April 10, 2017
Six student leaders from the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry made their voices heard on Capitol Hill during the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day held recently in Washington, D.C.
For the first time, the American Dental Association combined its annual advocacy conference with the American Student Dental Association's annual lobby day activities. The event, with a theme of "One Voice United," was held March 26-28, 2017. It featured political analysts, subject matter experts and politically involved dentists discussing issues that affect oral health in the United States.
Dugoni School DDS Class of 2018 students Jennifer Chang, Trent Ichiuji and Winston Young, and DDS Class of 2019 students Renz Antonio, Sarah Kuruvilla and Sarah Osborne joined with nearly 1,000 dental students and dentists who attended from around the country.
Attendees received training about how to lobby lawmakers and learned more about timely topics affecting students and practitioners. Some of the issues included H.R. 372 "The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act," support for lower interest rates as part of the reauthorization of federal student loan programs, and support for oral healthcare amid the healthcare reform efforts.
While in Washington, D.C., the students had the opportunity to visit the offices of California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and the offices of House of Representative members Jackie Speier, Ro Khanna, Doug LaMalfa, Norma Torres, Mark DeSaulnier, Anna Eshoo, Salud Carbajal, Darrell Issa, Tony Cardenas, Tom McClintock and Jimmy Panetta.
"It was an incredibly rewarding experience to lobby members of Congress for bills that will help the dental profession," said Sarah Osborne, DDS 2019. "It was such a unique opportunity to take part in - one that taught me not only about various issues facing dentistry, but also how to be an integral part in helping alleviate those issues through lobbying."
Others accompanying the Dugoni School students as part of the California delegation included Dr. Natasha Lee '00, a faculty member at the Dugoni School who also serves as the president-elect of the California Dental Association, and Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte '86, an alumnus of the school.
"Attending Lobby day was a great opportunity to network with fellow students but more importantly with dentists who are involved in organized dentistry," said Sarah Kuruvilla, DDS 2019. "There was of course the exciting chance to meet with congressional leaders but I think the greatest benefit was being able to talk to dentists. They were able to help us better understand the issues that we were lobbying for and even how those issues have developed during their careers. It was a great experience working side by side with these dentists to further the profession we are passionate about."
Dugoni School ASDA Chapter President Trent Ichiuji, DDS 2018, who recently attended a dental student lobby day at the California state capital in Sacramento in February, was also excited to participate in the activities.
"There's something about wearing a suit on Capitol Hill and getting a sense of purpose," he said. "As a dental student we focus so much on the curriculum in front of us. Taking time to advocate for our profession is a new element to dentistry that gets me excited for our future."
"Through this experience I realized that practicing dentists care a lot about students and are a huge part of forthcoming changes in the field of dentistry," said Jennifer Chang, DDS 2018. "I look forward to learning more about the American Dental Association's work in reforming oral health for the country, expanding benefits to underserved patients, and providing a better future for new graduates."