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Benefits of Attending a Dental Conference as a Pre-doctoral Student

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When my classmate first alerted me of an upcoming dental conference in our area, I pushed the idea aside. Sitting in class from 8 to 5 everyday in school, I was not interested in listening to more lectures over the weekend. Even so, I agreed to join her at the Michigan Dental Association’s Annual Session in May. Needless to say, I am so grateful that I did. As students, we so often focus on the science and clinical skills it takes to become a dentist, and we can sometime forget that there will be lives to live and practices to run once we get that diploma. At the MDA Annual Session, I was exposed to a new world of dentistry, filled with networking and  professional development. Since then, I’ve also attended ASDA’s National Leadership Conference and plan to attend the ASDA Annual Session. I’ve taken classes ranging from “Developing Your Practice on a Budget” to “Finding Your Why” and have had the opportunity to meet so many new people, practicing dentists, national leaders, and students alike. I would urge any dental student to step outside their box and find a conference where they could work on becoming the dentist they want to be outside the classroom and clinic. The first step is committing to a weekend and putting on your best business professional attire, then the rest is up to you. Here are some tips to getting the most out of your 3-day professional development retreat: 


  • Find a new friend  
    These events are the perfect place to develop new friendships with people that will be your colleagues for the rest of your career. Dental students from across the country attend various conferences and it can be so beneficial to connect with someone that might be your future specialty resident or practice partner. Collect names, numbers, and emails in a specific location and keep in touch. Perhaps you can meet up again at the next conference you both attend.   
  •  Take advantage of the Vendor Fair  
These fairs can be overwhelming. They generally consist of a long line of 50+ tables set up with every dental product you can imagine. Don’t just go for the free samples. Many of the vendors are so excited to meet interested dental students, and they are more than happy to explain their product. Ask questions and you will quickly develop a sense for what to look for in these products when you enter practice.   
  •  Categorize your classes  
Most conferences offer a wide range of classes from professional development to practice management to clinical skills. It is important to categorize your classes and ensure that you attend lectures from each category. This way, you receive a well-rounded education and don’t get stuck listening to the same lesson each hour. Once you’ve attended a few conferences, then you can target the classes that you feel you need more training in.   
  •  Have fun  
While sitting in lectures doesn’t sound like optimal weekend plans, these conferences can make for a great time. They’re often held in cool cities and most nights are open for exploring. Take some friends and take some time to reward yourself for the hard work you put in towards becoming a better future dentist!