We are constantly faced with making important decisions in our day-to-day lives, from deciding what material to recommend for your patient’s next restoration, to which organizations to commit to amidst a busy schedule. There are no shortage of opportunities for professional development within dental school and with so many options and so little time, you might be wondering where to start. I’m here today to share my journey and a few lessons I learned about the decision-making process.
- Find your passion. Your natural enthusiasm will take you far, so think about what you truly enjoy being a part of: whether it’s community service, class leadership, research or organized dentistry. As a first-year at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, I was fortunate to be in an environment where getting involved in organized dentistry was highly encouraged. This inspired me to run for first-year delegate, a position that pushed me to learn what ASDA does on a larger scale. After seeing the passion that so many leaders and chapter members had for this organization, I was hooked. I had officially caught ASDA fever.
- Take a chance on new opportunities. You really never know what you might learn and where these experiences will take you. When I attended my first National Leadership Conference (NLC), I never expected to find myself so inspired by the many speakers and chapter leaders that I met. The enthusiasm they had was infectious and there were many networking opportunities that allowed us to discuss the big, bold ideas we had for our respective chapters. Attending a national conference truly broadened my perspective on my role within a national student-run organization and it was after this that I started looked into getting more involved on a district and national level.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Deciding to run for a district or national position comes with its own set of challenges and there are many personal and professional considerations to make before coming to a decision. Choosing to run for trustee was something that I thought about carefully over the course of a few months. I reached out to other district trustees to learn about their personal experiences and to learn how they successfully balanced their academic and professional commitments. I also took the time to talk to my school’s administration and was fortunate to find that they were so supportive of having their students pursue national leadership opportunities within organized dentistry. Having this knowledge and support was essential to helping me to make a fully-informed decision.
- Believe in yourself! Even after I had made my decision to run, I couldn’t help but feel nervous, like many of us do, about how things would play out. Would I be elected to the position? Could I truly fill the shoes of those who came before me? In times like this, I believe that you just have to turn that “what if” into a “why not.” Trust your gut and take a leap of faith that the decision you are making is the right one. I’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity to work with ten other district trustees and the five amazing schools in my district. With everything I’ve been able to learn through this experience, I have absolutely no regrets.
When I first started dental school, I never anticipated that my journey within ASDA and organized dentistry would lead me to where I am today. Looking back on my experiences, I see now that it all really started with that initial decision to run for first-year delegate. That pivotal role ultimately led to the conversations that would inspire me to serve as a national leader. If you’re not very involved in your local chapter, start that first conversation with your chapter leaders today. And, if you’re thinking of taking that next step and running for a local or national position, I encourage you to ignore the doubts in your head and listen to your gut instead. Because why not? You have nothing to lose and so much more to gain.
~ Tanya Sue Maestas, Houston ’18, District 9 trustee