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Faculty Spotlight: Why ASDA? A Look Back

When I was a D1 I heard about the student professionalism and ethics club (SPEC) at ASDOH. I had studied ethics in undergrad so SPEC sounded very appealing. The group’s goal was to introduce various professional and ethical topics to the students through different forums, such as lunch and learns. Dr. Altman was our faculty advisor. We had a good year and we were excited for what would happen in the future.

As my D2 year started the I told the president I was there to help in any way I could. I may have had an official title but I honestly don’t remember anymore. With any group it is always important to try new things and not just repeat what you did the year before. So we decided to start doing an ethics week and offered activities throughout that week, such as documentaries, to discuss various ethical issues facing dentistry.

We also had a meeting where Dr. Woods (former CCU4 director and former president of the dental board) and Dr. Palmer (chief investigator for the dental board) came in and talked about cases that came before the board. We did this a few years in a row and as students could use it for their their portfolio there were usually high numbers of people in attendance. What I learned from this is that if your audience found value in the topic then it made the presentation that much more important.

One of our biggest challenges, as any student group will face, was funding. We would sometimes do joint meetings with other student groups to split the costs of the lunch. SPEC was always trying to find ways that we could raise money because without providing food we knew that our lunch and learns weren’t going to be as well attended. And rightfully so.  If there isn’t something else to motivate students, sitting for another hour to learn in an already full day was just not going to happen.

At the end of my D2 year my classmate was elected as the next president of the ASDOH chapter of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). Throughout the D2 year we had talked about how SPEC and ASDA could work together and then we realized we both had something the other could benefit from: SPEC needed money and ASDOH ASDA needed to demonstrate to national ASDA how it was addressing professional and ethical issues. So our little club became an ASDA  committee and with that came larger and more robust opportunities to get our message out there. It was a perfect partnership and one that continues today.  Today, however, SPEC is known as SPEA (the A Stands for association) but it is still doing phenomenal things and that is very much due to ASDA.


So why did I get involved with organized dentistry and what does it mean to me? Bottom line is that I can’t do it all by myself. It takes partnerships to do great things and as a student of ASDOH we want to see you be great.  While your primary goal should be to be a great dentist, we also want to see you be great community leaders. To do that you need to work with your community. Communities come in many shapes and sizes. A professional association such as ASDA, and later the ADA, is a community that will give you the resources that you may not have if you go at it alone.

As a public health dentist I don’t have all the resources to address public health issues all by myself. So as a private citizen I got involved with the Council on Government Affairs at the Arizona Dental Association (AzDA). They have more abilities to reach key leaders. They also have the time and resources I will never have to make change happen. But professional associations need experts from the profession to help direct, guide and run them. Without the members, associations would cease to exist.

When you graduate you need to consider a lot of things and being involved in a professional association should be one of them. It doesn’t mean you need to sit on a council or run for a leadership position, but I highly encourage you to maintain your membership. If you have some free time you should reach out to your state or local association and see how you can get involved. Some involvement can be as little as once or twice a year depending on the project. Even if you don’t have the time, by paying your yearly dues you will help your association work to make your profession better. For example, as a result of the work by the AzDA, dentists in Arizona will have their licensing fees waived from 2018-2020 and students who take CDCA won’t have to pay an additional $2,000 to be licensed in Arizona.

If there’s any one takeaway lesson I can say I learned by getting involved in ASDA it is this: Just as dental school teaches you how to be a dentist, student leadership groups teach you how to be a leader. You get the opportunity to learn about leadership, to experiment with new ideas, and to begin building your paths to future opportunities. Even if you aren’t sure what you want to do, be sure to attend an ASDOH ASDA general meeting and learn about all the opportunities that exist to get involved.  At the very least you will get a free lunch.

Dr. Scott Howell, ASDOH ’14

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