I remember my first Advocacy Academy, hosted by the Arizona Dental Association (AzDA). I was nervous about participating in my first ASDA legislative event. I had never considered myself interested in politics before dental school; in fact, the topic made me uneasy. So why did I get up on a Saturday morning to come to this event?
As I sat there for an hour or so intently listening to our lobbyist explain several pieces of dental legislation, as well as the strategy behind AzDA’s stance for each one, I realized I was not the only one entranced by this process. I looked around the room and my fellow dental students from the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health and Midwestern-Arizona also were honed in on our speaker.
And that’s when I realized why I was here with my peers: because we are passionate and we care. It didn’t matter that this was my first time at a legislative event. There is a place for everyone in advocacy.
Attending Advocacy Academy during my D1 year provided answers to the questions I had about legislation related to our profession. These realizations have helped me form my own voice as a dental student and gave me hope that I can be a lifelong advocate for my profession. Here’s my take on three commonly asked questions around advocacy:
- What is an advocate? An advocate is anyone who supports a cause. Everyone has something they care about. If you can think of a time when you voiced your opinion about what you believe is right or fair, then you have the voice of an advocate.
- Why should I care about legislation? Politics may seem like the last thing on your mind while in dental school, but the truth is that laws govern everything we can do as dentists. So if there is legislation that we feel does not align with the values of dentistry, it is up to us to speak up about it to protect our profession and our patients.
- Can I really make a difference? Absolutely! One part of advocacy is connecting with others to find a compromise for the benefit of the greater community. You could be that one person who can relate to someone in Congress and explain how important an issue is. Try stepping out of your comfort zone to see how big of an impact you can make.
My advocacy experiences so far have encouraged me to attend the 2019 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. Legislation is just one way dental students can show their passion, but it also is one of the most effective ways to make positive change for our futures.
Still not sure where to get started with advocacy? Here are a few things you can do:
- Learn more from national ASDA: ASDA’s website has all the information you need to know about the issues for which we advocate, our legislative priorities and how to get involved at the chapter and national level.
- Reach out to your legislative coordinator: ASDA’s Council on Advocacylaunches grassroots initiatives in support of dental students and the profession and works to establish a legacy of action-oriented advocacy on behalf of our members’ patients and the practice of dentistry.
- Sign up for Engage: Engage is ASDA’s action alert system that informs members about critical issues and allows you to participate in the discussion and processes that impact your life as a dental student and your future career as a dentist.
- Listen to Tooth Talk: This biweekly podcast is presented by the American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) and includes interviews with ADA staff and other experts on dental legislation, organized dentistry and more.
~ Christine Nguyen, Arizona ’21, Chapter Legislative Liaison