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Emerging Leaders: Abby Halpern

Last year, we spoke with several ASDA leaders from the Dental College of Georgia who were just beginning their new leadership roles—one year later, we decided to follow up and see what they’ve learned, experienced, and changed since 2017.

This article is a continuation of a piece that appeared in the May 2018 issues of GDA Action. 

Abby HalpernABBY HALPERN
»» 2017–2018 Speaker of the House

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed just being a resource to students this year. I felt like I had honed my understanding of our governing documents, grasped the AIP standard code, and sensed the pulse of ASDA, all of which came together as a skill to assist my peers in accomplishing his or her goals for the association. I always love ASDA’s Annual Session and the fervor that surrounds it. Acting as the Speaker of the House just intensified my excitement for this meeting, where we give students and chapters both a pat on the back for hard work accomplished throughout the year and we also push students forward into the next year with a refreshed outlook and often new leadership roles. Of course, speaking in front of almost 700 people and conducting House business is definitely something that will stand out in my memory for years to come.
As far as the more behind-the-scenes role between Annual Session 2017 and Annual Session 2018, working with the ASDA Board of Trustees was incredible. I cannot say enough about the 2017–2018 ASDA BOT. This group came with unique perspectives and differing backgrounds, all the while showing one another a mutual respect that allowed us to work so cohesively. We had the opportunity to formulate the 2018–2020 Strategic Plan and focus on internal improvements that can be made to better serve our membership.

I also have to give a special shout-out to our very own Dr. Jay Harrington. It was such a treat to get to work with him as the ADA’s Liaison to the ASDA BOT for the second half of my term. Seeing a familiar face and pulling back the curtain on dental student leadership to someone who has always been so encouraging to me was amazing and unexpected.

Lastly, one of my favorite experiences was being able to announce to attendees the newly elected Executive Committee. While this was bittersweet because I think so highly of the five candidates for this position, it was incredibly rewarding to announce Alex Howell as a 2018–2019 Vice President. This was my first experience understanding what it feels like to mentor someone and see her smash through her goals. All that to say, Alex achieved these goals not because of me, but because of her passion for organized dentistry, in particular dental academia, and her desire to connect with all dental students.

Although I had previously gotten my feet wet, it was definitely a challenge to dive head-first into the study of parliamentary procedure. The best thing I can compare it to is learning a new language. This focus of study was definitely outside of my wheelhouse, but it allowed me a rare deviation from three-plus years of strictly dental-focused learning. I’m very thankful for the training ASDA provided me with, as I believe grasping parliamentary procedure allows you to control the flow and emotions of the room while allowing the House to conduct business efficiently. You feel this sense of responsibility and true service to the membership that was unlike anything I had experienced with my other leadership roles. Certainly, the House kept me on my toes and pushed me to remain impartial and keep (somewhat) of a poker face.

This role was particularly unique because of the timeline of responsibilities. All of the hard work culminated on the very last day of Annual Session and final day of my term. There’s not an exact science to preparing for House business, as you never know how controversial items truly may be until they are brought before the floor. Not only did this feel like a test of my skills honed during my role as Speaker of the House, it truly felt like the culmination of 4 years of diligence in my leadership development through ASDA.

It was surprising but also validating to see just how compelled students were to be involved in House procedures. There were many amendments to the amendments as well as some tight votes. I ended up doing many more serpentine counts than I anticipated, and, if I’m being honest, counting in front of that many people was extremely stressful! Overall, seeing students’ passion in action was perhaps not completely surprising but definitely refreshing.

The ability to stay objective, working with others, and the experience with parliamentary procedure I believe will be invaluable in my dental career and future involvement in organized dentistry. ASDA has invested an incredible amount of time, energy, and money in me and I plan to continue to put these skills to use regardless of losing my dental student status.

Additionally, working with the Board of Trustees was invaluable, especially when it came to the task of adopting the 2018-2020 Strategic Plan. As a Board, our respect for one another and desire to best-serve our membership allowed us to accomplish so much this year. In our previous Strategic Plan, the Association focused much of its efforts on our outward relationships. Our new Strategic Plan takes a step back to see not what we need to do differently, but what we need to streamline and improve in terms of the items that our membership truly values. I think this is a paramount responsibility of any association and something I will be reminded of later in my leadership experiences.

The ability to communicate amongst students from across the country was impressive. Certainly, there were differences of opinions between students, especially as demonstrated on the House floor. However, there was a sense of overall cohesiveness. An interesting experience was assisting a student from New York and a student from Minnesota collaborate on a now-adopted ASDA policy on evidence-based prescribing of opioids and the role that dental students and schools play in the current Opioid Crisis.

I hope the future Speaker has the opportunity to continue on where I left off, especially in terms of a resolutions that were referred to committee. I wanted to have the Speaker more involved in perhaps a blog series through our National ASDA Mouthing Off Blog. I was able to get one blog post accomplished, in order to prepare students as we closed in on our Annual Session. My hope is that this grows into more a “Policy in Action” series, where students are able to see what has happened to policies after they have been adopted and by way of adopting such policies, the cohesive actions it has allowed our Board of Trustees and membership at-large to take.

By graduating in May from DCG, I will be moving on from my roles in ASDA. However, I hope to remain involved in organized dentistry. As I begin a GPR at the Washington, D.C. VA and a new adventure in the Nation’s Capital, I hope to return to Georgia to continue my professional career and become involved in a state-organization where I have always felt at home, the Georgia Dental Association.

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