We had a great weekend in Washington, D.C. for National Lobby Day. We attended great conferences and had wonderful opportunities to learn about the issues affecting us as future dentists. One of the best parts of the weekend was getting together and meeting dental students from other schools in our district and from across the country. Our concerns as well as our excitement for our future careers were validated after getting to talk with and know these students. On Monday we met as an entire body of ASDA representatives to learn about the issues we would be covering and to receive training on how to speak with our congressional representatives. We learned that the political process is integral to the profession of dentistry. Our strong presence as a dental community in Washington is why the majority of dental students are still graduating as employers and not as employees. We didn't get where we are today by sitting on the sidelines. Currently there are 158,000 members of the American Dental Association, one of the largest groups advocating healthcare in the entire nation. We were proud to represent MUSC at the conference on Monday, which had in attendance the most members of ASDA at Lobby Day in history.
Among many issues that the ADA are pushing for in Washington, two bills were a priority for us the following day on Capitol Hill. The first bill is Action for Dental Health Act: H.R. 539. This is a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans alike. In short, this would allow various organizations such as Give Kids a Smile and Missions or Mercy to qualify for oral health grants given by the Centers for Disease Control. This grant money would not cost the government any extra money, but simply reallocate funds to enable organizations to provide dental services to underserved populations. The second bill that we lobbied for was the Student Loan Refinancing Act: H.R. 649. This bill would essentially allow new dentists to refinance their federal student loans at any time during the life of the loan. For example, if you're currently locked in at a 7% interest rate, but the market was at 4.5%, you could refinance at that lower rate. The current state of tuition and student loan debt at dental schools across America made this bill is very important to us. We had a successful day on Capitol Hill talking with our representatives from South Carolina. We were fortunate enough to meet with the several members of the House, including Representative Jeff Duncan and Representative Trey Gowdy, along with many others. Also, the offices of Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott were good enough to meet with us. They were receptive and understand the importance of the the MUSC dental program in South Carolina and are willing to fight for these important causes. As students and future dentists our perspective matters. This is why it is important to be part of organizations such as ASDA and SCDA, they really do matter. One point that was emphasized over and over was that the day that we lose our voice in Washington is the day that we lose our options. Thank you for sending us to Washington and we truly enjoyed representing this wonderful dental school.