By: Tim T. Wang, Class of 2021
Over the weekend of November 3, 2017, I, along with 10 of my peers, represented the Penn Dental ASDA chapter at the District 3 “Red White and Brew” conference in Washington D.C. Organized by our very own Roopali Kulkarni (District 3 Trustee), the conference brought together students from the five dental schools in district 3 – Penn, Temple, Pitt, Howard, and Maryland – to learn more about organized dentistry and political advocacy. The conference focused on three main areas: 1) dental student debt 2) mid-level providers and 3) dental student advocacy.
On the first day of the conference, we listened to speakers who were professionals in each of the main topics. Then, we broke out into smaller groups to discuss each topic in detail. For instance, several attendees offered personal stories of how student debt affects them. We also participated in a mini-debate on the benefits and drawbacks of mid-level providers. Finally, we heard from ADA leaders about the extensive influence that the organization exerts on Capitol Hill. I personally came away from these discussions with a more in-depth understanding of the issues, as well as more concrete actions that students can take to have our voices heard. After the professional sessions, we participated in networking events with dental professionals at the ADA Washington office and at Hotel Washington’s roof top bar.
In addition to widening our professional understanding of organized dentistry, we also had the opportunity to bond with our fellow dental students in the district. Coincidentally, I got to reconnect with one of the students from Pitt, whom I met several times on the interview trail. It was exciting to hear their perspectives on the issues and learn about their schools. These friendships will allow us to work more closely and effectively together, as we aspire to become the next generation of leaders in dentistry.
We concluded the conference on the last day with a wellness walk through Capitol Hill. The highlight of the walk was a private tour of the ADA house on Capitol Hill. This ADA house is collectively owned by its constituent dentists. The house is in an incredible location; it is literally across the street from the Madison Library of Congress. Moreover, it has a fire place that was gifted to the house’s original owners by Ulysses S. Grant. The house represents, in part, the gravity that the ADA has on Capitol Hill, and ensures that organized dentistry will always have a voice in public policy.
Overall, the Red White and Brew Conference was an overwhelming success. I learned a great deal about advocacy while forming many new friendships and having lots of fun.