Student delegates representing the six dental schools across California participated in the 2012 CDA House of Delegates in Newport Beach this month. The opportunity to have their voices heard on the issues that affect the profession as a voting delegation is something the students said they appreciate.
Karen Watanakeeree is a fourth-year student at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry and is the first dentist in her family.
“I value that the most; that I can step up to the mic and dentists that have been practicing for many years see me on the same playing field as them,” Watanakeeree said. “When you are in dental school all you think about are exams and you get bogged down…for me, CDA has been that breath of fresh air.”
Laura Pashkowsky, a third-year student at the UCLA School of Dentistry, agrees that the experience at the House of Delegates offers a different perspective on dentistry.
“CDA and organized dentistry opens up a whole new world of dentistry that’s outside of the campus and outside of an academic institution,” Pashkowsky said. “It makes you realize dentistry is about treating the whole person, and is about practice management, and is about different regulations, and it changes the whole world of how we practice.”
Sally Moser, a fourth-year international student at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, became a student delegate because she also was interested in the various aspects of dentistry outside of an educational setting.
“You really get to know what’s happening in your profession,” said Moser, who is originally from Peru. “We are here deciding what is going to happen to dentists and how the rules are changing, and how the laws are changing, so it is very good for us to be involved.”
Chris Guerisoli, a third-year student at the UCSF School of Dentistry, enjoys the networking opportunities and getting an inside look at what issues dentistry faces, as well as the solutions to those problems. He also is surprised by how much the veteran dentists at the meeting want feedback from the students.
“It’s incredible to see how much the dentists know that are already practicing. How much they love the students, love their input and really want to know how we feel about the profession, what our goals are, what our aspirations are and what we want to do to help the profession,” Guerisoli said.
In total, 30 students attended the 2012 House of Delegates. The student delegation has been active in the discussions on various issues over the years. In the area of licensure reform in the late ’90s, for example, the students supported ADA and CDA policy changes calling for elimination of the live-patient clinical licensure exam. Students hosted licensure forums at CDA Presents in Anaheim and San Francisco in 2007, bringing together leaders from the Dental Board, CDA and selected dental school deans to discuss the future of licensure.
The advocacy paid off in September 2010 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation to create the nation’s first dental school-based portfolio examination process.