F I N D O U T. R E A C H O U T.
S P E A K O U T.
Getting involved with protecting your profession F RA NCE S MO F F E TT ASDA Publications Manager
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he future of your profession is impacted by your efforts in advocacy now. But how do you get involved? And what does “advocacy” even mean, as it pertains to dentistry? Here, five current and former ASDA leaders discuss what led them to getting involved with advocacy, how they stay in tune with the issues that affect the profession and easy steps you can take to become an active participant.
S K YL ER M . L AG C H E R East Carolina ’21 Chapter Professional Development Chair ASDA Legislative Coordinator, Districts 4–5
CONTOUR: What prompted your interest in advocacy? SKYLER: It was unexpectedly sparked
RYA N A. TWADDL E Marquette ’19 ASDA Speaker of the House
ROOPA LI KU L KAR N I Pennsylvania ’19 ASDA President
D R . A B BY H A L P E R N Georgia ’18 General Practice Resident, Washington DC VA Medical Center Past ASDA Speaker of the House
D R . C H R I S T IA N P IE R S Colorado ’16 Orthodontic Resident, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ASDA Past President
when I met Jon Vogel, the past chair of ASDA’s Council on Advocacy, at NLC. I realized I had a heart for advocacy after conversing with him about the importance of protecting the future of dentistry. This interaction ultimately led me to my first advocacy event — the 2018 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. Months later, I’m still talking about my experiences there and how they helped shape my evolution as an advocate and professional. RYAN: After serving on an international
education council in Washington, D.C., I realized two themes: Your voice is only heard if you speak out, and making your voice heard is easier than it seems. I started writing letters, ran for the undergrad senate and joined Marquette ASDA’s legislative committee. A friend and I did not know much about dental hot topics, but we signed up for a lunch-andlearn anyway. We presented on Medicaid to the school, and I was hooked! ROOPALI: When I realized that united, we as professionals have a stronger voice, I became passionate about advocacy. ASDA’s mission is based on advocacy, and in order for us to protect our patients, it is important for us to remain educated and engaged in the issues affecting our profession. ABBY: Prior to being accepted into
dental school, I moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue my master’s degree in 2013. There I became acutely aware of the political climate in the nation’s capital. During the spring semester,
I interned with ADPAC in the ADA’s D.C. office. In April 2014, I assisted the ADPAC team with their involvement in ASDA Student Lobby Day. This was my first glimpse into an ASDA meeting, and I could not have been more motivated to become involved in organized dentistry. Not all professions carry such influence on the Hill. It is the overall involvement and unified mindset of dentists that afford the profession such power. CHRISTIAN: I became interested in
advocacy as a second-year dental student while assisting one of my friends during his licensure exam. His wife was his patient. They had just found out she was pregnant, and he had no time to find another patient. He couldn’t get her numb for the second restoration, and he couldn’t use a stronger anesthetic because of the pregnancy, so they talked about stopping. He would fail and need to retake the exam in a different state, where he would need to fly a new set of patients or pay a screening agency — both would cost thousands of dollars, with no guarantee that a patient wouldn’t miss a flight and cause another failure and start the cycle over again. So, they decided to keep going, and she squeezed my hand and cried for the entire filling. I was badly shaken by the end of it. I felt that there had to be a better way. A year-and-a-half later, I proposed and defended a licensure reform resolution in the Colorado Dental Association (CDA) House of Delegates, and six months later, I presented alternatives to a high-stakes, one-shot, human subject-based licensure exam to the Colorado State Dental Board.
For those unsure of how to get involved with advocacy, what is your advice on getting started being an advocate? SKYLER: No. 1: Use your resources.
Speak to your chapter’s legislative liaison or legislative committee members, and consider reaching out to ASDA’s Council on Advocacy. They can answer specific questions you may have on an issue. No. 2: Read. Every morning I read the ADA Morning Huddle and STAT e-newsletter from my email. I also read the ASDA Advocacy Brief e-newsletter that’s distributed once a month. Many of these articles pertain to advocacy efforts and current legislation, and all help in staying up-to-date on issues in dentistry and health care. The best advice I can give to someone new to advocacy is to leap. It’s OK to start slow, too, but just start. Watch the advocacy webinars on ASDA’s YouTube channel, or attend a chapter event where you feel comfortable with your peers. Then step outside of your comfort zone because no great transformations happen there. RYAN: Start with your passion. What interests
you? Instead of trying to do it all, pick one. Find more information. Plan a way to share what you’ve learned. Make a word search of “hot topics” with facts about your topic on the back. Host a lunch-and-learn or create a video explaining the topic visually. Write a letter to your congressperson. By making advocacy manageable, you will see your accomplishments grow and your voice heard. ABBY: If you have taken on the responsibility to become part of the dental profession, you are inherently an advocate. Whenever we focus on an issue to advocate for or against, it all comes back to supporting our patients, providing them with the best care possible and advocating for their experiences with a united voice. Don’t let a fancy vocabulary or endless statistics overwhelm you — advocacy is all about effectively conveying experiences and why they matter. Your daily interactions with patients and participation in the profession, matched with a cohesive approach, are all the knowledge you need to be a compelling advocate. CHRISTIAN: ASDA is the best place to
learn about the issues in dental school. Get involved at your chapter level and
“Don’t be scared to get involved in advocacy. Don’t be scared to like it. Dentistry is our profession, and we are its future leaders. If you don’t intend to step up to the plate, then you can’t complain about how the game is played.” — S KY LE R M . LAGC H E R , East Carolina ’21, ASDA Legislative Coordinator, Districts 4–5
train to participate in your state lobby day alongside your state dental association, and you may find that you want to take these issues even further. ASDA’s national lobby day presents an opportunity to speak with Capitol Hill staffers, in addition to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, alongside local and national ADA leaders. After you graduate, the new dentist committee at your local and state dental society is the best place to learn about and act upon the issues that affect new dentists in your area the most. How do you stay abreast of the issues that affect dentistry? ROOPALI: The more I listen to others, the
more I learn about our profession. From my professors inside the classroom to the mentors who practice to my fellow students, I gain different perspectives and learn more about the issues affecting dentistry. I feel fortunate to have resources in ASDA from Engage to webinars that provide up-to-date and relevant information about the most current issues. ABBY: The ASDA Advocacy Brief
e-newsletter is a fantastic way to stay up-to-date with many issues. The information presented there is digestible and provides resources to delve further into the background and current happenings on the issue. I also found
that staying involved with organized dentistry and simply keeping open lines of communication with colleagues clue me into recently initiated topics. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about advocacy among students? SKYLER: Some advocacy misconceptions
I’ve observed are that students believe advocacy equates to strong partisan politics or that what we do doesn’t truly make a difference. Firstly, partisan politics doesn’t have a home in ASDA advocacy because our focus boils down to serving the needs of dental students and our patients. Regardless of political party affiliation, dental students are in the same boat with issues such as student loan debt, the ethics of clinical licensure exams and the opioid epidemic within our patient population. Yet we still come together on common ground to advocate for these issues. Secondly, what we do certainly makes a difference. This past year, our efforts in advocating for the Action for Dental Health Act helped the bill overwhelmingly pass the House and be introduced in the Senate before being referred to a Committee. If this doesn’t show progress through participation then I’m not sure what will!
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How do you plan to stay involved with advocacy after graduation? SKYLER: After graduation, I plan to
maintain active membership in organized dentistry and ADPAC. I hope to work with my state dental society and the ADA to continue advocating for my profession on multiple levels of government. The only way to ensure the longevity of career contentment and our professional standards is to be an active participant in the future direction of our profession. One way I know to achieve that is through organized dentistry.
November Is ASDA’s Advocacy Month The theme for this year’s Advocacy Month is “Midterms Matter: Add Your Voice.” To learn more about how you can “find out, reach out, speak out” this midterm season and after, visit ASDAnet.org/ AdvocacyMonth. ADVOCACY RESOURCES
Licensure reform, barriers to care, dental student debt and midlevel providers are just a few of ASDA’s key issues and legislative priorities. Educate yourself on these and much more by visiting ASDAnet.org/ Advocate.
RYAN: As an HPSP Navy scholar, I will serve
RYAN: Oftentimes students say their voice doesn’t
matter or that their vote won’t make a difference. Students involved in advocacy know that this is simply untrue. At the 2018 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day, the Wisconsin delegation had dinner with one of our state representatives. He accepted our invitation to tour and learn about the care provided by Marquette. Advocacy at its best is the development of relationships and the subsequent sharing of ideas. The individuals running our country are not characters on TV — they are real people who you can contact via email and in person! Introduce yourself to your representative, establish yourself as a dental reference and give them your contact information. What can chapter leaders do to increase engagement among their members when it comes to advocacy activities and initiatives? SKYLER: Try to make it fun. Advocacy topics are
often more serious when compared to others, but find ways to get your audience in the door. Food, raffles and prizes seem to be timeless incentives. Be dynamic. No one is going to want to get involved if you can’t convey what you enjoy about advocacy. Don’t give up. Every chapter and its members are different. Find out what your members want. What works for one chapter may not be the perfect answer for yours, and vice-versa.
in the Navy for four years after graduation. Once my commitment ends, I plan on practicing in Washington, D.C. where I can lobby for veteran affairs funding using my experience as a Navy health care provider. My second goal is to be active in my local and state dental associations. Advocacy is a team effort, and after dental school, organized dentistry is your team. Why do you think it’s important for students to be involved in advocacy? ABBY: By entering the dental profession,
I was given a responsibility to recognize that dentistry is more than what happens inside the operatory. We must be the best advocates not only for the profession, but, most importantly, for our patients. The dental profession is unique among many health care professions and in our relationships with our patients due, in large part, to the passionate advocacy efforts throughout the years. Additionally, I feel that remaining involved in advocacy ensures that we also view the profession from a 20,000-foot perspective, visualizing how changes affect our communities at large. I look forward to growing in these endeavors with my colleagues and ensuring that the profession is best able to serve our patients in the future. CHRISTIAN: One of the reasons that dentistry
FIND OUT. REACH OUT. SPEAK OUT. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018
is still a great profession is that dentists have been so active in shaping it. If we want dentistry to be the profession we were hoping to enter, we need to be at the table with the stakeholders and decision makers who are determining its future. #
Interview with Dr. Abby Halpern, C'2018 Contour Magazine, Volume 2, Number 10