Cherry blossoms aren’t the only things popping up in D.C. this spring. Nearly 1,000 dental students and dentists will travel from all corners of the country to visit the Hill to advocate for the dental profession.
Whether you’re a student that has attended the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day in the past or this is your first leap into lobbying on the Hill, here are four fast facts you should know before you head to D.C. April 14–16.
1. Be familiar with the issues.
Lobby day attendees will advocate on three issues: dental student debt principles, repeal of McCarran-Ferguson and the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act. To learn more about each:
- Read the issue sheets — These present a high-level summary of each topic and provide talking points to help attendees speak with one unified voice. It’s a good idea to be familiar with the issue sheets as you’ll leave a copy behind with congresspeople after you meet with them.
- Participate in the issue calls taking place April 1–4 — These informative conference calls are facilitated by the American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) and will walk attendees through each issue. Registration for your state’s call is shared in the lobby day attendee emails that are sent every Tuesday. Contact Peter Aiello, ADPAC grassroots manager, with questions about the issue calls.
- Watch the “Feel at Home on the Hill” webinar recording — The ASDA Council on Advocacy wants to help you know what to expect during the 2019 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day meeting and your congressional appointments. You don’t want to miss this opportunity to hear from ASDA’s advocacy experts.
2. Draft your personal story.
On average, dental students will graduate with about $300,000 in student loan debt. This doesn’t even consider the additional debt nearly 50 percent of dental students will incur when they go into postdoctoral programs, according to the American Dental Education Association. While these statistics are powerful, stories have a strong impact because congresspeople are inundated with facts and statistics on a daily basis. Make sure you stand out by telling your story.
When thinking about how student debt will affect you and your fellow students, consider the amount of debt you will have and what that means for your future. Talk about where and how you want to practice when you graduate and the influence student debt will play in that decision.
3. Prepare to be a professional.
Making a positive impression on the congressperson or staffer you meet on Capitol Hill is important to building a lasting relationship. Here are some ways you can prepare to succeed at your meetings:
- Do your research — Make sure you know your congressperson’s voting record on the issues for which you’ll be advocating. This will help you craft appropriate talking points for your meeting.
- Bring business cards — Not only will they aid your relationships with congresspeople, they will help you keep in touch with the dentists and dental students you meet from around the country.
- Make the most of lobby day training sessions — You will be provided a full day of training on Monday leading up to your congressional appointments on Tuesday. Show up on time, participate and ask questions during these sessions to become a lobbying expert.
4. Life after Lobby Day.
Advocacy efforts are most effective when they are year-round. After you leave Capitol Hill, it’s vital for you to keep the momentum alive and to take your enthusiasm back to your chapter. Here are three easy ways to be engaged after lobby day comes to a close:
- Message your congresspeople in support of the REDI Act. ASDA’s action alert system, Engage, has a pre-filled email that you can easily modify and send to your legislators.
- Lead a lobby day recap lunch and learn to share your experience with your fellow dental student members.
- Participate in the Advocacy Certificate Program. By attending lobby day, you are one point closer to becoming an ASDA certificate holder and receiving a custom ASDA advocacy lapel pin.
If you have any questions for ASDA staff before leaping into the 2019 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day, contact Keely O’Sullivan Kurtz, ASDA’s manager of advocacy and policy.
The American Student Dental Association is a national student-run organization that protects and advances the rights, interests and welfare of dental students.