Summer 2016

3 Questions for Mandy Alamwala, D16

The importance of organized dentistry

By Julie Flaherty

In her junior year, Mandy Alamwala, D16, was elected one of 11 trustees of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA), representing the five New England dental schools. Since then she has served on numerous councils and committees for the American Dental Association, the Academy of General Dentistry Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Dental Society, where she is taking part in a two-year Leadership Institute program. We talked with her about why dental students should get involved in organized dentistry.

03/22/2016 - Boston, Mass. - Portrait of Mandeep Alamwala (D16) taken inside the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. (Matthew Healey for Tufts University)

A big agenda item for dental students is debt reform, says Mandy Alamwala. Photo: Matthew Healey

What do ASDA representatives do? One of the big events we partake in is National Dental Student Lobby Day, where dental students come together in Washington, D.C., to advocate for issues that dental students care about. [ASDA] teaches dental students how to lobby and gives us all kinds of tips and tricks to be successful. Then we meet with our legislators and let them know what’s on our mind. Having strength in numbers and having all 65 dental schools [in the country] come together, it really does make a difference.

What sort of things do you lobby for? One of the big topics is student debt. Dental students are graduating with much more debt than our colleagues who graduated 30 to 40 years ago. It limits our professional choices. If someone is passionate about dentistry, he or she shouldn’t have to worry about the tuition. That’s why we’re going to legislators and pushing for reform. We worked closely with the American Dental Association, and the ADA is listening. It recently announced a collaboration with Darien Rowayton Bank to help students refinance their loans. When you have those small victories, you know that you’re doing something right.

What else do you get out of organized dentistry? I get to meet other students who are equally enthusiastic and really want to make a difference. It’s easy to just focus on clinic and on the books and not realize that things happening in the dental landscape today are going to affect us longterm. We must be the ones fighting for our profession. And to start during dental school is the best way to go about it. The administration at Tufts is so supportive. With their support you can make a difference—and you can still manage dental school. Getting involved with organized dentistry changed my dental school experience, and I couldn’t imagine dental school without it. I encourage everyone to get involved.

Contact Julie Flaherty at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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