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AAPD Pediatric Oral Health Advocacy Conference Award

Dr. Karissa Morrison's POHAC Essay

"I became aware of POHAC last year when I was an intern and had wanted to attend since then. I set several goals to accomplish during this conference and I was able to do this and more. I believed that  I would learn a lot from other attendees due to their wealth of experiences and perspectives and it would be beneficial as I begin to navigate my own advocacy pathway. I wanted to establish relationships with mentors and peers and utilize them as role models and for inspiration. In my application essay I had stated that networking is an integral aspect of professional growth, and I was eager to build a network in the dental community to exchange ideas, knowledge and provide opportunities for collaboration and partnership. I was able to take part in conversations with other attendees that provided a diverse array of perspectives as there were other pediatric dental residents, advocates with decades of experience, diplomates of the AAPD, policymakers, and pediatric dentists. I did meet several attendees with whom I am creating the meaningful relationships I had aspired to. These will lead to future collaborations, sharing of ideas and perspectives, and efforts to improve pediatric dental care. Before this conference all these were merely hopes and possibilities. Now they can be a reality; and I am truly excited and grateful for this.  I am happy that I now can impact my patient’s care on a different level, and advocate for other pediatric dentist’s patients as well with ease and confidence. 

The first few meetings and conversations with the legislator’s aides did invoke some anxiety as I wanted to provide my viewpoint, why it was important, and make it sound authentic and meaningful. The more I care about something, the more anxiety I experience. I am so fortunate that I had great mentors that walked us through the process, had us practice our talking points and gave feedback and tips on how to present it and improve, and were there if we needed more guidance and assistance in the moment. 

While it was initially nerve wracking to meet with the legislator’s aides and discuss our agenda, it became easier with each meeting, and I was pleased that many of the aides were knowledgeable about the bills and had questions for us.  This was also a great opportunity to begin relationships with local legislator’s aides and I enjoyed the conversational aspect the meetings took on due to this.  Having the meetings take on this tone highlighted that what I had thought would be intimidating was not the case, and I could be successful at it. 

Our group had a great flow in our discussions of the bills and who would specifically speak about the personal influence these bills had on them. Teamwork was our strength, and I appreciated our open communication, feedback, and advice on how to best advocate.  We had a great rhythm and would walk around during our breaks discussing the issues, and sight-seeing. We  would de brief before and after each meeting and discuss how to best present the information to each legislator’s aide.  I truly learned a lot from my resident and mentors group; especially when it came to techniques and phrases to use to create the most impact when lobbying and feel more competent."

Dr. Michael Bogran's POHAC essay

"I, like many other pediatric dental residents, have been familiarized with the AAPD on some level almost every day I go into the clinic, open textbooks, or prepare for boards; however, the AAPD was merely an abstract consortium of people printing guidelines in my mind, that is until I was given the chance to attend the annual POHAC in Washington D.C. Attending this conference altered my perception of the AAPD by allowing me to meet the people that make up the organization and seeing firsthand how the members are empowered and work together. 

Initially, I was apprehensive about attending this conference, because it was going to be an entirely new experience for me and I had no idea if I even belonged at such an event as a first-year resident. Thankfully, I quickly learned that being new to the profession of pediatric dentistry was looked down upon, in fact, the only requirement to attend was a shared desire to work together with peers and colleagues. Every person in attendance, from first year residents to retired clinicians and faculty all shared the commonality of wanting to advocate for the oral health care of children and our shared profession to ensure the longevity of both. 

The main goal of the POHAC was to work together in teams representing the different states to advocate for three pieces of legislation that the AAPD considers bipartisan: the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act (ELSA), the continued support of HRSA title VII, and the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act (REDI Act). I was lucky enough to be given the chance to work together with people from the Arizona and Oklahoma teams, with both teams we were given the opportunity to meet with state representatives and staffers from both states and from both major political parties. At these meetings we were able to share firsthand experience with how the communities we work in would benefit and how it would help to build the pediatric dental workforce in the future. 

Aside from advocating with peers and colleagues, one of the more impactful portions of this experience was learning from those same people. At the conference I was able to connect to peers in residency, our conversations centered around completing school, career aspirations, and hopes for future policy. The conversations with colleagues, established in their career and those retired from their career, centered around how the AAPD has advocated for beneficial policies and which policies the AAPD might work on next. Throughout all of these conversations, it gradually dawned on me that the AAPD is not solely a council of academic focused people publishing guidelines, but it is a coalition of peers and colleagues fighting to improve the communities they live in and to protect a shared profession.

At this point, I cannot say that I have grandiose plans to become a fulltime national representative of the AAPD in Washington DC, I do plan on carrying on the spirit of daily advocacy within my future practice. I admire people that are able to work at the national level, as of now I feel more inclined to work in community groups and act as a frontline provider. I am planning on investing in my future community by working on early oral healthcare education through patients, parents, and hopefully community groups. My belief is that education is one of the best upstream methods for creating lasting change in a community. Although I do not plan on being a national representative, I am proud to be part of the AAPD and I am proud to say that the AAPD is filled with my peers and colleagues that are actively advocating on a local and national level every single day."

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