What more could you ask for? Hundreds of dental professionals on the Hill. Students engaging with experienced dentists and lobbyists. Cherry blossoms in bloom. This was the scene during the 2018 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day, held April 8–10, where more than 1,000 dentists and students gathered from across the country to advocate on behalf of our profession.
This year’s event was the last I’ll attend as a dental student. Looking back on my advocacy experiences over the past four years, I can say that lobby day is the most unique conference ASDA has to offer. Here are just a few reasons why you should attend next year.
It provides students with a platform.
We advocated for legislation that addressed oral health disparities, competitive insurance marketplaces and student debt. Dentistry has the highest debt burden of any health profession and has reached a staggering average of $287,000 for dental students. Senators and representatives heard personal stories of how this legislation would impact our profession and, ultimately, our patients. My friend Julia from New Hampshire related an anecdote that was particularly impactful.
In New Hampshire, there is no dental school and no agreements with any nearby state schools. This means prospective dental students cannot obtain reasonable tuition rates and are forced to seek private dental education or out-of-state tuition rates. This is a costly impediment when trying to return to the state she grew up in. You could see faces drop as she discussed the $120,000 she had to take out per year to pay for dental school. Julia will owe more than $500,000 at the conclusion of dental school. This debt crisis facing many dental students is contributing to the changes in the ownership models of our profession and is unsustainable.
It addresses critical issues facing the nation.
The opioid epidemic was also addressed with new guidelines introduced by the ADA. These guidelines require all dentists to obtain continuing education on opioids, would limit the length of prescriptions for acute dental to seven days and would encourage participation in state prescription monitoring programs. This aligns with a recently passed resolution by the ASDA House of Delegates to address the opioid epidemic.
It solidifies your future as an advocate.
As you progress through dental school and move on toward your careers, I urge you all to stay involved in organized dentistry and advocacy. Attend conferences, continue learning and donate to ADPAC. Nothing is as powerful as our collective voices in helping to protect our profession and promote the welfare of our patients.
We enter dentistry at a time of great change. There are people and organizations outside of our profession who want to influence how we practice. Whether you agree with them or not, it is important to stay informed and be engaged. Ultimately, you can either be effective or be affected.
~Jon Vogel, Texas-Houston ’18, 2017-18 Council on Advocacy Chair