On May 31 during the college’s break week, while some of his classmates were enjoying not thinking about dentistry, D.M.D. student Frank Berdos was meeting with the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan in Washington, D.C., to talk about the importance of involving college students in pre-professional health care organizations.
Berdos, who has been an active member of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) since high school and currently sits on the national HOSA Board of Directors, talked about the rising cost of dental student debt after graduation.
“I shared the reality that graduate debt, which can be $200,000 or more, is creating a situation in which many students aren’t able to continue their dental education to specialize in specific areas, and that it too often forces dental graduates to move to urban areas where their income will be higher so they can pay off their debts,” Berdos said.
“I also explained that since it’s rural areas of Florida and other parts of the United States where there are few dentists and many people have difficulty finding access to a dentist,” he said.
Berdos believe that encouraging college and high school students to participate in organizations like HOSA, that partner with Public Health Service, Medical Reserve Corps and other public service groups, students are immersed at a young age and learn the strong advantage of working with these programs, “and they also see the incredible need for medical and dental care in some segments of our society,” he said. “Ultimately it may help encourage dental students to establish practices in lower income areas and to focus on public service.”
Berdos also sees a connection between H.O.S.A.’s focus on building leadership skills and confidence, and a dental student’s ability to be an excellent practicing dentist because of the important of interpersonal skills.
“One of our faculty, Dr. Riley, told us during the first week of school that since the first two years of dental school are mostly didactic classes, students who are book smart will be at the top, but that during the last two years of clinical work, the students with the best interpersonal skills will take the lead.”