Overall, I was extremely impressed by the ADEA Fall meeting and how organized ADEA as a whole is. I only recently became involved with ADEA last year when I joined the Executive Board, so I was unaware of the multitude of councils that exist, including the Council of Students, Residents, and Fellows (COSRF), Council of Deans, Council of Faculties, and many more! I appreciated that there were tailored presentations and talks for each council, because it made the experience that much more worthwhile to know I was learning about things directly pertinent to me. For example, the presentation about how to pay back loans through public service was a new discovery! The average national dental student debt is $285,184, so it was incredibly relieving to hear about another way to pay back debt that would also benefit the community. I have always been passionate about community dentistry and I have been looking for ways into community dentistry that would be a financially viable option. The Public service loan repayment program is exactly that!
I also thought that the two lunch plenary sessions were particularly thought provoking. The first session was called “What’s next in Health Care and Higher Education”, which described the trends seen in dentistry and dental educators. Dr. Valachovic’s use of diagrams, charts, and infographics really helped nail the point home that dentistry is becoming more diverse overall in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity! This was especially inspiring to hear because healthcare as a whole needs more representation and this was a positive step in achieving that. Dr. Valachovic then went on to describe the different career paths that new dental graduates undertake. Unsurprisingly, private practice and dental residency were the two highest activities, at 47.9% and 35.9% respectively in 2018. However, I was shocked to learn that less than 10% of graduates work in the public sector, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, federal service, nonprofits, or state/local government employees! Even more so, only 0.3% of students went to become a faculty or staff member at a dental school! That last statistic had a lasting impact on me, because if so few of the new generations of dentists are willing to teach, who will continue on the dental education when the older faculty retire? What will become of dental schools if no one is willing to teach? That was the moment I really realized how valuable and how important having an organization like ADEA was. ADEA is “the voice of dental education” and it’s up to all of its members nationwide to take strides to improve dental education in all facets. As a student and as a post-graduate chair at our chapter, I am more motivated to provide career resources about dental educators to UCSF students! More so now than ever, it is necessary that we begin training and cultivating the next batch of dentists who will shape the future curriculums of dentistry. It will not be easy to create a shift in this trend, but if every COSRF student went back to their chapters and held one event to expose their student community to dental education, then slowly but surely I think we can change this!