This past weekend, I attended the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) National Leadership Conference in Chicago. There were over 700 attendees, of which nearly 500 were dental students, and 100 were pre-dentals. From day one, the excitement was palpable. People donned ‘ASDA Fever’ stickers and ASDA pins. During the vendor fair, attendees buzzed about winning a ‘diseased tooth model’ raffle prize, despite other prizes that included gift cards, Apple Watches, and iPads. It was truly a sight to see.
ASDA is the student-advocacy umbrella organization for dental students around the country. Most schools have an ASDA chapter, and UCLA is no exception. Our ASDA chapter is comprised of over 20 committees, from a legislative committee to a pre-dental outreach committee. The legislative (“leg”) committee recently held a lunchtime presentation about each of the state propositions that would be on our Nov. 8th ballot. Our leg committee also coordinates an annual trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Dental Student Lobby Day. ASDA is incredibly active at UCLA, and I’m grateful for the many learning opportunities that our committees provide.
This past weekend, NLC offered a much-needed break from studying. Earlier that week, our fellow classmates were studying for a final on Friday. This final accounted our entire grade in the class, so it was important. However, two of my classmates and I rescheduled our exam until Monday because we had already booked Thursday departures from LA. Although we studied vigorously on the plane and during intermittent pockets of free time (e.g. late night Thursday), I was grateful for the distraction that was NLC. We were immersed in a new environment and took advantage of every moment we had.
NLC offers its attendees a wide variety of breakout sessions. We learned about developing our personal brand, handling ethical dilemmas, starting our own practice, and initiating difficult conversations with our future employees. There were also collaborative breakouts, in which student representatives from across the country had the opportunity to share ideas with one another. Each session was insightful in its own way, but I found the mere experience of being surrounded by peers the most educational.
My greatest takeaway from NLC is that we should reach out, build, and sustain relationships with our future colleagues. By joining random groups during sessions and meals, I learned about different curricula, events and activities held by different ASDA chapters, and was exposed to diverse perspectives on the future of dentistry and healthcare. Even though we all hailed from different schools, I felt that each interaction was a reassuring reminder that my classmates and I are not alone in this journey. As tough as professional school may be, we are all united in our pursuit of becoming dedicated dentists. Everyday, thousands of dental students walk in the same shoes, and over a hundred thousand practicing dentists have walked the path before us. There is so little to lose and so much to gain in connecting with others.
As a slight aside, I was super pumped to go to Chicago because the Cubs had just won the World Series! The city was electrified with pride and joy. Although I am a little sad that the Cubs beat the Dodgers, I am happy for the Cubs fans. A couple of friends and I took a break from NLC to watch the parade. The streets were absolutely packed. I can see how the parade brought together millions!