Jordan Brunson, East Carolina ’20, was awarded the ASDA Distinguished Leader Award at this year’s National Leadership Conference in Chicago. The award recognizes a fourth-year dental student who has made significant contributions to their ASDA chapter. Here, Jordan discusses the biggest lessons he’s learned as part of his dental school journey, as well as his motivation to become a leader.
Tell us about your dental school journey so far.
My journey through dental school consisted of me constantly wanting to be better than I was the day before, and though that can be a great mantra, many times, it led me to have unrealistic expectations of where I should be developmentally throughout my matriculation. Dental school has not been one big learning curve like I expected, but a continuous cycle of small learning curves that can be frustrating. It’s like just when you figure out how to hit the fast ball — they start throwing curve balls and then screw balls, and the cycle just continues with every semester of dental school. But I found that there is beauty in the struggle and when you look back, you appreciate what you have accomplished that much more because of it.
What has been one of your biggest lessons in dental school so far?
“Failure is not fatal.” Dental school is a roller coaster with many highs and some inevitable lows. We are all driven people or else we would not have gotten this far. But I feel most people would agree that dental school is hard because of the complexity of the curriculum. You have to be smart to handle the overwhelming amount of didactics covered, you have to be an artist to wax that first maxillary molar and pass every skills assessment, and you must be a social butterfly to connect with the various personalities that sit in your chair.
Dental school is comprised of a bunch of small hills to climb, with many uncomfortable firsts that will seem like failures in the moment. The key for me was to come to terms with the fact that I am a student and it is OK to not have mastered a crown prep after your first couple of attempts in sim lab. Learning comes with its mistakes, uncertainties and personal failures, but eventually you’ll get comfortable with the fact that you are now and always will be a lifelong learner who will find a way to take each hill in stride.
What does organized dentistry mean to you?
The phrase “strength in numbers” is what comes to mind when I think about organized dentistry. So much more can be accomplished when you have a team working toward a common goal. We are fortunate to still have the autonomy and ability as dentists to practice the way we choose, and that is attributed to the work of organized dentistry. Because of ASDA, the talk of licensure reform is gaining traction and without being organized as students, we would not have gotten as far as we have with this important topic.
ASDA wrapped up Advocacy Month in November. Expanding on your thoughts on organized dentistry, what does advocacy mean to you?
Advocacy is one of the most important aspects of ASDA and the foundation of organized dentistry. As students and future dental professionals, we must advocate for our profession and the policies we stand by to be able to best serve our patients and practice in the most ethical and enjoyable way possible. You don’t have to know every policy or be interested in politics, but I would encourage everyone to find an issue they believe in and lend your time to seeing that issue resolved throughout your career. Our future depends on what we advocate for today.
ASDA awarded you the Distinguished Leader Award this year. How were you motivated to become a leader?
Early in my dental journey, I was heavily engaged by ASDA leaders ahead of me, and I found a strong interest in the mission of advancing the rights, interests and welfare of my peers. I started as our professional development coordinator, responsible for bringing meaningful lunch and learns to our students. Through this experience, I developed a better understanding of organized dentistry and its importance. I became motivated to run for our delegate position when I saw the opportunity to serve and grow our chapter through student engagement and programming.
What does being a leader mean to you?
Being trustworthy is the most important part of leadership. A team will only follow someone if they trust them and believe in their vision. Also, a good leader is mission-oriented and has the ability to relay their vision in a way that energizes everyone around them. Lastly, a great leader is people-focused, noticing the strengths of those around them and working to cultivate and develop those strengths and the future leaders within the team.
~Callista Schulenburg, LECOM ’22, ASDA Electronic Editor