A first-year’s experience at the National Leadership Conference

It was the last day of October in Chicago, and coming from sunny California, I was captivated by the city’s snow-sheathed streetlights and wispy winds. The city lights illuminated the “Bean’s” location nestled in Millennium Park. Eating deep dish pizza at a restaurant just minutes away would warm my frozen fingers and give my body ample energy for the days to come. My fascination extended far beyond Chicago itself over the next three days at the McCormick Place Convention Center for the 2019 ASDA National Leadership Conference (NLC).

As a first-year dental student with three months of dental school under my belt, I enjoyed delving into the breakout sessions, expanding my knowledge on familiar topics and learning about advances in cutting-edge dentistry. It also was incredible to learn more about advocacy and the options available for future growth within ASDA.

Here are some highlights of my first-timer’s experience at NLC.

One of the breakout sessions I attended was focused on fluoridation, which is the most cost-effective method at tooth decay prevention. I was surprised to learn that most bottled waters do not contain fluoride because the majority go through a reverse osmosis distillation process. The breakout session emphasized that, as future dental professionals, we have the opportunity to make the public aware of the benefits of water fluoridation and to stay up to date with current research. Furthermore, we can advocate for water fluoridation in communities that haven’t implemented it such as Oregon.

As someone who is interested in specializing, it was helpful to learn more about residency through ADEA PASS early in my dental education. Similar to undergraduate times, it is important for a dental student to keep a running, chronological CV describing their extracurricular activities. It was emphasized to treat this as a rolling admissions process and submit a couple months after the application opens. Therefore, students should have their faculty evaluation letters and essays prepared in advance. In addition, it was recommended to check out the PASS website on specific requirements per residency program. Overall, this has helped clarify a more defined end-goal for me to work toward during my dental journey.

This year, ASDA introduced a track of breakout sessions called “cutting-edge.” I attended the session on cosmetic dentistry, where I learned that primary anatomy referred to a tooth’s line angles, while secondary incorporates depressions and tertiary includes stippling. It was interesting to see the technique of using cake glitter to see secondary and tertiary anatomy of a tooth.

I also attended a session on going green in the dental office. It has here I learned about the POPi toothbrush, which is made from recycled ocean plastic and is biodegradable. While it hasn’t hit the market yet, it is an interesting concept and makes me wonder what future advances in dentistry may come.

Barriers to care
I had an enjoyable time attending the barriers to care breakout session, as I have already had some exposure to this topic during my dental education. We went over strategies on how we can make a difference in reducing these barriers. Whether it be supporting federally qualified health centers or educating patients through outreach programs, there were invaluable problem-solving strategies discussed in this presentation. It was interesting to hear a different perspective on this topic, allowing me to learn about different ways I can take action to reduce barriers as a future dental professional.

My experience at NLC was phenomenal. The breakout sessions were informative and gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas with students from across the nation. On top of the incredible networking experience and beautiful boat cruise, I learned about the opportunity to become a national leader and foster my growth. I’ve gotten so much from NLC 2019 and highly recommend this event to any dental or predental student interested in networking, advocacy and learning more about dentistry.

~Michael Mears, WesternU ’23

Michael Mears

Michael Mears is a first-year dental student at Western University. Before attending dental school, Michael worked as an RDA at a pediatric dental office for two years in San Francisco. He has a passion for pediatric dentistry and aspires to work with underserved communities, in addition to adolescents and patients with disabilities in the future.

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1 Comment

  1. Michael Mears says:

    It was a pleasure working with ASDA’s editorial board in publishing my experience at NLC! If you are a pre-dental student or current dental student, I highly encourage you to look into attending National Leadership Conference next year! It was a phenomenal experience 🙂

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