I’ve been an ardent supporter of organized dentistry even before dental school. From my very first conference as a predental, being surrounded by dentists and dental students dedicated to guiding the profession helped me recognize my passion for organized dentistry. Throughout my time in dental school, I found myself involved in many organizations, constantly learning, growing, and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I would not be the dental professional I am today without the culmination of these experiences to which I am forever grateful!
Soon after graduating, I received invitations from the Oklahoma Dental Association (ODA) to get more involved. As I transitioned from being an extremely active ASDA member to an OCDS/ODA/ADA member, I knew I wanted to remain plugged in to the conversation. With the power of 3 (local, state, and national), I wanted to be engaged specifically at the local level and connect with community leaders and experienced dentists. What I’ve appreciated about the OCDS and ODA have been their progressive nature in growing and nurturing young leaders–something I hope that all local constituents can offer!
Due to my leadership history in dental school, many people assumed I would remain involved which was true to a certain extent. I always wonder what the average member’s experience will be like with their own transition. Will they feel welcome at their first conference? Will they become involved after graduation as a new dentist? After 2 years of my own transition, here are 3 takeaways for young dentists looking to remain involved:
- Don’t assume you’ll be asked, take the initiative
- Our profession needs passionate, talented individuals like yourself. Current leadership within your local or state association may simply not know that you’re interested or ready to get involved. Start building those relationships early and voice your interest whenever you’re ready. Positive change and influence doesn’t happen without intentionality.
- Know when you’re ready
- Even if you were a dental school rockstar, new dentist life comes with its own challenges. Whether you’re building your own business or working as an associate employee, the real world of dentistry can take some getting used to (just like your first days of dental school)!
- Get involved, find your (personal) passion
- Yeah, I know. What a cliché. The point I want to leave you with is that you don’t have to be the new president of the ADA or the next local study club guru. As a new dentist, you can be the newest board member of your local church, your local Girl Scouts or Big Brothers Big Sister chapter. Get to know your community, make it personal, and seize the opportunity to serve.
Since graduation, I have gotten involved with many groups from igniteDDS and Crown Council to my local Academy of General Dentistry chapter, and the American College of Dentists. Perhaps the board I am most excited about joining is the Oklahoma Dental Foundation where I received some of my first experiences as a dental assistant on the mobile dental program traveling the state of Oklahoma experiencing access to care issues in my own home state. These experiences were pivotal in shaping my outlook on dentistry and barriers to care.
It’s a true blessing to utilize my degree every day to better the lives of my patients and to lend my talents and skills to giving back to my community. My hope is that you all continue your personal leadership journeys and forge your paths. I guarantee you it’s worth the journey.