May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Resident’s Corner

Change Will Happen

March 2016 Volume LI Number 2


By Aaron Bumann, 2nd Year Resident, Geisinger Medical Center

The air is full of politics these days. From the upcoming presidential primaries to the slow relent of congressional gridlock, politics are hard to avoid. With so many changes happening so fast, there are undoubtedly issues that each of us have strong feelings about. One thing is for certain, change will happen. Whether or not we are involved in that change is up to us. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with some residents who have been involved in dental advocacy efforts and what it means to them as we enter the profession of pediatric dentistry.

Raya Abu-Zahra, Alexandra Frank, and Sarah Severson are residents at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Through an opportunity at their program they were able to attend the state lobby day in Wisconsin, learning how to advocate for our patients and the profession. For Abu-Zahra and Severson, it was their first time being involved in the political process. For Frank, this was her third time advocating for dentistry. I asked them each about their experiences

What made you interested in dental advocacy during residency?

Abu-Zahra: The opportunity to visit the state capital in Madison to understand the legislative system and advocacy arose, and I was excited to attend. As a future pediatric dentist, I felt that understanding the legislative process would be a critical aspect of furthering objectives beneficial to the future of the field. Dentistry is constantly changing, oftentimes due to various legislative changes. I thought that learning to navigate the legislative system would allow me to better understand these changes when they do occur, and learn to become an advocate in my community on certain issues. We learned a great deal, and were proud of the experience.

Severson: Residency offers a unique experience where you treat a wide spectrum of children of varying demographics, health statuses and overall needs. You become really aware of the health care disparities that exist amongst various patients. Being in residency has given me the desire to be an advocate for the patients whom otherwise would likely not have access to dental care if it wasn’t for our residency program providing them that care. I feel strongly about advocating on behalf of these patients and try to mitigate any further health care disparities for children of low SES families or children with special needs particularly. Being a resident has given me a unique perspective and insight to such issues, and has instilled in me a desire to want to improve overall access and quality of dental care for all children...What better way to do this than to get involved with the legislative and advocacy process!

Frank: After graduating from dental school and now in a residency program, I feel that it is important to be informed and knowledgeable about the legislative system and the crucial role a dentist can have in advocating for particular dental issues.  We are fortunate that our residency program provided us with a unique opportunity to visit the capital and learn about the legislative system, including how to lobby. I think that as a health care provider, it is helpful to have some type of foundation of knowledge of the legislative process, as there is always potential for the field to change due to political action.

We also discussed what they advocated for during their time in Madison at the capital. As we are all aware corporate dentistry is everywhere. Many of our dental school colleagues and some of us are looking into these practices as they are advertised as a jump start out of dental school or residency. The highest concern of the profession is the safety of our patients and to ensure this calling, Abu-Zahra, Frank, and Severson advocated for a change in the dental practice act in Wisconsin to give the Dental Examining Board (DEB) the legal ability to oversee non-dentist owners of dental practices through the creation of a registration process and giving the DEB authority to discipline non-dentist owners for violations under the same regulations that dentist owners are mandated to follow. 

Protecting the patients we serve is a huge responsibility We do it every day in the clinic and operating room and I encourage you to do it in the halls of your state capitols and in the halls of Congress! It is a truly wonderful thing to advocate for those who have few opportunities to advocate for themselves.

Do you know any recent residency graduates working in dental education? Send their names and contact information to for a chance to be featured in a future PDT article. 

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