On any other Saturday morning, we would be sound asleep in our beds at 6:45 a.m. — certainly not dressed up and full of energy! But this was not any normal Saturday. It was the weekend of ASDA’s National Leadership Conference (NLC) in Chicago, ASDA’s national headquarters. Dressed in business attire, we were ready to take on the conference with professionalism, ASDA fever and an eagerness to learn. Our exuberance was not to be quenched. Our excited faces suggesting that after a packed daytime schedule, we were also ready to have fun during the evening social events and explore the wonderful city of Chicago.
This year, there was record attendance at NLC: 722 predental and predoctoral students from 63 dental schools and more than 20 undergraduate schools congregated at the Hilton Chicago Hotel on Michigan Avenue during the weekend of November 17-19, 2017. It was exciting to see so many students from all over the country gather every morning for General Session. It was my first time spending time with hundreds of ASDA members, and I was inspired by the enthusiasm my peers had for dentistry and their level of commitment to advancing the field. It was humbling to learn and grow alongside these aspiring dentists. During General Session, we heard from incredible keynote speakers. These speakers challenged us to be “heroes” who create exceptional experiences for the people they serve, advised us to start conversations with people experiencing trauma and reminded us of our responsibility as humans to expand opportunities for others.
The energy from General Sessions was carried throughout the subsequent breakout sessions. For the second year, there was a unique track dedicated to predental students. This track included seminars on managing finances for dental school, an interactive ethics debate and a hands-on chalk carving and tooth impressions workshop. Aside from developing predental students into better dental school applicants, this track also included a workshop just for predental club development. During this session, predental leaders shared their experiences running their respective clubs, such as organizing events and fundraising. It was refreshing to brainstorm with one another and transcend geographic boundaries. These sessions provided many opportunities to also build connections with dental students, who took time to help and mentor us, answering our questions and providing their perspective on dental curriculum and life as a dental student.
Besides the exclusive predental track, predental students could also attend the regular breakout sessions for dental students. These breakout sessions related to personal development and wellness, leadership, chapter management and career planning. While some topics were relevant to the predental journey, it was captivating to expand our understanding of the dental field and learn about the issues we may encounter. Rarely do we have an opportunity to interface with real issues facing those in the dental community. Understanding the challenges faced by dental practitioners and students helps us prepare for our future as dental students.
NLC was a time for us to grow, both in our connections to our field and to each other. It was important to learn from our peers, both as predental students and as future dental practitioners. In the same way, by forging new relationships with those ahead of us in their pursuit of dentistry, we were able to better envision the contributions we can make to the oral health field. This was a memorable experience, and I have come away stronger and more confident in my desire to become a dentist than ever before.
~ Hilary Wong, Northeastern '19