ADA Success Program Goes Virtual in Guiding Future Dentists

The ADA Success program is going digital during — and possibly after — the COVID-19 pandemic to provide guidance and support for dental students on topics most relevant to them today.

Photo of Dr. Stuefen
Dr. Stuefen
From finding a job to 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.

“Dental schools throughout the country are working hard to change their curriculum to a virtual format,” said Dr. Sara Stuefen, ADA Success speaker. “The ADA Success program is a perfect fit for this.”

Dr. Stuefen recently spoke with students from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine on practice management using Zoom. Feeling a little nervous about student engagement through the digital format, she had planned in providing extra content just in case.

“I didn’t need it though, the students were engaged,” she said. “They asked questions throughout the program. In fact, they were so comfortable with questions via Zoom, we could have used more time.”

The ADA Success speaker corps consists primarily of a diverse group of 47 volunteer member dentists from across the country. They typically present the ADA Success programs in their local dental school and dental societies 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.

Photo of Dr. Mattingly
Dr. Mattingly
“By relating personal experiences, they bring the issues we face as dentists to light, students then realize that being successful is a process of bringing about a positive resolution to any issue,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Jockers, clinical assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh dental school.

The ADA Success programs 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 their business, staff and patients’ expectations for practice 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.
• 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.

Going virtual can help the program extend its reach to more dental students, potentially in all 66 dental schools, said Dr. Emily A. Mattingly, ADA Success speaker and ADA New Dentist Committee chair.  

“I think this benefits the future of the program since every year, there are programs that are cancelled due to travel issues and illness,” said Dr. Mattingly, who also recently spoke with Pitt dental students on employment agreements via Zoom. “Going digital is a great way to continue the program.”

The transition to a virtual platform was almost seamless, said Dr. John Syrbu, clinical assistant professor at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.

“What I realized was that despite missing in-person interactions and all being in the same physical space, some topics and presentations actually lend themselves to an improved experience for the student,” he said. “If anything, I’ve witnessed increased engagement and interaction from students.”

Dr. Syrbu encourages other dental schools consider inviting ADA Success speakers.

“Try it if you haven’t,” he said. “I think many students appreciate when external speakers and real-world practitioners speak with the class. It brings a certain authenticity to the subject matter and can validate topics learned from within the curriculum.”

The 2019-20 ADA Success program is made possible through the support of the ADA Members Insurance Plans issued by Great West Financial, ADA Members Retirement Programs administered by Equitable, and Laurel Road.

To participate, American Student Dental Association chapters 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 or contact the ADA Office of Student Affairs at