Dental Students Glimpse New Possibilities at ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition

By LaShell Stratton-Childers, ADEA Senior Editor

Due to the pandemic and concerns about the safety of staff and attendees, ADEA this year held its Annual Session & Exhibition virtually for the first time in the conference’s history. Every year, dental and allied dental professionals and students are among the attendees. This year was no exception. And, as they have in the past, several schools generously paid their students’ registration fees, giving them a chance to attend educational sessions, peruse the virtual Exhibit Hall and network.

Deepa GollamudiDeepa Gollamudi, a dental student at Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine – South Jordan, Utah (Roseman CODM), attended the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition in Chicago in 2019 and attended again this year.

“Roseman has been so supportive of my involvement and has covered conference registration and travel (pre-COVID of course) for the past few years,” Ms. Gollamudi said.

Frank W. Licari, D.D.S., M.P.H., M.B.A., Dean and Professor at Roseman CODM, said the school was happy to help fund Ms. Gollamudi’s attendance this year.

“We at Roseman support students attending ADEA’s annual conference, either as representatives of the ADEA Council of Students, Residents and Fellows, session presenters on educational innovations or poster presenters,” Dr. Licari said. “It’s important for us to encourage our students to consider academic careers and the ADEA annual conference provides us the opportunity to give our students in attendance a glimpse of that academic career experience.”

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) took a similar position when it offered to financially support Michael Chen, a dental student at HSDM, by paying his registration fee to the 2021 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition.

Michael Chen HeadshotMichael Chen, a dental student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, also attended the 2021 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition virtually and liked the experience, attending poster and plenary sessions.

“Harvard School of Dental Medicine has a long history of training leaders in dental education,” said HSDM Dean William V. Giannobile, D.D.S., M.S., D.Med.Sc. “By making it possible for students like Michael Chen, ‘23, to attend the American Dental Education Association’s annual conference, we recognize the great value that comes with this experience for our current and future dental educators.  I’m delighted that Michael was able to represent HSDM as a member the ADEA Council of Students, Residents and Fellows,” Dr. Giannobile said. “He is a highly dedicated student with a keen interest in education. I’m certain that the insights he gained from participating in the conference will be very valuable to him as well as his classmates at HSDM.”

Mr. Chen said he took full advantage of the opportunity HSDM gave him, attending different parts of the conference even though it was in a virtual setting.

“It is tough to replicate all aspects of the meeting virtually, but I was happy with how it ran. The schedule was clear, and links were easy to follow,” Mr. Chen said. “… I attended House of Delegates sessions, some of the plenary sessions and poster sessions. I enjoyed viewing my classmates’ and future colleagues’ posters in the poster session.”

Ms. Gollamudi was particularly interested in the programming this year because she had a hand in its design. “I am also a member of the ADEA Annual Session Program Committee, representing the ADEA Council of Students, Residents and Fellows [ADEA COSRF],” Ms. Gollamudi said. “Being a part of planning for this virtual session was a great experience and truly showed how connected we can be even if we’re so far apart. I think that while it doesn’t replace in-person interactions, it truly showed how effective virtual programming can be.”

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An Annual Session That Was Well Worth It

Ms. Gollamudi said her favorite part of the programming was the plenary sessions. This year’s plenaries focused on the themes of transformation; access, diversity and inclusion; and innovation. They featured speakers Shankar Vedantam, science desk correspondent for NPR and host of the podcast Hidden Brain; NFL Hall of Fame running back and three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith; and Philip Wang, a co-founder of Wong Fu Productions.

“While it was not directly about dentistry, it was so relevant to thinking outside the box and finding ways to improve dental education,” Ms. Gollamudi said. “It was awesome to hear a variety of speakers from platforms like NPR and YouTube.”

Ms. Gollamudi said she also used the virtual networking platform ADEA offered this year during the Annual Session. “I contacted a few students from ADEA COSRF via Zoom and text. I also was able to use the virtual networking platform to connect with other colleagues,” she said.

Being multi-time attendees, both Ms. Gollamudi and Mr. Chen have advice for students who will attend the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition for the first-time next year when the event will be held in-person again, this time in Montreal, Canada.

“Look at the schedule ahead of time,” Mr. Chen said. “March can be a busy time of year with our packed curriculums, but planning which sessions you hope to attend is super helpful.”

“I would say be open to attending events that seem outside the box,” Ms. Gollamudi said. “Listen to what all these speakers have to say and even if it isn’t directly about what you are interested in, I’d be surprised if you weren’t able to apply the lessons in some way in your life.”

Ms. Gollamudi is eagerly looking forwarding to future ADEA Annual Sessions.

“While this is my last year attending as a dental student, I hope to one day attend a future ADEA conference as an educator,” Ms. Gollamudi said.

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