Looking back at this year’s ASDA National Leadership Conference, I noticed something that stood out like my first wax up on #8: First year dental students were the obvious minority at NLC. Initially, I thought that was to be expected since academic excellence is of the upmost importance at this stage in dental school. I believe the rigorous pre-dental journey has shaped the majority of us to feel uncomfortable receiving a grade lower than an A, and at the worst, a B. For this reason, the value of a leadership conference the weekend before a few tests is superseded by the fear and anxiety crafted well before dental school. There is an obvious financial barrier to a conference such as NLC and that will not be ignored here. For those who did not consider finances to be a barrier this year, my goal is to push you a little closer to attending next year.
I like to do a cost-benefit analysis on many decisions in my life because it helps to paint situations a little more clearly:
THE COSTS: Registration and airfare (hotel and food included in registration), and a weekend of study for tests the next week (potentially a letter grade lower on an exam).
THE BENEFITS: Eating lunch with the president of the ADA, gathering a pocket full of business cards from national speakers and leaders in the dental profession, building a network of future leaders around the country (adding as many people on Facebook as you possibly can), building relationships with vendors, and having a great time with peers who enjoy and realize the value of self improvement in their careers.
Now, the cost-benefit ratio seems great, and is probably pretty fair. However, one could justify it still not being worth the price and sacrifice in grades the next week. But, if I told you that in 10 years you could successfully run a dental team thanks to Dr. Warnken, out-market your competition thanks to Dr. Salierno, and start a scratch practice while working for a DSO thanks to Dr. Meru, would you consider attending a conference that gave you those tools?. In today’s instant-gratification world, it’s hard to look too far ahead, but with crystal clear vision and future planning, you can see that the benefits more than outweigh the costs of this weekend in Chicago.
I challenge my classmates and every dental student in the country to assess their goals and perform a proper cost-benefit analysis. I challenge you to think about the number of patients in your life that are going to ask you about your grades. I challenge you to think about the number of word-of-mouth referrals you will get as a result of tactful communication and comprehensive patient care. These are trainable and learnable skills that NLC offers and they are yours for the taking.
As a first year student who attended NLC, I feel it is my responsibility to encourage other first year students not to wait. Don’t miss out on a relationship that could change the path of your life. Don’t miss the gems that will mold your leadership not only for the profession but for every interaction you make with another person. Mistakes will cost you more each year you wait, but being proactive and yearning for knowledge will significantly lessen the risks we face as dental professionals.