By Jennifer Navatto (Class of 2020)
As a dental student at Rutgers, you are automatically enrolled as a member of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). If you haven’t taken a close look at your cost of attendance bill, you might not notice that you pay $88 per year for this membership.
From my experience, being a member provides you with incredible opportunities, and the chance to attend Annual Session in Pittsburgh this year was one of them. The theme of the conference was “building bridges” (aptly named because of Pittsburgh’s famous bridges), and the keynote speaker really emphasized that during his talk on the first day. Chef Jeff Henderson is an American chef, and he shared his story of how he became successful after being incarcerated for 10 years. By the age of 19, he had become a millionaire from selling crack-cocaine to members of his community, but was caught and sent to prison. In prison, he spoke to businessmen who were incarcerated for white collar crimes – business guys from Wall Street – and they explained to him that he had great business and leadership skills, he just had to change his product from drugs to something that would benefit others. Chef Jeff related this lesson back to us by saying that we have to recognize and hone our strengths, and passion will follow. He also explained that building bridges, networking and meeting others that we admire or are successful in our field, will present us with opportunities that will allow for our personal and professional development.
Annual Session specifically focuses on improving ASDA through review and revision of the organization’s bylaws, and by electing new candidates that will advance the success of the organization. Not only was it a great insight into how this organization runs, and the effort that it takes to run a national organization successfully, but attendees also had the opportunity to network with other like-minded dental students and ADA leaders, explore Pittsburgh, and attend fun social events each night, like a party bus and boat cruise.
Being an ASDA member comes with so many benefits – both tangible and intangible. For example, at our District conference in the fall, there was a CV workshop where students were taught how to write or improve your resume, and a suturing workshop led by an Oral Surgeon that showed us how to suture hands-on. In addition to the benefits you get from attending conferences, you also get member publications, a number of financial benefits and savings through partner companies, and a chance to get introduced to organized dentistry and how it can help you as a professional in the future.
I cannot stress the positive influence that ASDA has had on my dental school experience. I have met amazing student leaders, learned valuable skills, and networked with NJDA and ADA leaders that are currently shaping our profession. My advice to any other dental student would be to take advantage of the resources available to you as an ASDA member, and get involved. The importance of being a well-rounded individual is downplayed in dental school, but our profession calls for us to be competent clinicians, as well as individuals that strive for excellence in all areas of our life.