As the newly elected President of the Federation of Canadian Dentistry Student Associations (FCDSA), Allister Mason is focused on solidifying the federation’s role in the Canadian dental student community. With a mission to “connect dentistry students in order to foster the sharing of common interests and challenges, advocate as a unified national student voice for the promotion of accessible, optimal dental education and patient care, and provide an avenue to introduce and involve students in organized dentistry,” the FCDSA works closely with dental schools to develop initiatives that benefit students across the country.
Hailing from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and about to enter his fourth year at Dalhousie, Allister brings a diverse academic background, including two degrees in physics and experience in medical research to the position.
The Journey from Researcher to Clinician
Allister's journey into dentistry was not linear. Initially interested in research, Allister completed his M.Sc. in Medical Physics, specializing in MRI research. During this degree, his interest in the clinical aspect of his studies grew and he began to consider a career as a health professional. It was through a family friend connection with a dentist, who also had a physics background, that Allister developed an interest in dentistry and decided to make it his career goal.
"Physics is not a typical background to come to dentistry from, but in reality, everyone’s background is so unique that I don’t think there’s really a ‘traditional path’ anymore," Allister remarked. “It’s what makes the field so fun to be a part of.”
Championing Advocacy: Allister’s Leadership at FCDSA
As President of the FCDSA, Allister would like to establish the organization as a consistent and reliable resource for dental students across Canada. Being a relatively young organization, founded in 2017, FCDSA continues to evolve every year. The FCDSA also serves as the national voice for Canadian dental students, advocating for their interests with organizations such as the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and the National Dental Examination Board (NDEB). The FCDSA was the voice of dental students particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic when clinic time was curtailed, and online learning was the only option as schools tried to continue programs in the face of a worldwide shut down.
In addition to its advocacy efforts, the FCDSA also organizes services and events such as the Canadian Dental Student Conference. The biennial conference serves as a crucial platform for increasing visibility and outreach, and typically receives positive responses and attendance.
Beyond an Acronym: Building the Federation’s Brand
One of the main goals for the FCDSA this year is to establish a more visible presence for the organization beyond the conference. “We are working on a number of initiatives this year that can help fill the gap between conferences so that students are aware of the ongoing work at the FCDSA,” Allister says. He acknowledges that one of the significant challenges the FCDSA faces remains name recognition among students. “For many students, FCDSA is just another acronym that gets lost in the acronym soup of orientation week,” he says. “We’d like to change that.”
“We’d like for the FCDSA to have a more continuous presence for students during their years at dental school,” he continues. He is planning a Seminar Series with the goal of establishing regular educational sessions to supplement students’ education and build a consistent presence for the FCDSA among its members.
Building Strong Partnerships to Benefit Dental Students
Allister also recognizes the benefit CDSPI brings to Canadian dental students. As a participant in the no-cost student package, he knows firsthand the benefits it brings.
"CDSPI's no-cost dental student package has been a great introduction to CDSPI and insurance for me and many other dental students. It's an incredible opportunity to protect our dental instruments at no cost and if something worse happens, there’s disability, life, and accident protection. It’s something every dental student should consider," Allister stresses. “In recent years, there’s also been a lot more attention being paid to mental health and wellness for students, and I know CDSPI also sponsors a no-cost Members’ Assistance Program for confidential support services, as well.”
Allister is making the most of the quieter summer months to tackle administrative tasks like appointing signing officers and reporting to the Board of Directors. He also plans to attend meetings with key allies and stakeholders, including the CDA, NDEB, and American counterparts to strengthen collaborations and foster dialogue.
"Building strong partnerships with other dental organizations is vital to our growth and success," Allister explained.
Being a Catalyst for Change
Allister's vision for the FCDSA is ambitious, but his dedication promises a future of growth and awareness. By prioritizing consistency, increasing outreach efforts, and reinforcing the value of their initiatives, Allister Mason is leading the FCDSA on a transformative journey that will have a lasting impact on dental students across Canada.
"In the end, it's about providing the advocacy and services that Canadian dental students need and deserve," says Allister.