The opportunity of going to ASDA Lobby Day in Washington DC proved to be an exciting and thrilling experience. As a first-time lobbyist, I was able to gain the experience of how students bring awareness to congressmen on the issues that impact our current lives and will help shape our profession and cause. The issues we had at hand were to discuss the loan forgiveness act of graduate students and to increase funds for private/public charitable dental works. Throughout the experience there, we were privileged to be surrounded with many other dental students representing the state from which their school is located. It was very reinforcing to be with other students who cared for the matter and was good to gain the basic foundations of how to incorporate dental politics into our future careers.
We spent our first day in D.C. learning the ins and outs of politics. The American Student Dental Association arranged a series of speakers and presentations ranging from general “Congress 101” to specifics on the bills we would be lobbying for. We heard from other student leaders, the lobbyists for the ADA itself, and representatives of other dental organizations with a presence in Washington like the Academy of General Dentistry. These sessions prepared us for our day on Capitol Hill with the facts we needed to discuss the bills and with the techniques lobbyists find useful in speaking with representatives. A highlight came at the end of the day when Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona spoke to the nearly 400 dental students. Dr. Gosar, a former dentist, currently works in the House of Representatives. He is able to incorporate his background in the healthcare field into his daily efforts to advance legislation. He talked about his transition from dentistry to Capitol Hill and his ideas to fix the challenges America currently faces.
The day on Capitol Hill was very fast-paced. We were able to meet in the offices of four Congressmen from Connecticut. Much of our interaction occurred with the Health Legislative Aides (who we learned are tasked with keeping their representatives up to date on current legislation and often are more informed about our specific health issues than the congressmen themselves). The highlight of the day was being able to meet Connecticut’s second district delegate, Joe Courtney, who represents the entire Eastern part of Connecticut. His past involvement in Mission of Mercy and co-sponsorship of one of the bills we were discussing was refreshing.
Not only was it interesting to see how we can incorporate dental politics into our current and future lives, it was also important to recognize how organized dentistry is what enables us to come forward and have the opportunity to present issues that matter most. I, along with Chrissy Shaw and Stefanie Aquilina, had a wonderful time in DC. We were able to help in the effort to expand oral health access and make education affordable, while also spending time experiencing the beauty of DC and all that it had to offer. It was a fun and educational experience and I highly recommend it to everyone who has the time to consider it in their professional lives. Go ASDA Lobby Day!