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  • Writer's pictureTAREK KASSEM

NLC Recap - Lewis Luo ('22)

The thunderous applause from a crowd of 834 ASDA members from around the nation, seven of whom represented the UCLA School of Dentistry, echoed throughout the conference hall, marking the end of my National Leadership Conference (NLC) experience. Yet only two hours ago, the room’s silence had been deafening, after Matt Tenney introduced himself to us as our closing speaker, an ex-convict turned author and motivational speaker. “I made the worst mistake of my life,” he started. “I went from having a cushy job and a big house to being stuck for 22 hours a day in a prison cell.” In a matter of seconds, he had completely changed the tone of the room from eager to sober. Yet, as he reflected on how he had used the power of mindfulness to overcome adversity and to become the founder and leader of two major nonprofit organizations, his message became clear: Our success as leaders depends on our taking care of our teams and on prioritizing the long term wellbeing of others over short-term objectives.

This idea of putting your team’s needs before your own, the concept of servant leadership, was a pervasive theme of this year’s NLC breakout sessions. Breakout sessions such as “How to Not Fail Miserably in Private Practice” emphasized the importance of a morning huddle and how the success and attitude of one’s employees directly tied into the employer’s performance. “Open Up: Dentists Share Personal Experiences” touched upon the struggles an entrepreneur dentist went through before achieving success, and how overcoming challenges in leadership contributed to the eventual success of his practice.

Over the span of three days, the NLC conference offered session after session devoted to skills that dental school curriculums, which tend to emphasize clinical and surgical excellence, often didn’t have space for, such as practice management, networking, work-life balance, and public speaking. With the many dozens of different sessions offered, I found it difficult to choose which sessions to attend. Yet, perhaps even more valuable than the lessons I had learned from the various speakers at NLC were the new connections I made with dental students and professionals from around the country. Each evening consisted of lively social events, such as an evening cruise around Lake Michigan and a tour and social at the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications, giving ASDA members an opportunity to tour and experience some of what Chicago has to offer.

While my expectations for NLC 2018 were set high by my colleagues who had attended in previous years, they were shattered by the incredible career and networking opportunities and prospects that I found myself immersed within. This chance to learn from such a diverse concentration of inspiring leaders, successful dental practitioners, and knowledgeable industry experts is clearly why NLC’s yearly attendance has been continuously increasing. For anyone who’s interested in getting more involved professionally, I would advise you to take a weekend off and make your way to NLC 2019.


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