Word of mouth
Months before D2 Lana Khazma begins her role as president of the American Student Dental Association chapter at Texas A&M College of Dentistry this May, she’s gaining perspective and making her voice heard in a national leadership role as editor of ASDA’s Mouthing Off blog, which reaches more than 24,000 dental students.
“It keeps me on my toes, and I want to be involved in my profession,” says Khazma, who started working on the web publication in February, along with another national position: delegate of District 9, a responsibility that is automatic for chapter presidents. “I also like to create my own content and see what I want to read in the magazine or on the blog, and get other people to be interested in that, too.”
It’s a collaborative process. Khazma, along with a second blog editor, the editor-in-chief, and five editors of Contour magazine, is part of the ASDA Editorial Board. Since face time is infrequent, the group jumps at any chance to share ideas.
“At the annual session we all just sat at a table for seven hours brainstorming. There’s a lot of back and forth trying to figure out what works for each issue,” says Khazma. Topics up for grabs often align with ASDA’s goals and legislative priorities. Hot-button content — midlevel providers, water fluoridation, student debt and more — is not sidestepped. In fact, Khazma and fellow editors solicit student writers who carefully craft each piece.
“The stories are really personal; they are really relatable to the people who are reading them,” Khazma says.
In some ways, it’s not all that different from the conversational approach that Khazma takes with her own blog, The Flossy Dentist, which chronicles her dental school experiences.
Work has already begun to recruit dental student writers from across the country for Mouthing Off. Khazma and her co-editor oversee several blog posts a week, which includes identifying and fine-tuning post ideas and working with writers throughout the process.
It’s a substantial time commitment, considering attendance at several national meetings is a requirement, but that didn’t stop Khazma, or hundreds of other dental students, for that matter, from applying for leadership positions such as hers. Of the 45 ASDA leadership positions available to students this year, 203 individuals applied, making it the organization’s largest applicant pool ever, according to Frances Moffett, ASDA publications manager.
By design, no two staffers on ASDA’s editorial board are from the same dental school.
“It’s definitely unique,” Khazma says. “There are a lot of things I didn’t know other dental students face. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table. When we are soliciting authors, everyone has different people to look to, different people to cater to, and different stories.”