Non-traditional Spotlight – Casey Brewer ’21

I grew up working on cars with my dad. Although he did it professionally during the day, nights and weekends were spent helping me develop my mechanic’s hands and teaching me principles of mechanical systems. College, much less dental school, was never even considered. However, I developed a love for math and science and with the encouragement of some influential high school teachers, I found a path that would complement my passion for turning wrench with solving equations. I finished a mechanical engineering degree and started working in the automotive industry to develop airbags. I was able to oversee manufacturing equipment for multiple auto manufacturers and later transitioned into a role designing and testing airbags specific to individual vehicle platforms. I found great satisfaction in knowing the work I did everyday was literally saving lives. However, as the time behind a computer screen became the majority of my work week, I became disillusioned and began looking for a career change that would give more opportunity to use my hands and to help others. At the same time, trauma to teeth #7 and #8 resulted in RCTs. I looked around the endodontist’s operatory and had an epiphany; dentistry is just engineering. Now, in dental school, I’m able to apply those principles of design, material science, and engineering to one of the most mechanical systems in the human body. 

– Casey Brewer, Class of 2021

Non-traditional Spotlight – Casey Bowen ’21

Prior to my dental school quest, I was a quality control tester for construction materials for 13 years (seasons). It was a manual labor job that included repetitive testing of aggregate materials of various sizes and quality for asphalt products throughout the stages of production. Quality control testing was a fun job that saved my employer thousands if not millions by carefully and quickly examining products and tuning them to the proper specifications. This usually meant working 60 – 80+ hours per normal week and being assigned to multiple airport and many of the major highways paving projects statewide.  This job utilized my skills and in turn our team gained countless quality bonuses and awards all over the state of Alaska. 

However, the wear and tear on my body and the social environment that I was putting myself in were not conducive to raising a family. In 2011 my wife and I decided to go to college to gain an education that would allow me to spend more time with my future family and earn a decent living. After completing my degree in Animal and Veterinary Science and finding out that I was allergic to many of the animals I intended to work on, I quickly changed focus to becoming a dentist and haven’t looked back. My journey has not been the most direct path, but many of the skills and talents gained have increased my ability to perform dentistry and appreciate the road to my own success. 

– Casey Bowen, Midwestern Class of 2021

Dental Advocacy – Ben McGiffin ’23

My name is Ben McGiffin, and I’m a D1 here at Midwestern University. I’d like to share a little bit about my experiences in dental hygiene and being an active member of the American Dental Hygienists Association prior to becoming a dental student and ASDA member. During my 9 years as a registered dental hygienist, I have been an active member of my local, state, and national dental hygiene associations.  I attended several WA state House of Delegates meetings and 3 national dental hygiene annual sessions in: Washington DC, Boston, and Las Vegas.

The dental hygiene association in Washington state has long been a powerful advocate for dental hygienists in the state. They’ve helped expand the hygiene scope of practice in order to improve access to care and increase the efficiency of the dental team. Dental hygienists in WA state were the first to be able to deliver local anesthetic to patients, getting it through the state legislature in 1971. 

Expanded duties legislation passed the Washington Legislature in 1971, adding anesthesia and some restorative dentistry procedures for dental hygienists. Dentists supported these expanded functions as a way of handling increasing numbers of clients by using dental hygienists to take over selected duties, saving time for dentists.” ( (emphasis added)

In addition to local anesthesia, WA state was among the first states to allow hygienists to safely deliver nitrous oxide, finish restorations, and provide direct access to hygiene care for patients in elementary schools, nursing homes, and public health facilities. 

Meanwhile, a handful of states still do not allow hygienists to deliver local anesthetic under any circumstance, or even clean a child’s teeth while not under the direct supervision of a dentist. 

I worked for 5 years in low-income elementary schools, providing basic dental hygiene screenings, cleanings, sealants, fluoride varnish, and oral hygiene instructions to thousands of children, many of whom had never been to a dentist. I distinctly remember one child who presented with 5 draining fistulas. While I couldn’t officially diagnose caries or abscesses, I alerted the school nurse and the parents that he had holes in his teeth and several painful, draining lumps on his gums. He had been living with pain in his mouth for months, if not years, and we were able to get him to a dentist that afternoon. This highlights the value that hygienists can have working independently from dentists. 

It’s no secret that the dental and dental hygiene associations often butt heads when it comes to dental hygiene scope of practice. For me, it comes down to two things. The first is this: properly trained dental hygienists are better equipped to provide dental hygiene care than dentists, period. They are the leading experts in the fields of prevention and routine periodontal therapy, spending a minimum of two years in an intense curriculum focused solely on these two areas. I see no reason why a properly trained hygienist should not be able to practice dental hygiene in any and all capacities and settings. Especially in areas where dentists are sparse, hygienists could provide affordable and effective preventive dentistry services.  

That being said, my second point is this: dental hygiene and dental hygiene education does not include restorative or operative dentistry. While the push for midlevel providers is admirable from the standpoint of increasing access to basic dental services, I believe that the gap between hygiene and restorative/operative dentistry is significant. Even in the first quarter of my D1 year, I can appreciate the magnitude of the preparation, knowledge and training necessary to safely and competently provide these services. As an active ASDA and future ADA member, I plan to advocate for dentistry. For me, that includes both dentists and dental hygienists, as well as dental students, assistants, and patients.

– Ben McGiffin, Midwestern Dental Class of 2023

Happy Halloween ASDA- Rachel Bryant ’21, ASDA Chapter President

Some argue that Christmas or Thanksgiving is the best holiday, but I have to respectfully disagree. Hands down it is Halloween. Some believe in the stereotype that dentists are supposed to hate Halloween because of the increased volume of sugary treat consumption. As a dentist-to-be, I can put that stereotype to rest and assure you I will never be the house that passes out toothbrushes or raisins. After all, I don’t want my house to be egged. Interestingly enough, the ADA rates Halloween candy based on how bad it is for your teeth. Any guesses on what candy is the least bad for your oral health? It’s chocolate! So, while you are chowing down on your Halloween chocolate this year, do so guilt free. The ADA says so! Unfortunately, sticky and hard candies are rated as the worst for your teeth. This is bad news for me because my favorite candy is a frozen Twix bar. 

As Halloween approaches this year, I am still pondering what I am going to dress up as. This is like every other year, where I wait until the last minute to decide. Of course, I like to make my costumes, which adds an extra layer of stress with the time crunch but makes the costume that much more fun. There is a small point of pride when I can make my costume super inexpensive, yet creative. One trip to Goodwill, the dollar store, and an occasional Hobby Lobby splurge and I am set. 

Here at Midwestern, it is a tradition to get your Halloween picture taken by Tom, our sim lab manager and Dexter guru. He will take your costume to a whole new level with his photoshopping abilities. 

Paige Davis, Rachel Bryant, Al the gator, Shannon Bischoff, and Macie Kerr 

I can’t wait to see everyone posting their Halloween costumes on social media.

Happy Halloween ASDA! 

– Rachel Bryant ’21, ASDA Chapter President 

Behind the Scenes of Dental Advocacy – Siri Vasireddy ’22

On September 21, six CDMA students had the opportunity to take a closer look at the process of creating successful legislative proposals and smoothly-running lobby days. Year after year, the AzDA graciously invites us to sit in on, and even participate in, their meetings. The three divisions of the AzDA (Northern, Central, and Southern) came together to discuss any revisions to the by-laws, make budgetary decisions, and brainstorm any additions to dental bills that will be sent to legislature in the winter. 

Arizona’s District Five Representative Dr. Regina Cobb addressed 2019’s victories and difficulties. A bill to prevent insurance companies from charging dentists redundant processing fees unanimously passed in the Arizona House and Senate, potentially saving dentiststhousandsof dollars per year. But unfortunately, a separate proposal to have maternal dental benefits added to AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid agency) did not pass yet again. She spoke to the importance of helping legislators realize that prevention, rather than treatment, is key. If a few hundred thousand dollars are invested in maintaining maternal oral health during pregnancy, millionsof dollars can be saved – not to mention the avoidance of adverse health outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight. The divide between oral and systemic health is still discernable, but through educating both the public and legislators, hopefully that gap will begin to dissipate.

This year’s HOD meeting was particularly special, as it doubled as a celebration of Executive Director Kevin Earle’s eleven-year tenure at the AzDA. While I only met Kevin a little over a year ago, it was obvious after working with him at both state and national lobby days and hearing him speak about advocacy that he has a sincere passion for helping Arizona’s dentists. Many member dentists spoke to Kevin’s dedication and character, and how within the past decade he has facilitated a close bond between the AzDA and dental schools. We are so grateful to him for the opportunities he’s provided us students to get involved in organized dentistry and get a head start in learning about policies that will affect us when we start practicing. Additionally, Arizona’s own Dr. Dan Klemmedson of Tucson was recently named the ADA President-Elect, and will take over the title of President next year. He will be the first ever ADA President from Arizona, and we are so lucky to have his support.  

The more advocacy events I attend, the more apparent the importance of defending our profession becomes. Legislators love to make laws aboutus, and if we are not part of the conversation, then our profession will be governed by an essentially clueless entity. Many issues affect us even as students; the debt we accumulate now will directly translate into the way we will practice when we graduate. The dentist members of the AzDA repeatedly expressed their appreciation of student participation in their organization, and we hope to continue that involvement in years to come.

-Sirisha Vasireddy, Class of 2022

National Lobby Day – Siri Vasireddy ’22

On April 14, eleven CDMA students hopped off the plane at DCA armed with suits, fact sheets, and a desire to make our marks on the dental profession. After the success we had in getting bills passed at State Lobby Day in February, we couldn’t wait to take on a bigger challenge. In Washington, three key issues were on our agenda: lessening student debt, monopolization by insurance companies, and the battle to make insurance companies recognize procedures related to cleft palate as functionally-necessary rather than cosmetic.

The hotel buzzed with dental students from 66 schools and seasoned dentists who make the trip to National Lobby Day year after year. On Monday, members of the American Dental Association’s advocacy team briefed us on the most influential methods to make legislators hear our message. We were also privileged to hear from the five dentist members of Congress – including one from Arizona, Rep. Paul Gosar – who divulged to us how vital our presence was in gaining sponsorship on the bills and ultimately getting them passed.

On Tuesday, as ready as we were to discuss our legislature with members of Congress, we were certainly not prepared for D.C. traffic. With meetings starting at 9 a.m., the whirlwind of students and dentists in the lobby was a comedic display of the generation gap; us “millennials” were frantically refreshing Uber and Lyft apps while elderly dentists stood outside trying to hail cabs. We soon found ourselves running in heels from our drop-off location to the chambers. There is a reason it is called Capitol HILL, and it was no easy task. 

While I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting (marble busts of past legislators or giant French doors or floor-to-ceiling windows maybe?), the halls of the House and Senate buildings seemed underwhelming in a humble, welcoming way. A jack hammer being taken to the ground served as a friendly reminder that even members of the highest elected offices are not immune to the perils of construction. Unfortunately, the timing of our visit did not line up with Congress’ time in session, so we instead met with their staffers – mostly college graduates in their early 20s. It was important that we got through to them, because they’d convey to their bosses the issues about which they felt the strongest. Luckily (and unluckily), many of them had one substantial issue in common with us dental students: the burden of student debt. While the two other issues were more up the alley of actual dentists, students took the reins on explaining the proposals to lessen interest rates and increase deferment options. The looks on staffers’ faces when they learned the cost of dental school were priceless; I think it’s safe to say we made an impression. 

I don’t think we could have asked for a more enjoyable or enlightening experience. We were so fortunate to have had the company of outstanding Arizona dentists who continue to mentor us, and we are excited to continue learning from them about the intricacies of both our career and politics. Witnessing the enormity of the process to change or make laws only reinforced to us just how important it is for us to stay involved in organized dentistry to protect our profession and peers.

-Siri Vasireddy ’22