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ADA Success provides eye-opening view of life after dental school

By going virtual, program expands reach amid COVID-19 pandemic

March 25, 2021

By Kimber Solana

Photo of ADA Success speakers
Speakers: ADA Success speakers get a little silly for an August 2019 group photo in the ADA Headquarters lobby in Chicago. The ADA Success speaker corps consists of a diverse group of 47 volunteer member dentists from across the country with other subject matter experts, including ADA staff. The speakers aim to provide students with an eye-opening view of what life is like after dental school. 
From finding a job to managing debt, life after dental school can be full of uncertainties.
   
It’s the reason why dentists like Dr. Emily Mattingly, past chair of the ADA New Dentist Committee, is willing to stand in front of a group of dental student and give an eye-opening view of what it’s like after graduation.
   
“I want today’s students to understand that they can turn other dentists no matter what,” she said.

The COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Mattingly added, has only heightened the need for students to hear from dentists on what new challenges they’re facing and what resources are available to that can help.

Enter the ADA Success program, which provides guidance and support for dental students on various topics relevant to them while in school and after graduation. By turning to a virtual format since the pandemic began, it has only expanded its reach.

Whether it’s practice management or understanding employment agreements, each one-hour-long program is now presented on the video communication service Zoom by a volunteer dentist and/or other subject matter expert.

“I was so proud that ADA Success was able to pivot to be a virtual program,” said Dr. Mattingly, who is also an ADA Success speaker. “To have that connection from a dentist who could share what they were going through during this crazy time, it just means a lot to the students.”

ADA Success enhances students’ curricular experiences and provide well-rounded perspectives, tailored to their career pursuits in dental medicine, said Dr. Joseph Calabrese, associate dean of students at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.

“Most recently, we have found the digital resources the ADA has been building for ADA Success has been much appreciated and utilized by our students throughout dental school and beyond,” he said.

Photo of University of Texas webinar
Virtual: Dental students from the University of Texas Health and Science at Houston attend an ADA Success program. 
The ADA Success programs are free and include:
Managing Debt and Wealth: Students can learn how to take control of their finances with budgeting and loan repayment information.
Leadership and Ethics in Dentistry: Students can learn about the ADA Code of Ethics and explore real-life dilemmas.
Practice Management for All Dentists: Students can learn how to manage the business aspects of practice as well as team and patients’ expectations for success.
State of the Dental Profession: Students can get acquainted with the forces shaping dental care market and practice environment.
Understanding Employment Agreements: Students can explore and understand the complexities of employment contracts (presented by an ADA attorney).
Finding a Job: Students can learn more about their career options and how to prepare for their first job search.
Organized Dentistry: You and the ADA: Students can learn about resources available to them and ways to get involved.
Custom Panel: Schools may request a virtual panel of speakers who address questions from students.

“Dentistry is such a wonderful profession – there are tough days and sometimes a tough year,” said Dr. Daniel Hall, chair of the NDC, which has volunteer oversight of the ADA Success program. “But we come together and ADA Success is just one way that we help each other.”

Rachel Thornton, a Marquette University School of Dentistry student who recently attended a Success program on managing debt and wealth, only had good things to say about ADA Success.

“The presenter was very knowledgeable and offered great tips on how to save money while in dental school and beyond,” she said. “The material provided was very valuable to our future career. I would highly recommend to dental students with any level of financial literacy.”

At the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, which has utilized the ADA Success program for the last three years, students have greatly benefited from the program, said David F. Fray, D.D.S., professor in the department of general practice and dental public health.

“The emphasis on the ADA core values, ethics and effective practice management lessons has benefited our students and supported our efforts to meet the Commission on Dental Accreditation standards 2-18 and 2-19 to prepare our students for competency in the business of dentistry,” Dr. Fray said. “An additional benefit has been the national perspective and lessons learned for dentistry during the pandemic of 2020-21.”
   
As a faculty member at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Dr. Mary Krempasky Smith is no stranger to virtual education.
   
“I used virtual format lecturing for distance learning prior to COVID-19,” said Dr. Smith, who often presents the Managing Debt and Wealth module. “Our first-year dental school class has eight students in Spokane, Washington, who join the rest of the class in Seattle their second year. Lectures are shared with the two campuses through this technology.”        
   
In her presentations, Dr. Smith defines debt and shares how taking an active role in designing payment schedules can help new dentists to become successful with less stress.

“Understanding the importance of money management is crucial to future success,” she said.
   
The ADA Success Program is provided free of charge to dental schools, thanks to the generosity of Great-West Financial on behalf of ADA Members Insurance plans, Equitable on behalf of the ADA Members Retirement Programs

To participate, American Student Dental Association chapters or District meetings, other dental student organizations, and dental schools, as well as residencies and state and local dental societies, can schedule, host, attend or promote ADA Success programs. The ADA Office of Student Affairs administers the program. To learn more, visit ADA.org/successprogram or contact the ADA Office of Student Affairs at studentaffairs@ada.org.