Three weeks ago, I packed my bags and flew across the country to attend the ADA FDI World Dental Congress. I had the honor of being chosen as one of ASDA’s student delegates to attend the meeting, and I was eager to represent dental students in the broader organized dentistry community. I had been to several dental conferences before, so I had an idea of what to expect, but I couldn’t have anticipated the sheer scope of the ADA Annual Session. Here’s a quick look at my week in San Francisco.
Unless my amateur swimming takes off, seeing the opening ceremonies of the ADA FDI World Dental Congress is as close to the Olympics as I’ll ever get. Thousands of attendees from all over the globe congregated to mark the beginning of the week’s festivities. As each country’s name was called out over the loud speakers, people from that country stood up to cheer, waving the tiny flags they brought with them just for the occasion. Going through the list of all the world’s countries took quite a bit of time but made for some excellent people-watching. My favorite moments? When one country’s name was called and only two people stood up, it was apparent that neither of them knew that the other was there, and they shared a moment of joyful recognition from across the crowd. At another point, a single representative from a country stood up, realized he was the only one there, turned around to face the crowd and took a very theatric bow.
Dr. Jeffrey Cole, ADA immediate past president, and Dr. Kathryn Kell, FDI immediate past president, served as the emcees for the ceremony. After Drs. Cole and Kell presented several awards in recognition of humanitarian efforts in dentistry, it was time for the keynote speaker: Mark Wahlberg. As hundreds of cellphones went up in the air to try to get a shot of our celebrity guest, a nice Australian woman sitting directly in front of me turned around and asked, “Are you just here to see Mark Wahlberg? Because, honestly, I am.”
Wahlberg talked with Drs. Cole and Kell about his childhood in Boston, his own experience with dentistry and his passion for addressing the opioid crisis. After the interview, fans rushed the stage in hopes of getting a selfie with Wahlberg. (“Here’s your chance — get up there,” said the Australian woman from before.)
The excitement of the opening session left the ASDA delegation ready to dive into the week ahead. As delegates and alternate delegates to the ADA House, the ASDA delegation had several key responsibilities. First was reviewing the resolutions that would be presented to the House of Delegates, and discussing if and how those resolutions affected ASDA membership. Many of the resolutions had little impact on dental students — for example, specifics of the ADA’s annual budget — but many did intersect with ASDA policy and dental student interests. Investigations into new ways of repaying student loan debt, for example, were debated, along with other items.
After meeting as a caucus, attending reference committee hearings and discussing the resolutions with dentists from our home states, members of our delegation sat on the house floor and cast our votes. If you’ve ever been to a meeting of ASDA’s House of Delegates at Annual Session, you’ll know exactly what this process looks like.
It is impossible to summarize the week in such a short format. I could go on and on about how our delegation met with and questioned candidates for the ADA president-elect, second vice-president and speaker of the house. How we saw the leadership turn over from Dr. Cole to the ADA’s new president, Dr. Chad Gehani. How we proudly saw ASDA executive director, Nancy Honeycutt, become an honorary member of the ADA. Suffice it to say that every hour of these few days was packed with activity.
All in all, I came away from this experience appreciating how much organized dentistry means to our profession and how much practicing dentists are eager for students to get involved. After you’ve gotten a taste of organized dentistry through ASDA, consider getting involved with your local or state dental societies. I guarantee, you’ll be glad you did.
~Jeannie Binder, Texas-Houston ’21, ASDA Editor-in-Chief