RSDM on the Hill

In the nation’s capital, a group of fourth-year Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) students met with congressmen and senators to discuss critical issues for their soon-to-be profession. Why is student loan reform critical? What could be done about the shortage of dental care professionals? What needs to change with insurance for better patient care?  

“We got to sit with them and discuss these things and share our personal views of why they're important to us,” said George Soliman ’24, one of the attendees. “It's important for us to do this, participate, and share with them our perspective to make sure that we are heard and that they understand what we need for us and our patients as well.”

ADA lobbying event
(Left to right) Matt Muniz, Fred Darcy, Will Dadouris, Parker Aldredge, Mina Goirgy, and George Soliman

This exchange was organized by the American Dental Association (ADA) as part of their Dentist and Student Lobby Day. The event gathered dentists and dental students across the country to discuss three bipartisan bills, namely “Dental and Optometric Care (DOC) Access Act,” which aims to “prohibit dental and vision plans from setting the fees network doctors may charge for services not covered by the insurers;” the Student Loan Reform that as its name suggests intends to reshape student loans; and the Action for Dental Health Act of 2023 that intends to “address critical gaps in the oral health workforce,” which was put forth by New Jersey's Senator, Cory Booker.  

RSDM students Parker Aldredge, Will Dadouris, Fred Darcy, Arya Ghandeharizadeh, Mina Goirgy, Matt Muniz, Mike Pignataro, and George Soliman all went to Washington D.C. to advocate for these three bills first-hand and learn about lobbying. On their collars, they wore tooth-shaped pins with the American flag, symbolizing their allegiance to what the ADA called the “tooth party,” which supports the best interest of dentistry and patients beyond party lines.  

Soliman learned about the event through his role as a student trustee at the New Jersey Dental Association and attended because of his interest in policy and politics. “I wanted to get a feel for what goes on in Washington D.C.,” he said. In the process, he met others from across the country working to champion the dental profession. “I’m really thankful for that [opportunity].”  

Group photo

His classmate Dadouris felt the same way. “I wish I went earlier in dental school, not just our fourth year so that I could have done more,” he said. During the conversations, he was surprised to uncover how little some representatives knew about the dental profession; he felt lucky to be among the few to share his experiences and insights. “I didn't realize how important what we were doing was,” he said. “It was really cool to have that privilege to do it, so I'm glad I went.”  

Another student, Darcy, noticed the importance of uniting as dentists. “We have to have a voice not only for us but for the patients as well,” he said, to avoid having laws and policies that do not protect either. “There's a bunch of national rules that don't protect our patients with insurance. That's how we came to the DOC Access Act. And it takes people who know the day-to-day of what's happening to go in and say, ‘Hey, this isn't working, this isn’t okay, and we need to change it.’” While lobbying is one way of doing this, there are other venues to get involved, he said, such as through providing financial support and partaking in dental organizations.  

“Organized dentistry,” he said, “is how we protect the profession and the people we serve.”