The Cambridge Dictionary (the fanciest online dictionary I could find) defines fellowship as “a group of people or an organization with the same purpose.” Now many a person has come up to me and asked why I choose to spend my difficult to come by free time both volunteering for and being a part of organized dentistry. The answer is multifaceted but all comes back to the common theme – fellowship.

The year is 2018: As a second year dental student who had been taking more exams a week than she’d like to remember, I wanted to get more involved and finally crawl out of my “study hole.” I thought joining a club was a good first step in rejoining the ranks of the world. A few clubs piqued my interest but the American Student Dental Association was planning a trip to Washington, D.C. for ADA National Lobby Day. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I was the most well versed or informed about the day itself but it seemed like a good networking opportunity with my peers and heck yeah a free trip to Washington, D.C. Upon arriving and being educated on both existing and future issues to come in dentistry, two things were clear: I was overwhelmed AND I was underprepared for what was in front of me. How in the world could insurance companies determine MY treatment? How is it possible that opioid laws weren’t dictated by those prescribing? Most important of all: how could I, a single person, possibly change this?

Let’s rewind the clock even further back to 1866: A group of dentists approached eerily similar issues to what I faced 152 years later. In stark contrast to my panic, these dentists not only recognized the challenges that our profession – one that is often single practitioners – faced, but they saw an opportunity where the sum of its parts would be stronger than a single unit. And so was born the Ohio Dental Association. Organized dentistry researches products for the safety of our patients. It creates standards of care and recommendations for patients and providers to promote increased oral health in our country. Organized dentistry creates a network of dentists who can look out for each other. Our fellowship in each other is what creates strength. It is with this in mind that I challenge you to join us. Each member has their own role, either more active or passive. But through the test of time and progression we’ve seen, we truly are stronger as a whole.