“I want our students to be people that are sought out, rather than people seeking jobs.”
Department of Restorative Dentistry faculty member Dr. Ai Streacker ’79 has travelled the globe. He’s an avid scuba diver (has been since the age of 13); musician (tuba and guitar); and motorcycle collector (there are four in his garage right now). Indeed, his passions and hobbies have taken him far and wide. But one passion, perhaps the one with the greatest impact, is teaching.
Ai has been a full-time faculty member at the Dugoni School of Dentistry since 2003. With 23 years of private practice under his belt, he decided it was the right time to pursue teaching – something he’d hoped to do since he was an undergraduate.
In addition to clinic instruction, Ai serves as director of the First-Year Restorative Curriculum. He’s also working with colleagues to fine tune and revise the entire preclinical curriculum, which will ensure Dugoni School students have a solid educational foundation before entering the clinic.
“I want to make sure our preclinical curriculum is fully up-to-date so our students are able to meet the challenges of clinic and a modern day workforce,” said Ai. “Upon graduation, I want our students to be people that are sought out, rather than people seeking jobs.”
As he’s been teaching for nearly a decade now, Ai has realized that the “wow moment” is his favorite part of the job. That wow moment – watching a figurative light bulb go on when students finally grasp a technique, a concept – is very real and happens at the dental school regularly.
“I see students struggle with techniques, but then there will be that one time when you see it click in their minds and they finally get it. From that point forward they have no more problems with that technique,” he said. “That’s what does it for me. I can see it happen and it’s remarkable.”
Ai clearly has strong ties to the Dugoni School of Dentistry. When asked if he thinks there’s anything that sets the Dugoni School apart from other dental schools, he’s quick to comment on the curriculum and the caliber of his colleagues, but he also recalled an incident from when he was applying to dental school back in the 70s. After a day of interviews at a southern California school, a student approached him and said “If you can go to any other dental school, do it. You don’t want to come here.” Of course, that’s not likely to happen at Pacific, and when Ai came to interview, students were welcoming and gregarious (much how they are today).
One thing Ai cares deeply about is human health and wellbeing. He’s extremely focused on a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise. His approach to caring for patients isn’t just to treat their oral health conditions, but to encourage a healthy lifestyle as well. This is also something he makes sure to teach his students – healthy mouths shouldn’t be the only priority of a dental professional. Dentists should try to encourage patients to be healthy in other ways too.
“Aside from practicing good dentistry, helping my patients achieve healthier lifestyles is something I’m very proud of,” he mentioned. “It was one of the more rewarding things I’ve done, and is something I’d love my students to embrace as well.”
Next year, Ai will assume the role of a practice leader under the Main Clinic’s new private practice model. In this role he’ll be able to work more closely with the students in his group, prepare them for life after dental school and hopefully have a lot of wow moments along the way.