Focusing on collaboration, fine-tuning successful programs, and capitalizing on great enthusiasm were again a winning combination for the University of Maryland School of Dentistry’s (UMSOD) Student National Dental Association (SNDA).
The group was named SNDA’s 2020 Chapter of the Year (large chapter category) in recognition of its exemplary fundraising, community service, and outreach — an honor that marks the seventh consecutive year the UMSOD group has won first or second place in the national competition.
The chapter also won the Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions and community outreach. Both awards were presented at SNDA’s annual convention, held virtually July 6-11.
“We wanted to be sure we were inclusive and collaborative. And this year we had a lot of [first-year students] who were really enthusiastic,” says Vaida Saucer, a fourth-year student and the 2019-20 president.
The Chapter of the Year competition is based on a chapter’s success in raising funds, performing community service, and launching new initiatives. Each chapter also is assessed on how it executes three standing national programs: Impressions Day, in which pre-dental undergraduate students visit dental schools to learn about the dental school experience; a holiday toy drive; and an oral cancer walk.
But the annual programs are just the beginning, says Andrea Morgan, DDS ’90, MS, clinical assistant professor, Division of Operative Dentistry, and director, Student Advocacy and Cultural Affairs.
“The chapters are recognized for these three standing annual programs as well as the many other programs they plan and organize on their own. It is really great that [UMSOD chapter members] continue to rise above and get noticed by their peers,” Morgan said.
In January, the UMSOD chapter hosted a regional conference for SNDA chapters that drew participants from dental schools including Howard University, Virginia Commonwealth University, East Carolina University, and the University of Florida. Programing included oral health speakers such as Catrice Austin, DDS ’96, a financial advice segment, and a community service component.
UMSOD’s SNDA has a history of launching high-impact initiatives. One, called Generation NeXT, provides opportunities for UMSOD dental students to mentor high school students at Baltimore’s Vivien T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy who are training to be dental assistants. In the mentoring program, dental students work to inspire the younger students to pursue DDS or dental hygiene degrees. Each year, the chapter aims not just to sustain its programs but also to enhance them, notes Saucer. “Our focus [overall] is community service and trying to encourage the presence of minorities in the dental field,” she says.