My View: What it means to be an ADA member and faculty ambassador


Editor’s note: The ADA Faculty Ambassador Program is working to identify at least one faculty member at each U.S. dental school to continually highlight ADA programming, events and the value of organized dentistry to students and faculty within their respective schools.

As a health sciences clinical assistant professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry and an active practitioner within our field, I frequently reflect on the multitude of factors that have facilitated my ability to engage in a profession I deeply cherish. It has become increasingly clear that the thriving nature of our profession can largely be attributed to the structured support provided by organized dentistry, specifically through the collaborative framework of the American Dental Association and state and local dental societies. This tripartite arrangement not only empowers us with a potent collective voice in legislative advocacy but also ensures access to a wealth of educational and clinical resources. These resources are instrumental in maintaining the ethical and professional standards that define our field, highlighting the pivotal role of organized dentistry in safeguarding the interests of its members and reinforcing our strength through unity.

In October of 2023, I was honored with an invitation to serve as an ADA Faculty Ambassador on behalf of the UCLA School of Dentistry. This opportunity led me to meet with Brendan Dowd, D.D.S., the ADA’s 2nd District trustee and the visionary founder of the ADA Faculty Ambassador Program. During our discussions, Dr. Dowd provided a comprehensive overview of the program’s objectives and its pilot initiatives designed to foster ADA engagement at the dental school level. The prospect of participating in a program that not only aligns with my professional values but also strives to make a meaningful impact was profoundly motivating.

In my role as ADA Faculty Ambassador, I was warmly welcomed by both the faculty at UCLA’s School of Dentistry and cabinet members of the American Student Dental Association. My responsibilities include facilitating seamless communication between our ASDA chapter and the ADA and delivering critical information on resources that are vital for the advancement of our profession. This role is especially significant as it supports the next generation of dental professionals, who are undoubtedly the future of our field. By providing them with essential knowledge and opportunities, we help shape the trajectory of dental practice and its contributions to patient care.

Although personal commitments prevented my attendance at this year’s ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., the feedback from our ASDA chapter members who participated was overwhelmingly positive. They shared their enriching experiences of engaging with influential legislators and learning about pertinent bills that could impact our profession. Such interactions underscore the importance of advocacy at all levels of organized dentistry — from local dental societies to national associations.

Moreover, the ADA offers numerous benefits to its members, including professional liability and disability insurance, student loan refinancing and assistance in job placement. It also sets the bar on safety as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses 81 ADA standards to assess the safety and efficacy of dental products. The ADA offers its members practice building resources to aid in establishing and sustaining our practices and a well-being program that provides confidential support not only to our professionals but also to their families and staff. The vitality and integrity of the ADA, and by extension our profession, rely heavily on active and engaged membership.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our profession as a member of the ADA, ADA Faculty Ambassador and editor for the San Fernando Valley Dental Society and to advocate for our collective interests and advancement. The experiences and insights gained through these roles reinforce my commitment to dental education and practice, underscoring the significant impact that organized dentistry has on both individual practitioners and the community at large.

Dr. Tom is a health sciences clinical assistant professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry.

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