the ASDA Annual Session. This trip was not only an extremely fun adventure; it was also HUGE in helping me to understand the scope of the organization. Upon returning from the ASDA session I felt like I had to share this experience with everyone! So here it is, the top 5 reasons that every ASDA member should put attending annual session on their dental school bucket list!
1. Networking with dental students from every other school in the country.
Besides making lots of friends, the great thing about meeting students from all over the country is that you tap into a powerhouse of opportunity and ideas. I’ve met upperclassmen that are pumped about service and outreach, as well as students that have recently survived what I’m trying to prepare for. Without fail, these students will have great ideas and experience to share.
You will meet students that seem to be living your same life while in another state. They will have great tips and experience to offer that will enrich your school experience. Whether you’re preparing for boards, or drilling your first preps it will be impossible to come away without great ideas.
One student I met was extremely excited about a bone marrow cheek swab drive she had recently organized to benefit a fellow student. This was interesting, but I didn’t fully comprehend the value in our meeting until several months later, when one of our own classmates was in need of the same help. All it took was one quick message, and we had an enthusiastic and experienced ally joined to our cause.
- Discussion of issues affecting dentistry HERE and NOW.
We often hear about municipal water fluoridation debates or health-care reform measures, but as a dental student it’s easy to feel far removed from these issues, which are incredibly important to the future of our profession.
As a component of organized dentistry, a fundamental part of ASDA involvement is discussion of these issues with the end goal of establishing policy.Through this process we are able to fulfill our mission of pursuing resolutions which will be best for our profession and for our country’s oral health in the long term. Annual session is where a lot of this policy making begins. All attendees are invited to bring forward resolutions (essentially a legislative policy proposal) to be discussed and later voted upon. If passed, your resolution will be made official policy of one of the most well represented professional organizations in the country.
In addition to the policy making, annual session also offers a number of breakout sessions that cast light on a lot of today’s hot issues. Personally, I was able to attend one called “The State of Dentistry”, which discussed current economic trends & projections, specifically in the context of the ACA. What I learned was extremely pertinent to my future as a dentist and potential business owner. Such experiences are really what ASDA participation is all about.
- Participation in national & district leadership elections.
This process is not just informative, it's simply one of the most fun things you will do at annual session. We are part of a district (District 9) that includes five different chapters (schools). We meet with another district (District 8) for a total of ten chapters present. (This is called a Caucus, but don’t get hung up on the terms right now).
Each school, or chapter, submits questions that will be asked individually to each candidate for the following positions:
Speaker of the House
Our group is known for making this process fun, and a little irreverent! Odd challenges, word association, and serious questions all mesh into a wonderful, chaotic and loud demonstration. Come prepared with intelligent questions, but also your most awkward and embarrassing suggestions, this day will not disappoint!
- Education opportunities not available in dental school.
The speakers that come to any national ASDA meeting are top notch. You will have a chance to hear from people like:
Neil Pasricha - New York Times bestselling author
Roger Crawford - Hall of Fame Division I athlete
Maxine Feinberg – President of the ADA
Chris Salierno - Nationally-recognized author and lecturer
Adam Braun - New York Times bestselling author
These presenters take your mind out of dental school and help you view your career with a long-term perspective. The information I gather in these meetings is always something I know will be applied in my future. This long-term perspective helps me feel motivated and energized every time.
- AWESOME social events!
ASDA has so much to offer in regards to professional development and education, but rest assured, annual session is not just one long weekend of board meetings.
There are essentially two types of social events that you will enjoy at session, those that are district specific and those that are organized by national ASDA. Our district trustees did a spectacular job of organizing luxurious dinners and/or open bars for us to enjoy almost every night. These events are a blast not only because they were delicious and elegant (one night we had a seafood buffet and open bar right on the water!), but they offer a more intimate atmosphere. It is thanks to these events that I was able to get to know so many other students from our local district.
The national events are awesome because they are super elaborate and all of the dental schools are represented at them. These events included the Gold Crowns, which honor chapters that did outstanding work over the last year (cough, cough, Colorado), and the Presidents Gala, which is essentially a really, really awesome party and the bittersweet conclusion of session.
The social aspect of session was not something that I expected, but it is definitely one of the most memorable highlights. I guarantee that you will catch ASDA fever after experiencing what we all experienced this year in Boston!
So, how do I get to Annual Session? You ask... Well, there are two ways. You can fund yourself, or you can be sponsored by the chapter.
The Colorado ASDA chapter will choose students to sponsor in a variety of ways. There may be an essay contest, or the attendee may be determined based on their ASDA Diamonds. The Colorado ASDA chapter awards “Diamonds” for participation in local events, each time you attend an activity, you will be awarded more diamonds. You can also earn diamonds when you write for our chapter blog, “The Colorado Quickset” or the new letter, “The CEJ”.
Often, being considered for Annual Session is as simple as showing up to all the ASDAwesome events held by our chapter all semester long. One thing many students will say, is that any way you get to Annual Session, it will be worth it! So do everything you can to be at ASDA’s annual session next year!