The hardest part about anything is getting started. This also is true for advocacy efforts. Oftentimes, students are passionate about a cause but may not know how or where they can start to make a difference. Advocacy wasn’t new to me, but ASDA created a program that helped me record my activity and realize that there were even more ways to get involved. Here are the top four ways ASDA’s Advocacy Certificate Program took my advocacy efforts to the next level and can help you start your advocacy journey.
1. It was easy to follow the identified activities. What better way to get started with advocacy than to see a list of different opportunities to participate on local, state and national levels? If your passion is writing, you can write an article for Contour or this blog about your thoughts and experience with a topic such as licensure reform. I wrote a blog post after attending the Mid-Atlantic Advocacy Academy.
You also could consider sending an Engage Action Alert, which is just as easy (and takes about the same amount of time) as checking your email. If you only have a few minutes between classes, send a pre-written letter using the Engage system to show your support for things such as the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA).
2. It allowed me to network. The certificate program encouraged me to attend different advocacy events to network with not only other dental professionals, but also state representatives and lawmakers. For example, I had dinner with New York State Assembly member Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes. Being able to sit in your state representative’s office and talk to them directly about how issues such as student debt will impact your education and career choices is an effective and humbling experience.
3. I stayed motivated. It was rewarding to log my activity and see that I was getting closer to completing the certificate program. It helped me make sure my studying and lab work were in order so I could attend lobby days and other advocacy events.
Dental students are a community of motivated, self-starting individuals. Because of this, we can make a difference. Often, students get a taste of advocacy at their chapter and are motivated to attend a state lobby day or ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. By keeping track of your involvement and reflecting on the growth you experience, you are more likely to continue working toward a larger goal.
4. You can get recognized. Each member who completes the Advocacy Certificate Program will be recognized with a certificate as well as a special pin. Who doesn’t love another pin to wear alongside the #ToothParty pin to ASDA meetings? There also are plenty of opportunities to use social media to share your cause.
In addition, if you are the ASDA member with the most points throughout the year, you will receive the Excellence in Advocacy Engagement Award at Annual Session. This year, I had the honor of receiving this award by participating in advocacy events at the chapter, state and national level.
I challenge every one of you to earn the Advocacy Certificate. Participate in a few events, learn a bit more about the challenges our great profession faces and see how you can make a difference. On the off-chance that you don’t become a lifetime advocate, your time isn’t wasted. You will still be contributing to the profession and developing as a leader.
~Claire Session, Buffalo ’20, ASDA Council on Advocacy Legislative Coordinator, Districts 1-3