The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) University of Tennessee Health Science Center Chapter was recently named Most Improved Chapter among 66 chapters in the country during the ASDA Annual Session in Anaheim, California.
“Our chapter has been a work in progress and started out as more of a fun dental fraternity,” said Taylor Enochs, UTHSC ASDA chapter president and third-year dental student. “Slowly, as new leaders have come in every year, the ‘ASDA fever’ is growing and the passion is taking forth, and we are really trying to form this organization into something that represents National ASDA and not just local Memphis.”
Enochs said she was drawn to health care because she was interested in surgery and seeing patients’ healing process. Quickly, she realized that in other medical fields outside of dentistry, you may interact with patients and never see them again, which is why she said she chose dentistry. “My dentist watched me grow up,” she said. “I like the idea of patients coming in, helping them get better, and continuing to see them getting better. That aspect of dentistry drew me to it, and I love interacting with my patients and their families.”
This passion for the profession is what drives her involvement and that of other members in ASDA.
“I didn’t know much about ASDA until I came to dental school,” Enochs said. “I realized off the bat that ASDA is the first step to keeping dentistry and making dentistry what we want it to be. The medical field is changing a lot and there’s a lot of fluidity in that. If we want dentistry to stay the career that it is and what we enjoy, we’re going to have to stand up and fight for it.”
One of the ways the chapter advocates for the profession is through educating its members and other UTHSC students on current legislation. Last November, the chapter hosted Red, White and Brew in the Edge District as part of its Advocacy Month. The event was geared toward encouraging students to learn about legislation and how their voices can be heard.
In April, the chapter will send nine students to Washington, D.C., as part of National ASDA Lobby Day to meet with senators and representatives. “We do this on a national level to try and get them on our side,” Enochs said. The trip, including flights, travel and registration, is being paid for entirely by the UTHSC ASDA chapter.
The chapter hosts several fundraising events throughout the year, including a weekly Lunch and Learn series, where vendors are charged to come speak to students, T-shirt sales, the annual Prophy Cup Golf Tournament, and its annual Predental Day taking place this month.
Last year, Predental Day brought 130 undergraduate students to the UTHSC College of Dentistry, where they shadowed enrolled dental students and experienced firsthand what it’s like to be in dental school. This year, 156 undergraduate students are already registered to attend. They will have the opportunity to learn about taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT), the interview process, and receive tutorials in dental labs where they gain hands-on experience.
Since the chapter reaches so many students, currently 98 percent of students enrolled in the UTHSC College of Dentistry are members, UTHSC ASDA works hard to promote wellness among its members and even has a month dedicated to it— National Wellness Month, which takes place in September.
“ASDA is not just about dentistry,” Enoch said. “We promote wellness within our dental students. Taking care of your mental health while you’re in school.”
The chapter is also passionate about community engagement and outreach. Members frequently volunteer at the St. Jude Target House and host the International Service Half-K, from which proceeds are used toward international dental mission trips where student dentists have the opportunity to travel abroad providing dental services to the underserved.
Documenting chapter events and experiences along the way, Enoch credits improvements in communications efforts to helping them receive the Most Improved Chapter honor. The chapter has active social media accounts and a redesigned newsletter called the Tennessealant. The chapter has also worked hard to launch a newly designed website.
“We received this award because of the hard work of all our students and our past president, Jim Hollingsworth, who did a lot of work to build our chapter up,” Enochs said. “We keep growing and as we grow, we are getting more support from our dental school and support from the Tennessee Dental Association. Winning Most Improved Chapter is kind of a first step toward getting the biggest award from National ASDA, which is Most Ideal Chapter, and if we keep working this way, it’s going to happen soon.”