Candidates for President/Vice President

Elections for ASDA's next Executive Committee, including the President, two Vice Presidents, and the Speaker of the House, will take place at Annual Session. Delegates will have the opportunity to hear from the candidates, discuss with their caucus, and cast votes.

Natalie Benkandil
Benkandil-NatalieSouth Carolina ’25

Hello, my name is Natalie Benkandil and I am the District 4 trustee from the Medical University of South Carolina. I am a first-generation college student as well as the first in my family to become a doctor. My parents always taught me to set and reach goals based on my passions opposed to just checking a box. Passion is what brought me to dentistry, I not only love the art form that it is, but I love bringing light and smiles to those around us. What brought me to this organization is just that, the people, and the community that it builds.

My journey within this organization has been one of a kind. I started my journey as a pre-dental student attending my first ASDA district conference as a junior in college and then serving on the District 4’s pre-dental committee the following year. These initial positions ignited a fire within me, that continues to burn. I have served at every level of this organization, and I believe that brings so much value as I can provide knowledge and experiences that can better our organization. I have served as a pre-dental student on the D4pre-dental committee, D4’s Social Media Chair, D4’s Director of Membership, and currently as D4’sTrustee. I have seen my own district change and evolve as well as through so many different lenses. There was always more to see, more to grow, and more people to make an impact on.

In my first position in this organization, I looked up to the woman who served as the trustee at the time and thought to myself, “Can that be me one day? I want to lead people as graciously as she does.” I want to give my attention, time, and commitment to the general member as she gave me as a pre-dental student. The little time and attention you give to someone can make the biggest difference and she did that for me the day she gave me a call to motivate me to go after what I love. I lead my district with the same goal, to give back to those who graciously put me in the position I hold today. My cabinet members, my chapter presidents, the members at the local chapters in my district; I may serve as their trustee, but I am a dental student just like them. If I can make an impact on just one, I have fulfilled my duty.
As President of this organization, I want to light the fire within all 23,000+ members like this organization and those I met 6 years ago as a pre-dental student did for me. I want to ensure the voice of every member is heard and impacted. Who knows, I might build a leader that will continue the ASDA Legacy and stand before you like I am today to serve this organization.

Thanks for your consideration.

 


Natalie Benkandil Short Answer Questions

Claudia Larochelle
Larochelle-ClaudiaDetroit Mercy ’25

As a passionate and dedicated leader within the dental student community, I am honored to be running for National President/Vice President of the American Student Dental Association. I have the passion, experience, skills, and vision needed to lead our organization to achieve more of its untapped potential and continuously work to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and supportive environment for all members. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of serving in various leadership roles within ASDA, the Michigan Dental Association, and the ADA. Through these experiences, I have gained a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our profession and dental students. Therefore, I have developed a clear and comprehensive platform for addressing these issues. My platform is centered around three critical areas of focus that are crucial to achieving our goal of creating a vibrant and supportive dental student community:

  1. Education and Professional Development:
    As dental students, we constantly strive to improve our knowledge and skills to provide the best possible care to our patients. In other words, many of us leaders seek to "maximize" our dental school experience to become the best we can be. As National President, I am committed to providing opportunities for members to engage with dental professionals, industry leaders, and each other to expand their knowledge and skills and foster personal as well as professional growth. I aim to organize various events and initiatives within our national and regional meetings, including networking opportunities, mentorship programs, and educational resources, to help members stay current with the latest trends and innovations and ignite new passions.

  2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:
    Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential to building a solid and supportive community within ASDA. I will develop and implement strategies that help recruit and retain members from all backgrounds and create an environment where all members feel valued and supported. This includes ensuring that our leadership and membership reflect the diversity of the dental profession and that we are actively working to address issues of bias, discrimination, and inequality within and without our organization.

  3. Advocacy and Community Service:
    As dental providers, we have a unique obligation to use our skills and knowledge to improve the health and well-being of our communities. As a national leader, I will be transparently and professionally passionate about advocating for policies and initiatives that will enhance the well-being of dental students and the patients they serve. This includes supporting student loan reform, promoting mental health and wellness initiatives, and working to improve access to dental care for underserved populations. I will also work to strengthen our partnerships with other national organizations to provide opportunities for members to engage in civic engagement activities. There is indeed power in numbers and our collective voice.

I am committed to leading by example and being an active listener who addresses our members' needs and concerns comprehensively, collaborates with others to achieve common goals, and takes decisive action to advance the interests of the dental profession and our communities.

 


Claudia Larochelle Short Answer Questions

Loren Matrone
Matrone-LorenTexas-Houston ’25

I’ve always been someone that dreams big. I sometimes find myself lost in a daydream, thinking about what I aim to achieve throughout my lifetime. My ability to allow myself to dream big has brought me to incredible places, but I have always bestowed the ability to bring myself back down to earth. As easy as it is to dream big, I have found that in order to make my goals come true, it has to start with small, consistent, actionable change. I take the same approach with my leadership positions. I have big dreams for the future of ASDA, a vision that I often find myself thinking about in between life’s mundane moments. My goal for my year on the Executive Committee is simple, it’s to preserve wellness and promote growth. Every dental student knows the pressures and expectations placed on us in order to get into dental school, much less to survive the four years themselves. As a pre-dental, I struggled immensely with the pressure to achieve my dream of becoming a dentist. I allowed these pressures to add unnecessary anxiety, stress, and negativity to my life. Before starting dental school, I made the seemingly impossible decision to begin focusing on my own inner wellness. I can say with complete confidence that without access to therapy and deciding to preserve my own well-being, I wouldn’t have grown into the person and future dentist I am today.

My hope for this year is to bring access to ASDA members in ways we haven't seen before. By preserving wellness in order to promote the growth of our members, we will be upholding our mission to protect the welfare of dental students. I plan to implement these changes by continuing to work with ASDA Staff to help further our Association’s partnerships with companies that provide mental health resources. The work has only begun, and I hope to continue the incredible work of leaders before me who have consistently called for increased mental health benefits for our members. My vision is to provide our students with discounts and increased access to resources that promote mental health wellness. My initiatives within the realm of mental health awareness and wellness impact me on a personal level, but more importantly, I believe they matter immensely to our members. Last year’s House of Delegates unanimously called for increased mental wellness and support programs through the passing of theASDAE-14 policy. It was imperative to me that the platform I chose to run on aligned with my “why”. I have always allowed my “why” to serve as my internal compass to navigate through challenges and remind me to persevere. My reason for becoming a dentist is the same reason I feel called to run for the Executive Committee. Simply put, my “why” is to make an impact on others, advocate for the initiatives I care about, and leave the profession better than I found it.

 


Loren Matrone Short Answer Questions

Tareina Rogers
Rogers-TareinaTufts ’25

Keeping ASDA moving FORWARD. As a candidate for the national presidency of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA), my platform is centered around empowering dental students and ensuring a brighter future for our profession. With a strong commitment to excellence, innovation, and inclusivity, I aim to lead ASDA towards fostering an environment that supports the growth and success of every dental student.

One of my key priorities is to enhance educational opportunities for dental students. I will try my best work closely with dental schools and educators to advocate for comprehensive and up-to-date curricula that align with the evolving needs of the dental profession. By promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, research opportunities, and access to advanced technologies, we can equip dental students with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their careers.

Recognizing the importance of student well-being, I will prioritize initiatives that promote mental health and overall wellness within the dental student community. I will advocate for increased access to mental health resources, stress management programs, and mentorship opportunities. By fostering a supportive environment, we can ensure that dental students thrive both academically and personally.

As national president, I will be a strong advocate for the rights and interests of dental students. I will work tirelessly to address issues such as student debt, access to affordable healthcare, and fair treatment in clinical settings. Additionally, I will strive to expand opportunities for professional development, including networking events, leadership training, and mentorship programs, to empower dental students to become future leaders in the dental profession.

To further strengthen ASDA's influence and impact, I will prioritize collaboration with other dental organizations, policymakers, and industry leaders. By forging strategic partnerships and engaging in meaningful dialogue, we can amplify our collective voice and advocate for positive changes in dental education, healthcare policies, and the overall advancement of the dental profession.

In conclusion, my platform as a candidate for national president of ASDA is focused on empowering dental students for a brighter future. By enhancing educational opportunities, promoting student well-being, advocating for student rights, and strengthening collaboration, we can create an environment that nurtures the growth and success of dental students. Together, let us work towards a future where every dental student has the resources, support, and opportunities they need to thrive in their careers.

 


Tareina Rogers Short Answer Questions

Sam Setru
Setru-SamarthPennsylvania ’25

As soon as I exited Union Station, the first thing I saw was the Capitol Building. I had seen this building before, and I had been to D.C. countless times prior. This time was different--I was not there to appreciate The Capitol from a distance. I was there to influence what goes on in the very building I had always been in awe of. It was March 2022, and I was in Washington D.C. for the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day.

During a congressional meeting with my Michigan Representative, I addressed the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA) that would require health plans to cover medically necessary services for congenital anomalies. I discussed how cleft palate requires numerous surgeries into early adulthood due to the constant growth of the palate. In April, just weeks after we shared dental expertise with legislators, ELSA was passed in the House of Representatives with 310 bipartisan votes. I realized what we were doing in ASDA was truly impactful, and it was because we had strength in numbers.

Every ASDA member has a powerful voice, and together, 23,000 voices nationwide make us an exceptionally strong organization. Moreover, we are very comprehensive, with programming related to advocacy, community outreach, mentorship, wellness, and DEIB. I have been proud to be a part of the ASDA family and work towards our mission. At the same time, given our strength in numbers and comprehensive programming, we can do so much more. I feel there are gaps that need to be filled to lift ASDA closer to its full potential, and I feel a sense of responsibility in serving ASDA to address those gaps next year as President.

At our core, ASDA is an advocacy-based organization. It is high time that ASDA spearheads its own advocacy-based event, again. In 5-10 years, I have a vision that ASDA will run an advocacy event that impacts policy on a monumental level. Next year, as President, I want to help lay the foundation for such an event.

Although we have strength in numbers, we need to consider how our association can maximize this strength. We currently have 82% market share, but we must remember we have many schools in an auto enrollment system. It is one thing to have a high number of members; it is another thing to have a high number of engaged members. Next year, I have a vision to focus on engaging the average ASDA member, the average member who may not be able to attend Lobby Day or another national event. To all the chapter leaders, I want to help you empower your average member.

I believe I have the necessary experiences and skills to serve as President. I have been an effective voice in ASDA’s boardroom as the District 3 Trustee. I will turn plans into execution and create tangible solutions to problems. I will be the best spokesperson for our community. I will dedicate my utmost effort as President next year to drive ASDA forward.

 


Sam Setru Short Answer Questions

Emily Tarr
Tarr-EmilyMidwestern-Arizona ’25

My vision is twofold: to build upon the exceptional work of our current Executive Committee and to refocus our efforts on the support National offers to our chapters. In this capacity, I envision myself as a catalyst for change, bringing together chapter, district and national leaders. By doing this we will reignite the passion within our members and unlock unique opportunities for ASDA. Together, let's shape a future where our organization not only survives but thrives, ensuring every member tangibly feels the impact of our collective endeavors. Understand, I'm not merely aspiring to hold the title of National President; I am steadfastly committed to being the dependable force that actualizes the changes you envision for ASDA.

On a broader scale, we observe a decline in engagement in organized dentistry. ASDA, uniquely positioned, can play a pivotal role in developing future leaders and propelling the concept of organized dentistry forward. Our organization serves as the initial exposure for student doctors to make a meaningful difference in the profession. The journey begins with fostering member engagement at the grassroots level—within chapters. Drawing from my unique perspective as a chapter president, I see a distinct need to bridge the gap in strategic planning between the national and chapter levels. I advocate for maintaining chapter autonomy while providing more guidance from the national, enabling chapters to comprehend the bigger picture.

A crucial aspect of our chapter engagement is addressing the readiness of chapter leaders. Many feel unprepared to assume their roles after their predecessors. To remedy this, I propose exploring the possibility of a national training retreat or its integration into the annual session. Strengthening the structure and relationship between national/district and chapters is paramount. This improvement will not only enhance member engagement but also contribute significantly to fulfilling ASDA’s mission.

In summary, my candidacy is not just about personal aspirations; it's about our collective journey towards a vibrant future for ASDA. With your support, we can amplify the impact of our organization, navigating challenges and seizing opportunities together. I am ready and committed to being the force of positive change that propels ASDA into a new era of success.

 


Emily Tarr Short Answer Questions

Candidates for Speaker of the House

Parker Norman

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