A brief history of ASDA’s work in advocacy

Advocacy Month 2020 is here, and this year, we are exploring the past, present and future of advocacy through the theme, “Hindsight is 2020: Act now to change the future.” As we delve into Advocacy Month, we’ll explore where advocacy started, where we are now and where we’re headed.

ASDA has been in existence for nearly 50 years and was founded on the idea that advocacy for dental students is crucial. To understand ASDA’s present and to establish goals for the future, we need to understand our past. Let’s take a brief look into the beginnings of ASDA’s advocacy platform and reflect on why it is important today.

Download the ASDA Advocacy timeline.

In 1970, ASDA was created as the Student American Dental Association (SADA) as a way to coordinate lobbying efforts, promote student development and collaborate on professional issues.

ASDA was formally created during the ADA convention of February 1971 as a national student dental organization with leaders coming from SADA. Initial advocacy efforts created ASDA’s advocacy program, which brought students together with local resources and shed light on dental political issues.

In 1986, ASDA created the Political Education Network (PEN) in an effort to increase participation of students in local and national grassroots advocacy efforts. PEN led advocacy initiatives such as letter writing to politicians and voter registration drives. Later, in 2000, the Legislative Grassroots Network took over PEN. In 2013, this became the Council on Advocacy.

In 1999, ASDA partnered with the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) to host the first National Dental Student Lobby Day. This was the first of what would become many years of students traveling from across the country to Washington, D.C. Lobby day is a crucial aspect of ASDA’s advocacy.

ASDA has not only advocated for its dental students but also their patients and the general population. In 2018, ASDA led the charge by sending over 600 letters to Congress in support of the Action for Dental Health Act. This act allows for organizations to qualify for health grants and provide dental care for underserved populations. This is just one example of how ASDA has directly increased access to care.

Licensure reform has long been at the forefront of ASDA’s advocacy initiatives. The biggest breakthrough of ASDA’s efforts came in 2016 with the release of the L-1 white paper on licensure reform.

In 2018, ASDA was instrumental in the formation of the Coalition for Modernizing Dental Licensure. These efforts have made slow but steady progress on the elimination of live-patient dental board examinations. According to the ADA licensure map, as of today, 11 states accept alternative pathways to licensure.

As we begin ASDA Advocacy Month this November, remember to reflect on the beginnings of ASDA advocacy. Grassroots advocacy is at the core of ASDA and continues to be a priority. Carry on the vision of our ASDA predecessors and get involved!

~Greg Benz, Illinois ’22, Chapter Co-Vice President, ASDA Legislative Coordinator (Districts 6-7)

Greg Benz

Greg Benz attends the University of Illinois (UIC) College of Dentistry in Chicago. Outside of school, he enjoys coaching youth hockey and spending time outdoors. Greg is looking forward to graduating in May 2022 and plans to pursue a GPR program.

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