Student Spotlight

A spotlight on ASDA’s national delegate of the year

ASDA delegates serve to increase membership, interact with state and local dental societies, and encourage members to seek national and regional leadership positions. Each year, ASDA recognizes the accomplishments in mentorship of its delegates by awarding one from each district a Delegate of the Year Award. From the 11 award winners, the delegate who has demonstrated significant personal dedication and outstanding achievement receives the National Delegate of the Year Award.

This year, Eric Bender, Pittsburgh ’21, was named ASDA National Delegate of the Year.

What does being the National Delegate of the Year mean to you?

I’m honored to be recognized for the energy I’ve poured into ASDA, though I think of this recognition with a stronger connection to our team’s success than a “me” award. As the saying goes, surround yourself with people you want to be like, as we are a product of our environment. I was lucky to have the best executive board a president could ask for. Lee Rodems (VP), Casey White (secretary), Kirsten Fast (treasurer) and Patrick Donnelly (legislative liaison) were nothing short of amazing this past year. Our ASDA chapter achieved incredible growth in both member engagement and programming, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without their leadership. We instituted “decentralized command” within our chapter, delegating executive board members to oversee one or two committees, which were in turn led by committee chairs. 

Outside the scope of our chapter, I’ve garnered leadership experience and personal development through my involvement as vice president of The Tooth Bank. Our growing team of all-stars, including Jack Lupfer, Raul Molina, Brett Becker and Monil Mehta (among many others), have given me the feedback and guidance to apply transferable skills between both organizations. I’m honored that our success has drawn attention as an example of what delegates can achieve! I would also like to give a huge thank you to Julia Cheung (immediate past district 3 trustee) for nominating me and Immediate Past President Craig McKenzie for demonstrating what ASDA can be. My choice to commit such a large amount of time to ASDA this past year took away time from other areas of my life, especially time with my fiancé Emilia, so a big thanks to her for being supportive and understanding of my involvement.

What has been your favorite ASDA moment this past year?  

If I have to pick one, it would be our chapter’s “Steel City Expo.” Every year, our school administration blocks off class and clinic for a day to allow the student body and interested faculty to attend a keynote lecture and vendor fair. This year was our most successful event yet! Much credit owed to the leadership of District 3 Trustee Casey White, as she led the event planning committee. For the first time in the history of the event, we not only had a keynote speaker, but we had breakout sessions from local dentists on a variety of topics. After the lectures and breakout sessions, we had our most highly attended vendor fair, which gave students the opportunity to learn about the vital interactions we have with dental industry.  

The feedback we received from our classmates and faculty was positive. Attendees agreed it was the best Steel City event they’ve ever been to. Most importantly, though, we brought an NLC-style event to our home turf and offered our members what NLC gave those of us who attended – the ability to learn outside the classroom,and an idea of what organized dentistry can provide. Our school’s interest in ASDA gained even more momentum after this event and being a part of that brings so much joy!

This year’s Annual Session theme was “Gateway to Growth.” How have you grown as a leader in this past year with ASDA?  

This may sound cliché, but I never thought I would grow as much as I did this past year as our chapter’s president. There were many triumphant moments, as well as those that were trying. Being a leader is difficult. Add in the fact that ASDA members are undergoing (possibly) some of the most rigorous and stressful years of their lives, and you’re in for a challenge. I think I grew most by realizing that everyone is on their own journey and their own timeline. People have different priorities, skills, talents and interests. Despite this variation, ASDA can be of value to each and every member. I’ve learned to think critically about how ASDA can fit into everyone’s paths to provide value as a chapter to our members and community.  

Through lectures at ASDA’s national conferences and through practice of leading our chapter, I’ve taken away a few “biggies”:

  • I’ve learned to take ownership of faults and failures, and not to blame others, but to celebrate and reward wins with the team that made it happen.
  • I’ve learned that if you want something in life, take steps to make it happen. Sure, there’s the risk of failing, but wouldn’t you rather fail than to have never tried? Happen to life, don’t let life happen to you.
  • I’ve learned just how far being a genuinely nice person can go. Be kind. People take notice.

What advice do you have for someone who is starting their ASDA journey? 

The most joy I’ve found in dental school has been the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met through ASDA. Dental schools have a tough job. They need to graduate competent dentists who will walk out the door in four short years. Given such an important task, dental schools don’t have much time to teach students the soft skills of patient management, practice management, leadership skills to lead a team and the knowledge to advocate for and protect our profession and our patients. ASDA does this! Get involved with as much ASDA programming as you can. Get involved at your chapter and at the district and national levels. It’s time to start taking ownership in your own success. The most important factors for success in the real world are not awarded credit or a “grade” from faculty. Just look at past ASDA leadership, and you’ll see they are flourishing in the real world.

What does being an ASDA member mean to you? 

Being a member of ASDA means taking the extra steps to ensure your future’s success. The future success of not only you as a professional, but the success of your profession and your patients maintaining their oral health. School only offers so much; it’s up to you to go above and beyond to learn the skills you need to succeed, no matter how you may define success.

I’ve learned from my involvement with ASDA and attending many national meetings the importance of voicing our opinion as a profession. It is apparent that strength comes in numbers. It is because of our collective voice that our profession has maintained a level of freedom and the power to advocate for our patients as well as our professional colleagues. Being a part of ASDA means choosing to have a voice and being heard.

~Callista Schulenburg, LECOM ’22, ASDA Electronic Editor

Callista Schulenburg

Callista is in her third year at LECOM School of Dental Medicine. She is currently serving as 2020-21 Editor-in-Chief of the American Student Dental Association and the Wellness Co-Chair for District 5. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, reading, writing and being outside in the Florida sunshine. Her favorite part about ASDA is meeting and getting to work with dental student authors from all over the country, sharing their voices and stories in ASDA publications.

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