After carefully reviewing 45 submissions, our scholarship committee has selected six outstanding individuals to receive these prestigious scholarships. Their essays demonstrated a deep understanding of organized dentistry and a passion for making a difference in oral healthcare. Their insightful analysis and innovative ideas truly impressed our judges.
Scholarship applicants were instructed to write an essay of 500 words or less that addressed the following questions:Can you picture a career without organized dentistry advocating for issues that affect dentistry? What do you see as your role in supporting those efforts? The eloquence and clarity of their writing demonstrated a profound understanding of the challenges and opportunities in advocating for dentistry.
We want to thank all the participants who submitted their essays. The exceptional quality of the entries made the selection process challenging, highlighting the immense talent and enthusiasm present in our future dental leaders.
Once again, congratulations to the scholarship winners, and we wish them every success in their future endeavors. Below are our winners and their essays.
Julia Brainard, Midwestern University, College of Dental Medicine
Growing up in a town of less than 2,000 people provided the opportunity to have a unique bond with fellow community members. For those of us from rural Minnesota, that bond meant always offering a helping hand, supporting each other in everything we did, and collectively doing the best for the community. As I left my small town and ventured to the Chicagoland area for dental school, I have witnessed another unique bond with similar fundamental ideas while exploring what dentistry has to offer outside of the dental office.
As an upcoming fourth year dental student, organized dentistry has already provided a shared network of belonging and widespread support even though I have yet to venture beyond the walls of dental school. It is hard to imagine a fulfilling, successful career in dentistry without this expansive support system that is continually there to lend a helping hand for the good of each other, and more importantly, our dear patients; analogous to my sweet hometown.
A well-known mantra from a nearby college town that additionally is suitable for organized dentistry states, “For the strength of the Herd is in the Bison, and the strength of the Bison, is in the Herd.” As are dentists within the shared network of other dentists and dental organizations. It is essential to join together with others to spark conversation, share information and concerns, and to ultimately make majority vote decisions on important matters that affect our lives. These opportunities are achieved and simplified through dental organizations such as the Chicago Dental Society (CDS), the Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS), and the American Dental Association (ADA). Exhibiting the endless possibilities to dentists and dental students especially at events such as the CDS Midwinter Meeting, emphasizes the importance of being a part of dental organizations throughout our whole career. I applaud the determination to demonstrate ways in which people who are new to dentistry can be heard in engaging seminars and inviting socials. Organized dentistry is also present at the educational level with the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) giving students the opportunity to get involved with decisions that affect our current everyday lives.
As someone who greatly believes in the power of teamwork, I also believe everyone has their own role to play. I can play mine by encouraging others to get involved, find their role, and have a place to share their ideas and opinions. I imagine how rewarding it may feel to invite fellow classmates, team members, and mentors to witness the transformations that can be accomplished when we all work together. I look forward to continuing my lifetime support and involvement with the organizations and people who advocate for issues that affect dentistry.
Aldona Puchalski, Midwestern University, College of Dental Medicine
The successful progression of the dental field is directly related to dentists advocating on behalf of issues affecting the profession. Without dentists supporting positive changes in the field, there would be no advancements made in treatment procedures, education, or health care policies. Dentists advocating for oral health care related issues is the only way that the field of dentistry can continue to uphold a strong ethical and moral backbone, work to promote dental research and improve techniques, as well as provide dental care for underserved populations. By joining dental advocacy groups such as the American Dental Association (ADA), Illinois Dental Society (ISDS), and the Chicago Dental Society (CDS), dentists can work together to address any areas of concern and work to improve them.
To best prepare for my future role as a dental advocate as well as dentist, I have been privileged to have become a member of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) by representing our university as the community outreach chair. This position has permitted for me to attend conferences, lectures, and events that focus on and support the rights and interests of dental students. These meetings allow students to become more aware of topics currently affecting the dental field and they prepare them for understanding how to express these matters with other dental schools, members, and even current dentists.
One of the most prominent ways dentists are advocating growth is by becoming dental school faculty members and mentoring students directly. By attending the Midwestern College of Dental Medicine Illinois, I have been privileged to learn more about dentistry through the eyes, ears, and ultimately, hands, of dentists. Teaching within a dental school allows for faculty to share their experiences and knowledge gained from years of practice to support students to become successful dentists. As a practicing dentist, I hope to follow in the example of my mentors and continue to support the incoming generation of dental students by volunteering my time at dental conferences and organizing continuing education courses.
My ultimate career goals extend past my education in dental school. Within the next several years, I hope to successfully match into a residency program, progress with my current research endeavors, and transition into becoming an active military officer. My daily career will consist of staying informed with the latest developments and policies by joining advocacy organizations. I will utilize the information I gain for my research and these groups to educate the public including my future patients, local schools, and communities to promote preventative and oral hygiene practices. I hope to also collaborate with colleagues of other health care professions to review issues holistically and develop interdisciplinary approaches to addressing health care concerns. My experiences have taught me that dentists are leaders, educators, and humanitarians, among other things, and that becoming a dentist and dental advocate, it is a gift that I could give my community, as well as myself.
Christina Lindberg, University of Illinois Chicago, College of Dentistry
One of the most important lessons I have learned throughout my dental education thus far is the importance of collaboration. As dental students, we learn early on that creating a sense of community among classmates is essential to overcoming the everyday rigors of dental school. There is never a shortage of support from faculty, mentors, and classmates within a school setting. However, as practicing professionals, there is a greater focus on independent practice. Whether in private practice or a corporate model, we will likely not have the same daily collaboration with colleagues as we experienced in dental school. This lack of daily interaction emphasizes the importance of organized dentistry. Organized dentistry is critical because it provides a sense of community and support for the dental profession by bringing together dental professionals of various backgrounds, ages, and experience levels, who may otherwise not have the opportunity to collaborate.
Dentistry is a self-regulating profession, meaning we, as dentists, create, uphold, and amend the clinical and ethical standards for the profession. Dentistry is a constantly evolving field with new materials, technology, clinical techniques, and legislation challenges. Organized dentistry provides a space where dentists can come together to propose new ideas, continue to learn through various CE courses, and discuss how to handle complex dilemmas in ways that are ethically and clinically consistent with the standards of the profession. Not all recent developments in the dental field have been positive. With highly profit-driven corporations entering the dental field and ever-changing dental insurance plans, organized dentistry has become even more critical in advocating for policies that benefit both the dental profession and our patients. Without organized dentistry, individual practitioners would be left alone to handle ethical dilemmas and advocate for themselves against large corporations. Organized dentistry allows dental professionals to unite at local, state, and national levels to address issues affecting the profession.
As an incoming member of the dental profession, organized dentistry provides me with the support I need to continue to learn and develop my professional skills and foster relationships with other practitioners. It is our duty as dental professionals to not only engage in the community provided by organized dentistry but to work to strengthen current dental organizations. The future of dentistry relies on dental organizations that continue to prioritize universal ethical principles and patient-centered care. Overall, organized dentistry is essential as it fosters a community of collaboration, allowing the dental profession to continue to improve and maintain integrity.
Michael Deek, University of Illinois Chicago, College of Dentistry
A phrase that comes to mind when I think of organized dentistry is “strength in numbers.” Once I graduate from the University of Illinois (UIC), I will embark on a journey toward a lifelong career in dentistry. Doing that alone can be stressful and overwhelming. It will be time to become a part of a new community. For that, I find solace in knowing I can turn to organized dentistry. Imagining a career without organized dentistry is difficult since its impacts are ubiquitous. Without organized dentistry, dental professionals would lose a plethora of benefits including student debt and licensure reform efforts, continuing education, insurance and retirement plans, legal guidance, advocacy, guidelines, policies, and much more. I am grateful that organized dentistry advocates for the advancement and improvement of the lives of dental professionals, patients, and the greater community.
Without organized dentistry, the direction of the profession would be left in the hands of others. Organized dentistry gives dental professionals power to self-regulate as they know what is in the best interest for themselves and their patients. I currently serve as the Legislative and Advocacy Chair in the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) at UIC and am eager to participate in the upcoming Lobby Day in Washington D. C. Organized dentistry empowers dental professionals to unite and lobby for the profession and to provide the best patient care.
Since I have enjoyed my experience through ASDA, I see myself continuing to be involved in organized dentistry throughout my career. I will be an active member of the Illinois State Dental Association (ISDS) and the American Dental Association (ADA), headquartered in Chicago, to advocate for equity and equality for all populations. I want to help implement policies to minimize the disparity that underserved populations face in dentistry. I aim to improve the lives of marginalized groups by working to increase access to healthcare treatment and educating patients. One way to do so is through social media. When I served as the Wellness Chair in my district of ASDA, I harnessed the power of social media by creating campaigns to promote healthy lifestyle choices and earned Best Wellness Initiative among seven dental schools in the Midwest. I also took part in the ADA Health Literacy Essay Contest for three consecutive years to promote health literacy principles. My essays regarding the HPV vaccine, health misinformation, and the oral systemic link won awards at UIC with one being recognized by the ISDS. These experiences further fueled my passion to increase access to health education. I will continue to be involved in similar efforts to serve patients through organized dentistry.
I value the camaraderie in organized dentistry. I see myself serving as a liaison between my local, state, and national branches of organized dentistry. I look forward to establishing connections as well as facilitating networking opportunities. In the future, I will be a mentor so that I can give back in the way that organized dentistry has given to me and so many others.
Julissa Quinonez, Southern Illinois University, School of Dental Medicine
When I was younger and still deciding what I wanted to be, I was torn between medical school and dental school. For all the reasons that many of us fell in love with dentistry, such as improving oral health, educating patients how oral health connects with overall health, and creating beautiful smiles, the most important reason our profession is cherished is because of the autonomy that dentists have. Because of the ADA and its role in advocating for dentists, students, and the community we serve, dentistry remains not just a job, but a profession that is consistently improving, provides networking, and has safeguards to protect it.
The dental profession is vast, extending opportunity from clinic settings to research and education. Affecting dentists, hygienists, assistants, staff, and most importantly, patients, dentistry has something to prove and must remain reliable. Because of organized dentistry, laws are constantly being advocated for and changed, cutting edge research is introduced, and healthcare is being improved.
I have had the pleasure of lobbying in Washington D.C. for the past two years alongside dentists from all over the country and our Illinois ADPAC members. The energy at Lobby Day is incredible as so many individuals who are passionate for this profession come together to make sure our presence is noticed, to prove to our politicians that we care, and to make sure our voice is heard. When I join the ADA as a new dentist, I will continue to support the efforts made at the local, state, and national level in order to continue advancing dentistry.
Even now, as Legislative Liaison of our local SIU chapter, I strive to introduce our students to organized dentistry and show how big of an impact the ADA, ISDS, and other local associations make for us as students, for our patients, and for our futures. Acknowledging the initiatives made by the ADA, such as fighting to end the opioid crisis, making public health more accessible, and easing the financial burden on dental students continuing education proves that organized dentistry is current on important topics that need to be addressed and revised. I will continue to do my part—to encourage, to educate, to advocate.
In conclusion, I cannot imagine a career without organized dentistry, and in fact, I refuse to. The reason why dentistry has been listed among the top careers in our nation is because of the endless effort given by all members in organized dentistry to defend and improve what we have. Whether we stand as leaders to represent diverse backgrounds, invest our time and effort in research, or simply share our voice to advocate for important matters, we all have something to contribute to this profession to ensure its continued change for the better.
Donald Thompson II, Southern Illinois University, School of Dental Medicine
Organized dentistry serves as a unified voice for dental professionals, addressing critical issues and promoting the interests of the dental community. It plays a vital role in influencing legislation, shaping policies, and ensuring optimal patient care and oral health outcomes. Without organized dentistry, the dental profession would lack a collective entity to advocate for its needs, resulting in potential challenges and missed opportunities.
In the absence of organized dentistry, dental professionals would face various challenges. Firstly, there would be limited representation and influence in shaping legislation and policies that directly impact the profession. This could lead to unfavorable regulations and decreased autonomy. Additionally, without organized dentistry, access to resources such as continuing education, research support, and professional development opportunities may be compromised. The dental community would also struggle to effectively address issues like reimbursement rates, insurance practices, and scope of practice, which could affect economic stability and professional growth.
As a dental professional, active participation and support are crucial in strengthening organized dentistry's efforts. Firstly, I’d like to join professional organizations and become an active member, contributing my diverse perspectives and expertise to shape the profession positively. By staying informed about legislative and policy developments, I can engage in grassroots advocacy, contacting legislators, attending hearings, and voicing concerns. Collaborating with colleagues and attending dental conferences allows for networking, knowledge exchange, and collective problem-solving. As the President of the American Student Dental Association at SIU-SDM I have the unique opportunity to provide students with new information and serve as the first point of contact into the ADA. In addition, I have gotten the opportunity so early in my dental career to advocate for the dental profession on Capitol Hill, working with ADPAC in telling my story to senators and aides to help advance dental student loan reform, the ELSA act and so many more beneficial bills.
Furthermore, contributing to organized dentistry initiatives by volunteering my time, skills, and resources. This can involve participating in community outreach programs, mentoring students, or offering pro bono services to underserved populations upon graduation. By demonstrating the value and impact of organized dentistry's efforts, I want to inspire others to support these initiatives as well.
In conclusion, a career without organized dentistry advocating for dental issues would have significant implications for the profession. By actively engaging and supporting organized dentistry's efforts through professional involvement, advocacy, and volunteerism, I can contribute to a stronger dental community, safeguard the profession's interests, and ensure the best possible oral health outcomes for patients.