For me, Washington D.C. is one of the most exciting places to be in the country. Not only can you see landmarks and memorials of our country’s past during any short stroll or evening jog around “The Mall”, but you can truly feel their presence. Unsurprisingly everything in Washington revolves around the country’s political scene: the newspapers, the protests and parades, the advertisements supporting “this” and defending “that”… even the energy in coffee shops is palpable. Not to mention, you may even run into a U.S. congressman during your lunch break.
This year, for the first time ever, National Lobby Day for both the ADA and American Student Dental Association were combined into one, huge concerted effort, as 923 registered dentists and dental students took to the Hill to make sure our voice was heard. Being around this active and passionate of a group of individuals with the profession’s best interest in mind was contagious; I found myself wanting to stay longer and learn more.
I arrived on Sunday and used the little bit of extra time to fit in as much of the “touristy” things as possible: Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, National Archives, National Museum of American History, National Museum of Natural History… and even made it to the Georgetown Campus. It was a lot of walking, but worth it to see some of the most important documents in the world and memorials commemorating some of our nation’s best leaders and biggest events.
Day One was full of information and speakers that more-or-less set the stage for the 400+ scheduled congressional meetings to come. There was a general briefing on each issue we would be speaking to congressmen about, the ADA and ASDA’s stance on the current political climate in the U.S., and round table discussions with Fred Barnes (co-founder and executive director of The Weekly Standard) and Eugene Robinson (columnist for The Washington Post) about all things politics—dentistry-related and not. There were also plenty of opportunities to network with new faces and to catch up with more familiar ones.
The main points of emphasis for the two days as a whole dealt with student loan refinancing, health care reform, the repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act (which passed the House the week prior on a staggering 416-7 vote), and planned funding cuts to the NIH. Needless to say, there was a lot to talk about. But Kyle can get to those specifics in tomorrow’s post.
That night, the Arizona delegation was lucky enough to have dinner with one of four dentists currently in the 115th Congress. Congressman Paul Gosar, R-AZ 4th District, entertained many questions from ASDOH and Midwestern students, dentists from the state and state association staff. The most important question asked? “Is President Trump’s hair real?”.. His response was, “Surprisingly, yes!”
The biggest take away? Staying involved in local, regional, and national legislation truly does make a difference. Washington may get criticism for its inefficiency and failure to deliver on promises, but the only way to improve this is to let congressmen know that their constituents know what is happening, are aware of the impact, and care about the outcome. Although we all chose dentistry for various reasons, one thing is common: we each care about its future. The only way to ensure it goes in the direction we want is to get in the driver’s seat.
Andy Larkin, ASDOH ’19