May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3



July 2017 Volume LII Number 4

A Resident’s Perspective The Big Authority on Little Teeth…Indeed!
Nidhi Taneja, D.D.S. Pediatric Dental Resident
University of Connecticut, Conn.

Every year, AAPD’s Political Action Committee (PAC) hosts an Advocacy Conference to give pediatric dentists a voice, to protect and promote the oral health of their patients, the cause they believe in most.

Hundreds of AAPD member dentists, residents and staff, from all over the nation traveled to the nation’s capital in Washington D.C., on March 5, 2017, and spent four days learning the basics of advocacy, meeting with legislators and touring the Capitol building. 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. There are plenty of social events to meet and network with other colleagues. Specifically for residents, it is a great opportunity to learn more and make connections with dental constituents in their state of training and the state they want to practice after graduation.

The first two days were spent learning the basics of how Congress works, the key AAPD issues and learning speaking tips and instruc- tions when pitching in front of the legislatures. On the first day, a short exercise of advocacy presentation skills for residents was organized in a round table format with key facilitators. This was not just an oppor- tunity to get a first-hand experience preparing to talk to legislators but also get positive feedback from experienced dentists in a safe and non threatening environment.

The following day was packed with informative lectures like the one by Office of Inspector General (OIG) Senior Counsel Mr. Geof- frey W. Hymans on audits, evaluations and compliance: OIG oversight of Medicaid dental programs. These topics are not typically learned in a residency program but are pivotal to know in day-to-day practice once we graduate. Getting introduced to the acronyms and the jargons of the other side, helped us be more familiar with the process and get- ting an insight into the world we would not learn from books.

"This was my second year doing attending the conference and I re- ally enjoyed both times," said Dr. Derek Leung, a second year resident at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. "Overall I think it’s a great experience for any resident to come and learn about the policies being created in their field."

One issue that was discussed with legislators included the pediatric dentistry residency training and faculty loan repayment via HRSA Title VII funding. A level funding goal for FY18 same as that for FY17 was requested to continue allocating $10 million out of the $35 million towards the HRSA grant to allow flourishing of our profession by having fruitful rewards to the educators who work so hard to keep producing quality pediatric dentists.

Another issue that was discussed in the congressional meetings was necessary changes to the Affordable Care Act or successor legislation and Medicaid to ensure true access to Dental Homes for all children by age one. AAPD strives to make sure legislators are aware of and fully informed on these topics. From a resident’s perspective, the Advo- cacy Conference opened my eyes to how much legislators depend on representatives of the profession for input when making decisions.

Going to the conference made me realize that our future is in the hands of people who don’t fully understand our profession; they are young but experienced in handling the unpredictability involved in health care. I was amazed to see how they were working hard to make time to listen to us among many other people and issues they deal with everyday. I feel it’s my responsibility today and in the future to be involved with organized dentistry and advocate for my patients to en- sure they are well taken care of in this ever-changing world of politics. Representing on behalf of the little teeth ensures that the legislators have an insight into the value of oral care for children and they will make an informed decision when passing or not passing a bill.

"It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but being able to address legislators and explain the importance of dental care for kids was a wholeheartedly fulfilling experience," Dr. Leung said. "To be a part of something that could influence positive change was the whole reason I wanted to be a pediatric dentist and I was ecstatic to have been part of AAPD Advocacy Conference this year."

Once we graduate and go into practice or start working in the confines of an office, we will not get exposure to what is happening at the grassroots level. We will only be affected by the changes that will be made by the legislators. The profession is in our hands and any changes that occur between now and when we retire, or even beyond, are in our hands. Until we advocate, the legislators won’t know the issues that are important to us. So I highly recommend every resident to get involved with organized dentistry.

Politics are constantly inundated with rhetoric and noise, which was amplified during the 2016 election year. Thousands of bills are introduced every year in Congress, and legislation is debated every day with the potential to help or harm our profession and, in turn, the vulnerable population we serve. The AAPD PAC ensures our voice is heard above the rest on critical issues. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to be involved in the conference this year and hope to stay involved in the coming years as well. I urge my colleges in other resi- dency programs as well, to take advantage of this opportunity AAPD provides and staying involved after graduation.

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