UCLA dental students meet with legislators on CDA Advocacy Day

To help give dental students a voice, CDA hosted a Grassroots Advocacy Day at the Capitol with the UCLA School of Dentistry.

Five CDA student representatives from the school traveled to CDA’s headquarters in Sacramento on Feb. 12 and spent the day meeting with legislators and touring the Capitol building. CDA organizes these advocacy days throughout the year for both students and individual components. The format allows for concentrated education and preparation on the current policy issues, background on the legislators they will be meeting with and grassroots strategy in general.

“I was interested in coming because I feel like there are a lot of issues that we are not aware of in dental school and we need to project to our dental students at UCLA,” said Adrien Hamedi-Sangsari, a third-year dental student at UCLA. “I feel like us CDA reps coming up here and learning about the issues specifically that CDA has been advocating on, we can take that back to the schools and really push students to understand the issues at hand.”

One issue the students discussed with legislators included the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). Trial lawyers have filed a ballot measure for the November 2014 general election that includes a retroactive cost-of-living adjustment to MICRA’s $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, raising it to approximately $1.1 million, plus annual inflation adjustments going forward. The measure will triple the legal fees lawyers can collect for bringing a lawsuit and increase health care costs by billions of dollars annually, seriously threatening patient access to care. CDA is part of a broad-based coalition fighting the initiative.

Another issue the students discussed was the need for a state dental director in California. A dental director who is a licensed dentist would provide the leadership necessary to establish the core elements of a state oral health program, including developing a state oral health plan, monitoring and evaluating oral health treatment, prevention and literacy projects, and applying for and managing federal and private grant programs to support oral health.

CDA strives to make sure legislators are aware of and fully informed on these topics. For the UCLA students, February’s Grassroots Advocacy Day opened their eyes to how much legislators depend on representatives of the profession for input when making decisions.

“Coming here made me realize that our future is in the hands of people who don’t have any idea about my profession in general, but they are working for us, they want to do something for us,” said Nidhi Taneja, an international student from India who is enrolled in a two-year dental program at UCLA. “I feel it’s my responsibility today and in the future to be involved with organized dentistry and tell them the things I want in my future, which would be helpful for the community in general.” 

In total, the students met with five members of the Assembly: Assemblymember Curt Hagman; Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra; Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez; Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas; and Assemblymember Matt Dababneh.

“It was great and they [assemblymembers] really appreciated it, too,” Hamedi-Sangsari said. “The Assembly people really appreciate the student voice because they believe … we’re the future of the profession so hearing our voice becomes very important to them.”

The students encouraged their fellow dentists to participate in future CDA advocacy days and get involved in organized dentistry.

“The profession is in your hands and any changes that occur between now and when you retire, or even beyond, are in your hands. Until you advocate … they [legislators] won’t know the issues that are important to dentists,” Hamedi-Sangsari said.

Taneja shared similar sentiments.

“Out of school, going into a practice or working in the confines of a clinic or an office does not give us enough exposure to what is happening at the government level,” Taneja said. “So I highly recommend every student, every graduating dentist … to get involved with organized dentistry, get to know their rights, get to know what they want to do and have a voice.”  

CDA currently has five additional advocacy days in the planning phase and is preparing for more in 2014. Even though February’s event included only dental students, these upcoming programs will involve individual components that will either come to Sacramento or take part in a regional advocacy day and meet with legislators in their home districts. 

Other issues that will be discussed at future Grassroots Advocacy Days include establishing a medical loss ratio for dental plans, ensuring sufficient dental coverage options in California’s new Health Benefits Exchange and the Dental Hygiene Committee sunset review.

For more information on the program and to participate in a future Grassroots Advocacy Day, contact Todd Roberson at todd.roberson@cda.org or 916.554.4982.

Topics: Advocacy