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Students participate in Dental Lobby Day

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Last month, a group of 30 MUSC dental students traded in their dental scrubs, textbooks and dental instruments for business attire, notebooks and portfolios as they boarded a Columbia-bound charter bus on a cool, spring morning. This small College of Dental Medicine contingent was on a daylong journey with the goal of educating and communicating with the state’s elected leaders about dentistry and statewide issues affecting dental education.
The activity was part of MUSC’s first dental student Lobby Day activity organized by dental students.
College of Dental Medicine students, along with Dean John Sanders, far right, spent April 16 with elected officials at the South Carolina State House. Their goal was to introduce dental education, health issues and student loan debt management.

“It was a great experience for everyone involved,” said Sonia Karamchandani, a third-year dental student who helped organize the activity with support from the college. In summer 2006, Karamchandani completed an American Student Dental Association (ASDA) externship, which focused on state and government affairs. There, she learned about advocacy in several dental health and professional topics as well as outreach activities with peers in their respective states. Karamchandani, who has participated in previous National Dental Student Lobby days on Capitol Hill, wanted to organize a local effort with MUSC dental students.
“We wanted to coordinate a well-organized effort that demonstrated that we, as dental students, were going to Columbia for a reason—to be an informative, communicative experience,” Karamchandani said.
With help from MUSC lobbyists, Karamchandani prepared an itinerary of the day’s events, plus speaking points prepared on behalf of the dental school dean and faculty. CDM dean John J. Sanders, DDS, met and viewed dental school facts and financial information with the students prior to the visit. Both Sanders and fixed prosthodontics instructor Ted McGill, DMD, accompanied the students to Columbia. Upon their arrival, they were introduced to MUSC lobbyists and legislative liaisons Bo Faulkner, Mark Sweatmann, Lisa McGill; and South Carolina Dental Association executive director Phil Latham.
“The effort was about building relationships and laying down the groundwork for the future,” Karamch-andani said. “It was a great chance to see the legislative process in action and, for our dental students, to meet and connect with their area representatives and senators. Students were able to talk about the current dental health challenges around the state, including patient’s access to care, the rising cost of a dental education, funding in higher education; plus current needs within the dental school. They met with Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, S.C. Reps. Leon Stavrinakis, Tracy R. Edge and Kristopher Crawford, M.D., and State Sens. Raymond Clary and Yancey McGill—representatives from Charleston, Columbia, Florence and Greenville county areas.
Students also presented each senator with a package that included a PowerPoint presentation relating to MUSC appropriations and the state budget along with CDM information.
“It’s exciting to see our dental students excited about the political process and desire to inspire fellow students and other MUSC students toward advocacy and organized dentistry and medicine. Lobby Day is an opportunity to initiate communications and dialogue between students and their legislative representatives. Students came to a greater appreciation that it is their obligation to inform their elected representatives about what is important in health care today,” Sanders said.
The group ended the day with a positive, lasting image. As they looked across the senate chamber, they could easily spot their MUSC-branded handouts on the desks of many senators. As a final act, students and CDM dean’s office sent thank-you notes and group photos acknowledging their time and support.
“I think we left the day knowing that people in the state House and Senate heard us. The representatives and senators were open to hearing what we had to say about the issues relevant to dental students and seemed willing to aide us in our future endeavors,” said Karamchandani.

Dental student to lead ASDA legislative grassroots effort
Third-year dental student Sonia Karamchandani has been named national chair of the Legislative Grassroots Network of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). In this role, Karamchandani will supervise and direct the activities of ASDA grassroots political activities and monitor state and national legislative news that affects dental students and the dental profession. At times, she may serve as ASDA’s liaison to the ADA Council on Government Affairs. She will manage the orientation and planning program of the annual session for incoming Legislative Grassroots Network members and direct efforts for planning National Dental Student Lobby Day.
Additionally, Karamchandani is the 2008 recipient of the ASDA Ryan Turner Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is named after former dental student and active ASDA leader Ryan Turner, who died unexpectedly in January 2007. During the ASDA Annual Session in August, Karamchandani will be presented $500, with another $500 awarded to the ASDA-MUSC chapter.

Friday, May 9, 2008
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