October 31, 2019
by Natalie Pollock, President, FCDSA
I clearly remember sitting in the aisle seat of my undergraduate lecture hall, anxiously waiting for my phone to light up with a call. When it did, I’m not sure I caught a single word Dr. Paul Allison (McGill’s former Dean of Dentistry) said beyond ‘we are pleased to inform you’. As the daughter of a general dentist, it felt as though I was being granted the opportunity to fulfill my dental-destiny. What followed was a whirlwind of excitement – moving across the country, exploring a new city, meeting and forming friendships with my new classmates, and finally starting down my career path. My first year of dental school (or should I say medical school) was a dream come true. As any dental student will tell you however, dental school isn’t always sunshine and lollipops.
In the words of one of my clinical demonstrators, ‘dental school can be a difficult place to exist’. The demands and expectations placed on dental students are often prodigious and sometimes utterly overwhelming. Balancing coursework, lab work, patient coordination and attempting to maintain your own health and well being is no small feat. Early mornings preparing for clinic only to be stood up by patients. Late nights in the lab drilling plastic teeth, re-mounting casts, meticulously placing denture teeth. As an anglophone studying in Montreal, learning French during dental school has also presented unique challenges. After a semester of trying to inform patients that “Je vais baisser la chaise” I learnt that I was in fact telling them “Je vais baiser la chaise” – which incidentally has a very different meaning. It is safe to say that my time in dental school has been humbling.
No two people have the same experience in dental school. Everyone faces their stress and challenges differently and needs to develop their own methods to succeed. However, teamwork and collaboration within a cohort can go a long way to decrease stress and facilitate learning. I am grateful to all my classmates who stay in clinic to lend a hand, or to all those who share their lecture notes and study aids so willingly – we will all graduate as better dentists thanks to this. Although these kinds of connections can be built naturally within a class, for a long time there was no opportunity to establish such a sense of community amongst Canadian dental students on a national scale.
The Federation of Canadian Dentistry Student Associations (FCDSA) was established in 2012 in part to fill this need. The FCDSA’s vision is to be a forum for a nationally integrated community enhancing the student experience in the dental profession. Our mission is to connect dentistry students in order to foster the sharing of common interests, challenges, advocate as a unified national student voice for the promotion of accessible, optimal dental education and patient care, and provide an avenue to introduce and involve students in organized dentistry.
The FCDSA is still young, especially in contrast to parallel student organizations such as the American Student Dental Society (ASDA) which was established in 1971. The beauty of being such a fresh organization is that we have so much potential to grow and adapt to the needs of our members. The FCDSA is comprised of 2 students representing their respective dental student association from each of the 10 Canadian dental faculties. These representatives are introduced to the realm of organized dentistry through their work on several committees. Since it’s inception, one of the FCDSA’s top priorities has been to organize opportunities for dental students to connect in person – a goal we were able to achieve for the first time in 2018.
The inaugural Canadian Dental Student Conference (CDSC) was held in Toronto in January of 2018 and was an even greater success than we could have hoped for. With over 650 students from coast to coast in attendance, CDSC 2018 offered attendees a balance of lectures, workshops, a research competition as well as several networking opportunities. In an environment removed from the stress and hectic schedule of dental school, students were able to engage and become inspired by topics they might not have been exposed to within their regular curricula. It is an opportunity to take a step back and appreciate the bigger picture and begin to question what kind of dental professional they want to be after graduation.
Building upon the success of CDSC 2018, we are thrilled to be hosting the second ever CDSC in Vancouver on January 10th-11th 2020. Thanks to the tremendous feedback we received from students and speakers we are proud to have built an improved conference program. Attendees can look forward to a wider selection of lecture topics and hands-on workshops focusing not only on the clinical but also the practice management and business aspect of dentistry. We have also partnered with our friends at CDA Oasis to host a number of panel discussions focused on career path options (e.g. residency, specialty programs, buying a practice, and associateship), as well as a panel discussion on advocacy and dental public health. Other conference events include our second National Research Poster Competition (with prizes to be won!), and networking events including a ‘Breakfast with the Specialists’ and a formal gala. We have even added student-wellness events including a yoga session specially geared towards dental students and a few other fun activities to help attendees de-stress.
As the FCDSA continues to mature we look forward to providing more services and opportunities for interaction between dental students across the country. The FCDSA is a non-profit organization run by hard-working volunteers, but the events and services organized by the FCDSA would not be possible without the generous support from our numerous sponsors and of course the CDA. During my time with the FCDSA, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with many students from the different Canadian dental faculties. I can say with confidence that with the number of intelligent and passionate individuals I have met, the future of the profession is certainly looking bright.
For more information, visit http://fcdsa.ca/.