Management + Leadership

Looking ahead: Leadership development as a new dentist

NLC 2015
Dr. Yige Zhao (far right) poses with ASDA’s National Leadership Conference planning committee and keynote speaker Jia Jiang (middle) at NLC 2015. NLC is another great way to network and seek out your next leadership opportunity while you’re still a student!

I’ve spent the vast majority of my educational career looking towards “the next step.” I spent high school preparing myself for college, and navigated my way through college with dental school in mind. Now, as a second-year dental student, I find myself thinking a lot about what the next step in my career will be. Will I go straight into private practice? Will I choose to specialize? Or will my path take an entirely different trajectory altogether?

When I thought about my involvement within organized dentistry, I found myself with similar questions. I have been an active member of my school’s ASDA chapter since my very first quarter of dental school, and my experience has brought me an incredible amount of personal and professional growth. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what opportunities were available to continue growing as leaders after graduation. After the many conferences I’ve attended and conversations I’ve had with student leaders, here are some of the things I learned, as well as some words of wisdom:

Network at every opportunity
Many student leaders have successfully translated the leadership skills they learned through ASDA into new leadership roles within the ADA as new dentists. Yet, much of their success would not be possible without the right mentorship. Dr. Yige Zhao, 2014-15 District 11 trustee, was recently selected for the Leadership Development Committee for the California Dental Association (CDA). Networking with leaders in dentistry has been instrumental to her success: “I really made an effort to seek out mentors in these leaders, mostly people who I aspired to become. Dr. Natasha Lee is one of them. She was the one who really pushed me to apply for a position at CDA straight out of dental school and I’m glad that I did!” For those considering a similar path, she adds, “No matter how big or small your role is in ASDA, whether it’s a district position or just simply a committee member, it is important that you network at every opportunity and let your mentor know your future leadership plans. That way they can help guide you to where you aspire to be.”

Take advantage of the resources the ADA has to offer
The ADA has worked tirelessly to support the newest generation of dentists and to address the issues that we will face as we start working. I first learned about the ADA Success Dental Student Program at the National Leadership Conference when I sat in on one of their sessions, “All about Associateships.” This program was recently revamped by the ADA New Dentist Committee and covers topics such as debt/wealth management and finding a job. The ADA also publishes the New Dentist Now blog for new dentists to share what they’ve learned, and even hosts programs such as the ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership to enhance the leadership skills of dentists from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

Get involved on a local level
After graduation, Daryn Lu, the 2014-2015 National ASDA Vice President, started guest blogging for the ADA New Dentist Blog, but he also jumped right into getting involved at the state and local levels. He was recently elected to join the board of his local dental society, where he will have the opportunity to work alongside both older, more experienced dentists as well as younger, newly-graduated dentists. Yet, he states that none of this would be possible without the relationships that he has formed through his involvement within ASDA. “Simply taking the initiative to connect with others and express your interest will take you a long way,” Daryn advises. “Older dentists and organized dentistry are looking for young, passionate students to continue what they’ve worked so long and hard for.”

~Sharlene Cam, Los Angeles ’18, District 11 newsletter editor 

Read ASDA News for the “Life After ASDA” department that features interviews with a variety of dentists established in their careers. This Q&A section has featured past ASDA leaders, academic dentists and current leaders in the ADA. Find out what motivates them and has made a difference on their careers.

Sharlene Cam

Sharlene is a third-year dental student at the University of California, Los Angeles. She currently serves as chapter Vice President and as an Electronic Editor on the national ASDA Editorial Board. In her free time, she enjoys graphic design and crafting.

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