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Chicago Dental Society to sponsor nine students for ADA-ASDA 2018 Lobby Day

CDS becomes first local/state association to create sponsorship program

September 18, 2017

By Kimber Solana


Student advocates: From left, Dr. Barbara L. Mousel and dental students Katie Rothas, Margaree Lachowiez and Evanthia Vranas visit the congressional office of Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. during the 2017 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. The four Illinois residents' visit in Rep. Roskam's office was just one of 400 meetings held on March 28 as close to 1,000 dentists and dental students visited their representatives' and senators' offices on Capitol Hill.
In an effort to help and encourage more dental students to meet with policymakers and advocate for the dental profession, the Chicago Dental Society in August created a sponsorship program to send nine Illinois dental students to the 2018 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.

The Chicago Dental Society is providing up to $1,000 per dental student to cover air and hotel accommodations for three students from each of Illinois' three dental schools — University of Illinois at Chicago, Midwestern University and Southern Illinois University.

The goal: to get dental students more engaged in advocacy.

"The earlier they get involved, the more seasoned they'll be when they move along in the profession," said Dr. Philip J. Fijal, Chicago Dental Society president. "We thought this was a worthwhile program to support our students."

The Chicago Dental Society becomes the first local or state dental association to create such an annual program that would financially help students attend the annual advocacy conference. Currently, most dental students who attend the annual event pay for airfare and hotel with their own money, Dr. Fijal said.

This past year, some 1,000 dentists, dental students, state association staff and other dental leaders gathered in the nation's capital and met with members of Congress to advocate for dental health care-related legislation. This was the first year that the ADA held its annual conference — formerly called the Washington Leadership Conference — with the American Student Dental Association's lobbying event.

What Dr. Fijal saw and heard during the three-day March 2017 event from dental students impressed him, leading him to help create the sponsorship program.

"When they spoke with members of Congress, I was amazed at how well versed [dental students] were with issues facing dentistry and how passionate they were about patient care," he said.

During the conference, dental students and ADA members urged their members of Congress to ensure people have access to oral health services when considering reforms to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act and continue their support for H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, which would amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act's antitrust exemption. H.R. 372 overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on March 22.

As expected, student debt was also among the issues dental students and dentists spoke to lawmakers with, advocating for more loan repayment programs, refinancing opportunities and lower interest rates on loans.

"The debt is so loadbearing that it affects dental students' decisions to pursue careers in public dentistry or commit time to donate services," he said. "These students are a group of people who are interested in giving back to society, and it's really heartwarming to see that at such a young age."

Dr. Richard F. Andolina, chair of the American Dental Political Action Committee, praised the Chicago Dental Society for its new program.

"This experience exposes, empowers and helps develop our future leaders to become directly involved in advocacy to protect both our profession and the patients we serve," he said. "The students' intensity and interaction with the legislators at this year's Lobby Day was evident and very contagious. We always talk about mentorship — this is a prime example of mentorship."

Dr. Fijal said the dental schools would select the dental students to send to Lobby Day through an application process. The plan is to have each school send a D2, D3 and D4 student to the conference, which is scheduled for April 8-10, 2018.

In addition, Dr. Fijal said he hopes other local or state dental associations follow the Chicago Dental Society's lead.

"There were about 500 dental students who attended this year," he said. "Imagine if we had another 300 sponsored students. Imagine the impact."

For more information on ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day, visit ADA.org/lobbyday.