Chapter Focus

Leadership – from the ASDA University of Puerto Rico chapter perspective

Since day one in dental school, I knew I wanted to be a member of ASDA. I had heard so much about how it advocates for students, helps mold leadership skills and provides a community of peers going through the same challenges you are going through and help each other. Being part of the University of Puerto Rico’s ASDA chapter, I felt a sense of belonging and community from the start. There are members you can rely on, you get to push and challenge yourself, and you get to be part of great opportunities, having a network of members who support each other within your reach. 

By my second year in dental school, I was already part of the district 5 cabinet as the community service chair. Having a leadership role in any organization comes with responsibilities and duties. You have to start thinking about what is best for the group you represent instead of your own interests. I’d had other leadership roles in the past, from being historian to serving as president for different clubs. As a leader, you know that teamwork is key to making anything work. Establishing and creating interpersonal connections based on mutual respect is essential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, nonetheless. Working with the district 5 cabinet has been a wonderful experience and an opportunity for us to adapt to a new style of getting things done, such as understanding that social media has become the center of communications during this pandemic. With the district 5 cabinet, thanks to our trustee Marco Gargano, we have established a good teamwork technique that has helped each position get things done. Working with dental students from seven different universities has been fantastic, and developing bonds and connections has been key to making a well-rounded team.

Valeria Bravo, a DS3 student and president of ASDA’s UPR chapter, shared a bit of her experience in this leadership role and how COVID-19 impacted the ways things used to be done. For her, COVID-19 has impacted the chapter both negatively and positively. It forced the chapter to stop doing in-person activities such as the lunch and learns that focused on establishing learning experiences and relationships with other dental schools and dental companies. It has also limited the number of members who can participate in the activities, including district conferences and meetings. 

However, Bravo talks about how this pandemic has positively affected the chapter and reinvented it, allowing for innovative activities where you can bring in information and opportunities to the members like before the pandemic, but using safety protocols and procedures.

An example of this is virtual activities. Supporting Bravo’s positive outcomes of this pandemic is DS2 and incoming chapter president Paola Rosario. Rosario believes COVID-19 has allowed the chapter to offer the same events, socials, seminars and other activities while receiving the same pre-pandemic support from the members, giving them the chance to enjoy themselves while learning and being exposed to new concepts and professional opportunities. Moreover, the UPR chapter is ASDA’s only Spanish-speaking one, making it even more unique.

Rosario has always liked being in leadership positions, and for her, it is an honor to fill Bravo’s shoes next year. As president, she hopes to learn more about the experiences that dental students in the chapter go through and help expose them to other ASDA members and professional opportunities. 

Bravo also talks about the meaning of this leadership position. For her, it’s about the opportunity to impact the lives of other dental students like her and bring them the best options and experiences, and make the dental school journey more fun and enriching. Also, it’s about opening doors to opportunities beyond school.

Being in a leadership position comes with more responsibilities and a sense of trust. A leader must be impartial and confident, know how to guide and what to say. A leader has to show empathy and work with the team. They have to get the conversation going and make the hard decisions. Being a leader of a student-run organization means doing what is best for a whole, always looking forward to the big picture, vision and mission of the organization they represent. As Dwight Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity.” And to quote John Quincy Adams, our actions as leaders should “inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.”

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~Yasmarie Santana Rivera, Puerto Rico ’24, District 5 Community Service Chair

Yasmarie Santana-Rivera

Yasmarie Santana-Rivera, Puerto Rico '24, is an ASDA electronic editor and intends to pursue a career in prosthodontics or orthodontics. She is actively involved in dental research, specifically cancer research.

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