Behind the Scenes of Dental Advocacy – Siri Vasireddy ’22

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On September 21, six CDMA students had the opportunity to take a closer look at the process of creating successful legislative proposals and smoothly-running lobby days. Year after year, the AzDA graciously invites us to sit in on, and even participate in, their meetings. The three divisions of the AzDA (Northern, Central, and Southern) came together to discuss any revisions to the by-laws, make budgetary decisions, and brainstorm any additions to dental bills that will be sent to legislature in the winter. 

Arizona’s District Five Representative Dr. Regina Cobb addressed 2019’s victories and difficulties. A bill to prevent insurance companies from charging dentists redundant processing fees unanimously passed in the Arizona House and Senate, potentially saving dentiststhousandsof dollars per year. But unfortunately, a separate proposal to have maternal dental benefits added to AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid agency) did not pass yet again. She spoke to the importance of helping legislators realize that prevention, rather than treatment, is key. If a few hundred thousand dollars are invested in maintaining maternal oral health during pregnancy, millionsof dollars can be saved – not to mention the avoidance of adverse health outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight. The divide between oral and systemic health is still discernable, but through educating both the public and legislators, hopefully that gap will begin to dissipate.

This year’s HOD meeting was particularly special, as it doubled as a celebration of Executive Director Kevin Earle’s eleven-year tenure at the AzDA. While I only met Kevin a little over a year ago, it was obvious after working with him at both state and national lobby days and hearing him speak about advocacy that he has a sincere passion for helping Arizona’s dentists. Many member dentists spoke to Kevin’s dedication and character, and how within the past decade he has facilitated a close bond between the AzDA and dental schools. We are so grateful to him for the opportunities he’s provided us students to get involved in organized dentistry and get a head start in learning about policies that will affect us when we start practicing. Additionally, Arizona’s own Dr. Dan Klemmedson of Tucson was recently named the ADA President-Elect, and will take over the title of President next year. He will be the first ever ADA President from Arizona, and we are so lucky to have his support.  

The more advocacy events I attend, the more apparent the importance of defending our profession becomes. Legislators love to make laws aboutus, and if we are not part of the conversation, then our profession will be governed by an essentially clueless entity. Many issues affect us even as students; the debt we accumulate now will directly translate into the way we will practice when we graduate. The dentist members of the AzDA repeatedly expressed their appreciation of student participation in their organization, and we hope to continue that involvement in years to come.

-Sirisha Vasireddy, Class of 2022

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