Advocacy for predentals and rising D1s: A guide to taking action

Sonali Lallu and Hilary Wong have been committed to ASDA and learning about their future careers throughout their undergrad studies. Both were introduced to the organization through their district’s programming, served on their district’s predental committees and eventually earned positions on national ASDA’s Predental Advisory Committee. In addition to serving at the national level as predental consultant (Lallu currently holds the position; Wong served during the 2018-19 term), both students are passionate about advocating on behalf of the profession. Here, they discuss how predentals and rising D1s can get involved and why advocacy is important to students at all levels.

How would you describe advocacy for those who are becoming familiar with it?

When it comes to advocacy, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Whether it’s learning about some of the key issues, lobbying or helping overall, it can be overwhelming, especially for predental students and rising D1s. We often hear about the topic of advocacy and some of the issues we have within our profession, but it can be challenging to know what exactly advocacy is and how we can enter the chat.

Advocacy is defined as an activity by an individual or group that aims to gain support for a particular cause. Since the birth of the organization, advocacy has been at the core of ASDA’s mission, and it continues to advance its mission today: protecting and advancing “the rights, interests, and welfare of dental students.”

Advocacy efforts take place on national, district and local levels. Key issues that ASDA advocates for include student debt, dental licensure reform, barriers to care, amalgam, water fluoridation, midlevel providers and more.

Why is advocacy important?

Being aware of these legislative issues is important because they affect the dental profession at large. If they do not directly impact you, they will affect someone you know. As future health care providers, we are always seeking the best quality of care to our patients. Current legislation does not necessarily allow this to happen. Lawmakers do not necessarily have the background knowledge to make important decisions about the dental profession, so it is crucial for us to use our voices to share our expertise, our knowledge and our experiences.

What can predental students and rising D1s do to take action?

Advocacy starts at a local level. This is vital to ensure we can make advancements within the state and federal levels. The best way to get involved is to become informed! To start, you can:

  • Read ASDA’s Advocacy Brief e-newsletter, watch the dental legislative videos and sign up for ASDA Action alerts.
  • Read Contour, ASDA’s premier magazine where dental students address interesting issues ranging from technology in dentistry, public health, practice ownership and more.
  • Attend ASDA webinars, which cover topics such as licensure reform, midlevel providers and more.

Taking it a step further, you can begin to get engaged by taking part in advocacy through your school chapter or your district.

  • Follow your chapter and district social media accounts for updates on local advocacy initiatives. For instance, this past June, ASDA District 3 launched a podcast episode focused on the impact of COVID-19 on insurance and licensure reforms and systemic racism in the dental profession.
  • Participate in Advocacy Month events this month. Consider serving as a legislative liaison. Network with lawmakers at your chapter.
  • Attend or organize a state lobby day. Share your advocacy efforts on social media using the #ASDAadvocacy hashtag.
  • Have meaningful conversations with your district or chapter advocacy leaders. Being an advocate is an ongoing process, and there are people who want to support you. Your district and chapter advocacy leaders are usually experienced on many topics and would love to talk in-depth about current issues.

Nationally, consider participating in ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day, once this opportunity is available again. Attending lobby day is an amazing opportunity to network directly with our government’s leaders. You will be able to explain to them why an issue is important to the dental profession and why they should take a specific stance during the lawmaking process.

Being an advocate is a lifelong journey. We hope this article provided some tangible action steps to help you get started.

~Sonali Lallu, University of Central Florida ’19, and Hilary Wong, Pennsylvania ’24

Sonali Lallu & Hilary Wong

Sonali Lallu graduated from the University of Central Florida in fall 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is currently taking science prerequisite courses at UCF before applying to dental school. Hilary Wong graduated from Northeastern University in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry. She attends University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

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