by Cindy Abole
Sonia Karamchandani, DMD, made a commitment to service early on in her
dental career. In her time at MUSC, she’s emerged as an effective and
impassioned campus and national student leader committed to protecting
the rights of dental students and patients.
Dr. Sonia Karamchandani served with the American Dental Association's Department of State Government Affairs in Chicago.
Karamchandani is sincere when it comes to advocating for dentists and
today’s issues affecting the profession. She cares about patients and
their inability to obtain proper oral health care. Driving her is an
innate desire for involvement and change while possessing the courage
to make a difference.
You could say Karamchandani’s passion for dentistry is deep-rooted.
The Greer native has been busy since her arrival on MUSC’s campus in
2005. For Karamchandani, it all began when she and fellow first-year
dental students in her class were registered as members of the American
Student Dental Association (ASDA). In less than four years, she’s made
the most of her student membership by opening doors and educating and
motivating students toward action and change.
The summer before her second year of dental school, Karamchandani
attended a month-long externship through ASDA at the ADA Department of
State Government Affairs in Chicago. There, she was introduced to state
government and national health policy legislation relating to
dentistry, conducted research and analysis, as well as other projects.
In 2007, she served as an ASDA legislative liaison and lobbied Capitol
Hill during National Dental Student Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. She
also helped organize the state’s first dental student lobby day
featuring an MUSC dental student and faculty visit at the South
Carolina State House, April 16, 2008. Also in 2008, she was elected
National ASDA Legislative Grassroots Network chair and served nine
months monitoring national legislation and other political action as it
relates to dentistry, oral health care and dental students. She also is
serving as a liaison for the American Dental Association’s Council of
Government Affairs through August and is a member of the American
Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC), which supports dental
professionals focused on organized dentistry and the election of
candidates who understand the dental profession and are committed to
improving the nation’s oral health.
“We, as dental students and dentists, should take the initiative to
advocate for our profession and oral health. There are many ways to
become active in organized dentistry. Whether you make it to your
legislator’s office or simply send them a letter, every little bit
helps,” said Karamchandani. “It’s all about building relationships.”
On Feb. 11, she helped organize the 2009 National Dental Student Lobby
Day co-sponsored by the American Dental Education Association and ASDA.
During the two-day public policy event, 313 national dental school
representatives were briefed on current legislation and learned about
lobbying fundamentals. They also met with their state legislators to
ask for their support for the National Health Service Corps and Meth
She’s initiated student involvement in the South Carolina Dental PAC
(SC DenPAC) by inquiring about the creation of a student membership and
a student representative in DenPAC Board meetings, which have both been
accomplished with the help of the South Carolina Dental Association
(SCDA) and DenPAC Board. She feels today’s hot button issues worrying
dental students are the rising cost of tuition among dwindling state
appropriations in the current economy. She’s excited about MUSC’s
collaborative role with the SCDA and other groups in sponsoring the
first-ever Lowcountry Dental Access Day this summer to provide free
dental care to underserved and unemployed adults.
“Sonia’s been a great influence to her fellow dental students,” said
Ted McGill, DDS, Division of Restorative Dentistry and ASDA faculty
advisor. “She’s bright, intelligent and progressive. I know how
valuable she is to the dental school through her accomplishments and
ideas. We need more young women like her in organized dentistry.”
An accomplished student, Karamchandani graduated from the University of
South Carolina Honor’s College in 2005. At MUSC, she was vice president
of CDM Class of 2009 and member of the American Association of Women
Dentists, Psi Omega Dental Fraternity and recipient of the ASDA Ryan
Turner Memorial Scholarship, an award honoring a former dental student
and ASDA leader. Working with ASDA, she helped organize education
programs for her fellow students, participated in area dental clinics
and helped with initiatives promoting oral health care education.
“There’s always a need for people to be in the forefront of dentistry
to help educate the public and get laws passed,” said Peter Kobes, DDS,
associate professor of dental medicine. Kobes, a former military
dentist, is a proponent of organized dentistry after having seen
improvements to dental care for service members and their dependents
under military health care reform. “Sonia’s demonstrated
how a student can successfully manage working in organized dentistry
while attending school. She’s a wonderful individual and I expect her
to continue to be an active leader throughout her dental career,” Kobes
In sharing advice to fellow dental students, Karamchandani wants each
student to make a lifelong commitment to organized dentistry throughout
their career. She also challenges them to meet and regularly
communicate with their local legislators about issues, and participate
in ADPAC or SC DenPAC initiatives.
Following graduation, Karamchandani and fellow dental graduate
Christopher Costa, DMD, will attend a one-year Advanced Education in
General Dentistry residency at the University of Florida in St.
Petersburg. The program will provide advanced clinical and didactic
training in all disciplines of general dentistry. Afterwards, she plans
to return to South Carolina, open a private practice and care for her
patients while remaining an active member of the South Carolina Dental
Association and serving the dental community.
Friday, May 15, 2009