Sometimes making a difference means getting your message to the right people, and in the case of three UNC Adams School of Dentistry students and their mentors, it meant taking advantage of an audience with congressional staff members to advocate for issues that affect the dental profession and oral health patients.
Olivia Nillissen (D4), Kylie Stickrath (D3), and Lauren Bunch (D3) recently attended the annual American Dental Association (ADA) and American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Dental Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. in March. They were joined by members of the North Carolina Dental Society, including NCDS President Alec Parker, past ADA President Chuck Norman, ADA Legacy Award Winner Gary Oyster, and ASOD alum Jack Teague.
The group focused on several issues, including improving comprehensive care for Medicaid patients in all states, supporting the Dental and Optometric Care Access Act to prohibit dental and vision plans from setting the fees network doctors may charge for services not covered by the insurers, and to help defer payments and accrual of interest on federal student loans until after a residency ends.
“Opportunities like ADA and ASDA Capitol Hill Day help me become a better health care provider because I am able to advocate for more access and treatment coverage for my patients,” Bunch said. “Advocating allows me to better serve a more diverse patient population and tailor treatment to a patient’s needs and personal oral health goals.”
“For our students to work with such fine mentors and represent dentistry at the national level is such a valuable experience,” said Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, dean, ASOD. “Advocacy for patients and our profession is an important effort, and I’m so glad these students got to make their voices heard. We are shaping the next generation of oral health providers, and these students represent a bright future for our profession.”
With this experience, these students gained valuable perspective in how to effectively advocate before Congress to address issues here in North Carolina and beyond.
“It was such a rewarding experience to see first-hand the impact and voice we have as dental students,” Bunch said. “The congressmen and women of our nation’s capital support and respect our profession and want to work alongside us to make a real difference for the state of North Carolina, even working with dentists to improve the workforce shortage crisis we are currently experiencing. This greatly impacts the future of how we practice and serve our patients after graduation. I hope I can encourage my dental school peers to ask questions, get involved in advocacy, and learn how their voice can help the future of dentistry!”