The University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD)’s chapter of the Student National Dental Association was named the 2018 Chapter of the Year by the National Dental Association. The honor, announced annually at the SNDA National Convention, recognizes the chapter that excels in fundraising, community service, and new initiatives.
This is the third consecutive year that the UMSOD SNDA chapter has received the title. The 2018-19 chapter of the year winner will be announced in July at the SNDA National Convention in Washington, D.C.
Here, fourth-year student Alenna Monet, who served as the 2017-18 president of UMSOD’s chapter of the SNDA, discusses what contributed to the chapter’s success—and looks to the future.
1. Why do you think the UMSOD’s chapter was chosen for a third time to win the award?
A sense of community and outreach to underrepresented and underserved populations is key in receiving this award. Additionally, this chapter [which had 80 members in 2017-18 and has grown to 84 members in 2018-19] is amazing for many reasons. Among them is that we all work together. We support any and all creative new ideas for programs, and then we execute them, all while still maintaining our school responsibilities. SNDA seems like an extracurricular activity to some, but to us, it is a family.
2. How did the chapter choose and plan its community service efforts?
We have a handful of staple events like the Lexington Market Community Health Festival at which, for the past 13 years, we have provided oral cancer screenings. But we also have the freedom to choose and create events. Many of our events involved visiting elementary and middle schools and exposing them to the field of dentistry. One of the most significant was held at Gaywood Elementary School in Seabrook, Md., where we were able to speak about oral health to more than 200 children throughout the school day.
We typically focus on health fairs, oral hygiene screenings, oral cancer screenings, teaching young children about oral health, and mentoring high school aged students. However, our focus is not tailored to a specific type of service because we also feed the homeless and hold clothing and food drives. We mainly just see where the community needs help, and we try to fill that void the best way that we can.
3. For you, what is the more rewarding part of the chapter’s work?
The best part is completing a signature event such as our Annual Impressions Day, an annual event at which pre-dental undergraduate students visit dental schools to learn about the experience from DDS students; and our Annual Oral Cancer Walk 5K.
During 2017-18, we hosted 100 pre-dental students at our 13th Annual Impressions Day. Students came from all over the East Coast to enjoy mock [admissions] interviews, a tour of the school, making impressions, winning free DAT raffles, prepping stone models using a hand piece, and so much more.
We also hosted the 9th Annual Oral Cancer Walk/Run 5K during which we were able to raise $24,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF). This was the most we had ever raised. The year before we raised $19,000 and $23,000 the year before that.
4. How did it feel to win the award?
Winning was a shocking moment not because I thought we did not earn it, but because I did not know if we would win for the third consecutive year. As president, I did not pressure my executive board to win first place, I simply told them to do what we have been doing and just add in a little bit more, and to see what happens at the National Convention.
During the award announcements, I sat on the edge of my seat just waiting to hear our school’s name. They announced the third-place winners, I got closer to the edge. They announced second-place, and my heart sank to the floor. Then finally they said, “And first place goes to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry,” and I could have melted right then.
I immediately sent a picture to our faculty advisor, Andrea Morgan, DDS [director of Student Advocacy & Cultural Affairs], and I am sure she could sense my excitement through the phone.
5. Do you think the chapter’s streak is sustainable?
Our winning streak seems pretty sustainable because we host all of our signature programs, the national programs, and any new initiative we can think of each year. This helps us have continuity with programming while still growing as a chapter with new programs.
And Arielle Statham, who is a third-year student and the 2018-19 UMSOD SNDA president, is doing an amazing job. I can’t wait to see that happens this summer at the National Convention!