Getting prepared and ‘bear-y’ excited for Advocacy Month

Now, I’m no comedian, but I feel inclined to share a joke with you to get things started:

What did the dental student see at the North Pole?

The same thing that you’ll see again this November — the Molar Bear!

Today is Nov. 1, which means welcome to Advocacy Month. If you aren’t familiar with the Molar Bear, she’s ASDA’s official mascot and is un-bear-ably cute! Throughout the month, she travels from chapter to chapter across the country and encourages dental students to get involved with advocacy and tackle some of its biggest questions like, what is grassroots advocacy? Why is it important? How should I get involved? Bear in mind — these are some important questions we’ll explore.

When we last saw our furry friend, the world looked a little different. COVID-19 forced us out of our clinics and classrooms, and launched us into a new virtual world. It was un-bear-able. While our fire to advocate for our profession and our patients refused to extinguish, advocacy in 2020 was a polar opposite from what we were used to.

But those changes weren’t fur-ever. The Molar Bear is coming out of hi-bear-nation just in time to celebrate. This year, we’re ready to take our advocacy to places we never thought paw-sible. This year, our efforts will focus on Getting Back to Our (Grass) Roots.

Are you still with me? Just bear-ly? Ok, let’s break it down to the bear minimum.

As much as Zoom allowed us to meet, strategize and collaborate, no Zoom meeting can replace the power of in-person grassroots advocacy. Grassroots advocacy means starting locally from the ground-up to influence issues at the state or federal level. We connect with our peers to discuss important issues affecting us today as students and tomorrow as dentists. Issues such as student debt, bear-iers to care and licensure reform keep us bear-ied in thought at the power of effecting change.

You may be wondering: How fur will these puns go? You wouldn’t bear-lieve we have a few more. Here’s how you can get involved this month.

To highlight how grassroots advocacy reaches all corners of the earth, we’re challenging every ASDA chapter to submit their most unique, adventurous and creative video to our “Oh, the Places the Molar Bear Will Go” video competition. Strike a paws with the Molar Bear at a park or in clinic, and show us all the paw-sible places the Molar Bear goes with you. We’re looking for fur-nominal videos, so you better high-tail it to your fur-vorite coffee shop.

Unsure about how to hold an in-person advocacy event after a year on Zoom? Bear sure to join us for our chapter idea exchange on Nov. 9 at 7: fur-ty (7:30) Central time. Whether your chapter has had success with a “Red, White and Brews” event or an advocacy debate, bring your thoughts and ideas as we brainstorm how to bear-gin advocating at the grassroots level. 

Ultimately, this month is about the bear. Sorry, I mean this month is about you. Getting involved in these discussions and building coalitions at the local level are crucial in our pursuit of change.

Tom Peters, acclaimed American writer, stated, “Community organizing is all about building grassroots support. It’s about identifying the people around you with whom you can create a common, passionate cause.” After a year that so quickly separated us from our peers, let’s get back to our (grass) roots.

I’ll leave you with one last joke to kick off our advocacy efforts on a high note: What do you call a toothless bear? A gummy bear, of course!

~Jake Holtzmann, Colorado ’22, ASDA Council on Advocacy Chair

Jake Holtzmann

As he follows his passions for organized dentistry, public health and pediatric dentistry, Jake Holtzmann currently serves as chair of ASDA’s Council on Advocacy and vice president of his local Colorado AAPD chapter. Holtzmann recently served as a junior commissioned officer of the United States Public Health Service, where he served for five weeks in Shiprock, New Mexico, at the Northern Navajo Medical Center. In his free time, he enjoys the company of life-long friends made in dental school, the many breweries that Colorado has to offer and the snowy slopes of the Colorado Rockies.

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