I’m in Washington, D.C. today for the annual National Dental Student Lobby Day. Today we’re hearing from speakers from the American Dental Association and other dental organizations as they explain how a bill goes through Congress, who the decision makers are and teach students from around the country how to talk to their members of Congress and lobby the issues.
There’s an impressive group of 325 students from dental schools all over the United States. It’s great to see how excited everyone is to be here, in the nation’s capital. They’re here to talk about two issues specifically:
- Breaking Barriers to Oral Health Care Act (H.R. 1666)
- Student Loan Forgiveness Act (H.R. 4170)
Breaking Barriers to Oral Health Care would provide grants to support dental projects and public/private partnerships to improve oral health education. The grants would help dentists provide free dental services to the underserved. It would be a small step but a step in the right direction nonetheless to break down some barriers to oral health care (hence the bill title). This bill was introduced by Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho, one of two dentists in Congress (the other being Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona, who we are very excited to hear speak this afternoon).
The Student Loan Forgiveness Act caps the interest rate of all new direct loans at 3.4 percent. It also allows for forgiveness of loans after five years of serving in certain public service professions and forgives loans after ten years if the borrower makes payments equal to 10 percent of his discretionary income each month during that time. While student loans can be a confusing topic, you all understand the cost of dental education is a burden and anything to help ease that burden will help you and your practice in the future.
I know not everyone was able to come to D.C. today. While we wish everyone could be here, we know that’s not realistic. But there are things you can do at your chapter and in your area to stay informed and involved:
- Hold a legislative lunch and learn at your chapter. Invite a local policymaker (city council member, district representative, etc.) to come hear about what you’re doing in dental school. Tell them what’s important to you now as a student and when you are a practitioner and small business owner in the future.
- Get involved at the state level. Hold a state lobby day. Either contact your state dental association to put one on together or start you own with your chapter. Find out when the state legislature is in session and go from there. Here are some tips to help.
If you are in D.C. right now, what has been your favorite part so far? What’s the biggest reason you are here? Share in the comments section. When you get home, follow up with your members of Congress and say thanks. And don’t forget share your experience with your chapter.
~Meghan Keelean, CMP, meeting planner