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Use the Power of Your Voice

Whenever and Wherever the Next Conference Occurs, Plan to Attend and Unleash Your Voice and Its Power!

From left: Jessica August, RDH, MSDH; Jill Rethman, RDH,
BA; Susan Lentz Katz, MEd, EdD, RDH, newly elected chair of
the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Board of
Directors; and Pamela Zarkowski, JD, MPH, BS, RDH, past
chair of the ADEA Board of Directors and Dimensions of
Dental Hygiene Editorial Advisory Board member.

What do you get when women from across the globe gather to learn, share ideas, network, and have fun? The American Dental Education Association’s (ADEA) International Women’s Leadership Conference (IWLC)! Focused on women in oral health leadership, the IWLC was held March 12 and 13 in New Orleans. An event that “piggybacked” onto the ADEA and International Association for Dental, Oral and Craniofacial Research meetings, it was truly a conference that stood on its own. The speakers and topics were timely and riveting, addressing global issues, gender equity, and oral healthcare and research. This year’s theme was “The Power of Your Voice in Oral Health.” And the formidable messages from the presenters resonated with all attendees.

This was my first time attending the IWLC, even though it was celebrating its seventh year. I knew I was in for a special two days with the opening keynote from Elizabeth Bonker, a nonverbal individual with autism who has served not only as an inspiration to others but has tirelessly worked to promote typing as a way for the nonverbal to communicate. The program continued to provide excellent presentations, including a luncheon address from Rangina Hamidi, the first female Minister of Education in Afghanistan. Undeterred by war and a society that views women as second-class citizens, she shared her story of promoting women’s rights. Her program, Kandahar Treasures, provides the women of Afghanistan a way to become entrepreneurs and become more independent. Minister Hamidi’s bravery and commitment touched my heart and my soul — an amazing pioneer and role model! Additional presentations included many well-known and accomplished dental and dental hygiene speakers who shared their knowledge and experiences.

I found it interesting how every detail,  including the images used throughout the conference, held meaning. In preparing for the IWLC, ADEA worked with a designer to create the banners and promotional materials. Colorful triangles converged into a geometric pattern to represent people from all backgrounds coming together to share ideas and grow. The text used in the banners was formed from many different fonts, representing strength in diversity while giving an energizing effect like reverberating sound waves.

I asked ­Cynthia C. Gadbury-Amyot, MSDH, EdD, co-chair of the planning committee and a Dimensions of Dental Hygiene Editorial Advisory Board member, what her favorite part of developing the conference was. She replied, “The opportunity to work with an amazing committee of dedicated individuals in bringing the IWLC to fruition was a career high for me! We were able to put together a meeting that presented diverse views and perspectives as they pertain to women in leadership in the world of oral healthcare and beyond.”

The previous IWLC was held in 2019 in Brescia, Italy. While no plans have been solidified for the next one, stay tuned as details develop. Whenever and wherever the next conference occurs, plan to attend and unleash your voice and its power! For more information, visit adea.org/iwlc.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. April/May 2024; 22(3):9

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