Why dental students should lobby

screenshot-2016-12-05-22-44-06Tuesday, July 26, 2016:  It is the night of the Republican runoff election in Georgia’s 3rd congressional district.  The ADPAC Team has convened at Tre Scalini, an old-fashioned Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, for a dinner reunion that has transformed into our very own watch party.  ADPAC has worked hard to support Dr. Drew Ferguson, an ADA dentist member.  After nearly 5 months since he entered the race, this is the big moment for the team.  The results are in.  Congratulations Dr.  Ferguson, you are one step closer to becoming the 4th dentist in Congress! Never before has pasta with truffle oil and parmigiano tasted so good.

Life as a summer extern for the American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) came with many “firsts.”  I had my first non-familial roommate: Elieza Tang, a second-year dental student at Midwestern University in Arizona and Legislative Co-Chair of District 10.  I watched my first Major League Baseball game from the private suite of an ADPAC-supported Congressman who talked about student debt over hot dogs and mac and cheese.  I shelled my first crab at the ADPAC Board of Directors Meeting, where dentists offered me a crash course in crustacean anatomy after cringing at my ineffective use of a mallet.

ADPAC Externs are selected by the ASDA Board of Trustees for a multi-week experience at the Washington, DC ADA office to learn about lobbying, fundraising and political processes.

The legislative and fundraising events were front-loaded in my externship.  Meeting more than 15 members of Congress in the first three days was demanding, yet rewarding.  We scrambled to research every member’s state, voting record and political positions in order to frame our conversations about the important issues that dental students and dentists face.  I quickly learned that demonstrating expertise in an area does not mean inundating someone with facts.  Rarely did informing them about the bill number (“Post-Grad Act HR 4223”) help.  On the other hand, strategically using facts such as “dental students graduate with an average debt upwards of $240,000” and propping them up with our individual stories was helpful. Small talk was essential. ADPAC Director Sarah Milligan was able to seamlessly weave her agenda into casual conversations yet simultaneously extract information about congressional activities.

Ms. Milligan’s skills developed over years of experiences on Capitol Hill. By the end of day one, I started to notice that I slurred less when I introduced myself and became more open to initiating dialogue with the representative next to me.  Part of the burgeoning confidence resulted from experiencing the thrill of these fast-paced interactions.  More substantially, it also stemmed from appreciating the value of being students in rooms saturated with experienced lobbyists.

Students are new faces with fresh enthusiasm and energy.  Our views can influence and be influenced.  Our anecdotes have impact.  We are the futures that will bear the effects of legislation that congressional members are voting on right now.  

This is why you should attend ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. For the first time, ASDA is joining forces with the American Dental Association to bring you a new lobbying experience. ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day will feature dental students and practitioners coming together to lobby on Capitol Hill. In addition to conducting congressional meetings with dentists, dental student attendees will have the opportunity to network and learn with experienced practitioners throughout the meeting. Having 1,000 dental professionals on the Hill lobbying to protect and advance the profession is an event you do not want to miss!

You must register by March 1. Click here to learn more and register for the meeting.

What are some other ways you can stay informed?

My ADPAC Externship was nothing short of eye-opening.  It gave me perspective about an essential side of dentistry that is not built into our traditional dental curricula.  It reaffirmed the value of taking advantage of my identity as a student to stay informed and actively engaged.  

~ Nancy Mo, Columbia ’19, 2016 ADPAC extern

Nancy Mo

Nancy is a second year at Columbia. In the summer of 2016, she completed an ADPAC externship in Washington, DC.

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