Every November, dental students from each ASDA chapter pass around a Molar Bear and bust out their “Tooth Party” pins to participate in ASDA’s Advocacy Month. I’m going to share why ASDA created this annual initiative and the different ways students can work toward change for the profession.
The first Tuesday after Nov. 1 is designated Election Day in the United States, per the legislation passed by Congress in 1845. November was selected because back then, America was predominately an agricultural society, and November was between harvest in the fall and winter when weather conditions became too hard to travel in — by horse and buggy. Times were simpler then.
Since national elections are held in November, what better month to combine our efforts to spread the importance of advocating for our rights as dental students? The 2016 ASDA Council on Advocacy thought the month was perfect to showcase student advocacy efforts. Years later, the initiative is going strong, engaging students in advocacy events at nearly every chapter.
This year’s advocacy theme is E Pluribus ASDA. Borrowed from the traditional motto of the United States, we are emphasizing that out of many, we make one great ASDA. We all have different backgrounds and political views but with a common goal of protecting and advancing the interests of every dental student, namely licensure reform, student debt and midlevel providers.
Although 2019 is considered an election “off-year,” chapters are participating in the same capacity as other years. Different events around the nation are held to spread awareness for dental student issues. Some examples of these events include “Red, White and Brews,” “Pizza and Politics,” “Pasta and Politics” (or whichever carb tickles your legislative fancy). Many chapters also hold membership drives for ADPAC, the political action committee of the ADA.
At Louisiana, we held the Donut Forget to Vote initiative. Our legislative liaison, Will Cavell, Louisiana ’20, facilitated the event and encouraged students to vote in our local elections. If they showed their “I Voted” sticker or a selfie at the polls, they received a donut. I personally think it’s the tastiest advocacy initiative.
Other ways to “Engage”
If taking action from the comfort of your own home is more your style, ASDA’s Engage website is your friend. It only takes moments to form and send a letter to your local lawmakers to voice your opinion of what matters most. Last year, after Louisiana’s Advocacy Academy, we had all attendees visit Engage and send letters in support of student issues to their respective lawmakers. It literally took less than five minutes for everyone to complete the process.
Participating in each advocacy opportunity gets you one step closer to receiving your Advocacy Certificate. This program helps students improve their advocacy knowledge and is available to every ASDA predoctoral member who wants to participate. You can earn a point for every webinar, or advo-cast, you attend that’s hosted by ASDA’s Council on Advocacy. As meta as it sounds, I will receive one point for writing this advocacy-related blog post.
Advocacy Month provides a perfect opportunity for students to get involved with advocacy, but there are many ways to take part before and after the month, too. You may feel overwhelmed with how to start, but it’s important simply to start.
See you in November!
~Gerard Scannell, Louisiana ’21, Chapter President, ASDA District 5 Trustee