Author Archives: Angelique Bannag

Ortho Alumnus Becomes President of Pakistan

An Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry alumnus made international headlines late last year when he was elected president of Pakistan.

Dr. Arif Alvi ’84 Ortho took a remarkable step onto the world stage through the election held on September 4, 2018. He defeated Pakistan Peoples Party candidate Aitzaz Ahsan and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) nominee Maulana Fazl ur Rehman in a three-way contest to become the country’s 13th president.

One of the founding members of the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and an ally of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Alvi is also a dentist and orthodontist who graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s Graduate Orthodontic program in 1984. He also earned a master of science degree in prosthodontics from University of Michigan in 1975.

Alvi started his political career about five decades ago when he was a student of de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, an affiliate of University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. In addition to his involvement in politics, Alvi has served the oral healthcare profession in numerous ways. He became a diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics in 1997. He is a past president of the Pakistan Dental Association and was the primary author of the association’s constitution.

In addition to his involvement in politics, Alvi has served the oral healthcare profession in numerous ways.

“Dr. Aliv is an inspiring example of how leadership can take many forms and can even propel us into new fields of service beyond health care,” remarked Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Dentistry runs in Alvi’s family. His father, Dr. Habib ur Rehman Elahi Alvi, served as a dentist to India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, prior to Partition in 1947. The family then moved to the newly created nation of Pakistan.

New Leadership Named for Orthodontics, Endodontics and Hygiene

The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry recently named two long-time school leaders to serve in key chair roles for the Departments of Orthodontics and Endodontics. In addition, Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 appointed a new director of the Dental Hygiene program. All of these individuals bring extensive expertise that will support the continued advancement of these successful programs.

Dr. Heesoo Oh ’01 AEGD, ’05 Ortho is the new chair of the Department of Orthodontics. She succeeds Dr. Robert Boyd, former chair, who recently retired. Oh brings extensive leadership, clinical expertise, interdisciplinary research and other skills to her role in leading the program. She earned her DDS degree, certificate in pediatric dentistry and PhD in oral biology from Chonnam National University, School of Dentistry in Gwangju, South Korea. At the Dugoni School of Dentistry, she completed a certificate in Advanced Education in General Dentistry in 2001, received an MSD in orthodontics in 2005 and joined the Dugoni School as a faculty member upon graduation.

She served as program director of the Graduate Orthodontic program since 2010 and director of the Craniofacial Research Instrumentation Laboratory since 2017. Most recently, in partnership with Dr. Gabby Thodas ’77, ’94 Ortho, Oh served as interim co-chair of the Department of Orthodontics.

Oh is dedicated to working with orthodontic faculty, residents and staff members to grow and strengthen both the educational and research goals of the department. She also is enthusiastic about building interdisciplinary collaborations to support predoctoral and resident learning opportunities, while improving patient care outcomes.

Dr. Ove Peters, an internationally recognized leader in the specialty of endodontics, is the new chair of the Department of Endodontics. He joined the Dugoni School of Dentistry as a professor in 2007, served as co-chair of the Department of Endodontics since 2012 and as director of the Advanced Education Program in Endodontology since its inception in 2014. He also leads the significant research efforts of the department, with more than 80 papers published since joining the University.

He earned his DMD degree from Kiel University in Germany and his certificate in endodontics, along with a PhD, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland. He brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership skills from his time as chair of the Division of Endodontics at the University of Zurich.

Peters is committed to working with the Dugoni School of Dentistry endodontic faculty and staff to grow and strengthen the educational and research goals of the department. With collaborative endodontics being the goal of the postgraduate program, Peters will focus on aligning learning opportunities for predoctoral education, faculty calibration and patient care outcomes. Under his leadership, the Department of Endodontics will continue its commitment to outstanding teaching, learning, research and patient care. Peters served as a co-chair of the department with Dr. Alan Gluskin ’72, who is now serving as vice chair with a focus on the predoctoral endodontics program.

Lory Laughter is the new director of the school’s Dental Hygiene program. She will assume the position on May 1 after current director, Deborah Horlak, retires. Laughter joined the Dugoni School of Dentistry in 2017 as the junior clinic coordinator for the Dental Hygiene program. She was the recipient of the 2018 Excellence in Teaching Award for Dental Hygiene. She is also past president of the California Dental Hygiene Association.

She received a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene from Idaho State University and a master of science degree in dental hygiene from University of California, San Francisco. Laughter has been in clinical practice for more than 20 years and has served as a consultant/clinical educator for industry, working with companies such as Interleukin Genetics, OraPharma and Nuvora.

According to Laughter, the Dental Hygiene program aims to continue to strengthen collaboration with dental students and faculty though shared courses and integrated clinical experiences and enhance the national appeal of its integrative educational model.

Artistic Endeavors

By Ashley Musick

From dentistry to doodling, alumni and students of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry have a variety of creative interests and talents. Alumnus Ben Magleby ’05, Graduate Orthodontic residents Christine ’17 and Michelle Stepanek ’17 and Bella Yu, a student in the Class of 2020, all express their creativity through writing and published children’s books. Through exploring different mediums using their artistic abilities, their passion for writing has led these authors in directions they never expected.

Dr. Ben Magleby ’05, author of Sugarbug Doug: All About Cavities, Plaque and Teeth and Dr. Ben’s Dental Guide, has always loved all forms of art. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he completed a bachelor’s degree in visual arts at Brigham Young University before graduating from the Arthur A. School of Dentistry.

As a child, Magleby enjoyed drawing and reading books. Having never considered himself a writer, let alone a future author, Magleby was drawn to the emotion and story that illustrators could capture through an image or in the expression of a character. He was especially impressed by authors who illustrated their own work.

While earning his undergraduate degree as an art major, Magleby began to have doubts about a career as an artist or illustrator and began working as a teaching assistant for a Biology 100 class, where the professor asked him to illustrate handouts for the course. He loved how much easier it was to teach basic science ideas using diagrams, and began to look into science as a career. He soon discovered that dentistry would allow him to incorporate both art and science, as well as his passion for helping others.

It was Magleby’s experiences in dental school that inspired him to write and illustrate Sugarbug Doug, a storybook to help teach dental disease prevention to children. Magleby recalls, “When I was in dental school, we learned all about the bacteria that cause dental caries. We called them ‘sugarbugs’ and would try to teach our pediatric patients about them, what foods grow cavities and why oral hygiene is so important. A friend organized a service project to an elementary school and asked me to draw a small pamphlet about sugarbugs. It really began then.”

Starting with his original pamphlet from dental school, Magleby spent the next few years working on turning it into a book. When asked about the process, he commented, “Looking back, I am glad that it took so long—putting it down and coming back to it later offered a fresh perspective. The process helped me edit the book and end up with a better, cleaner result.”

After deciding he was ready to publish his book, Magleby sent the manuscript to a few children’s book companies, receiving about 10 rejection letters before deciding to self-publish through a subsidiary of Amazon. For Magleby, this was the perfect solution, as he could keep all the rights and print all the copies he needed for patients, and he wouldn’t have to wait for an acceptance from a publishing company.

When asked why he chose to write a children’s book, Magleby explained, “What I wanted to accomplish fit in a children’s book format. I wanted it to be short, easy to understand and have lots of illustrations. I did not want it to be intimidating or too long to read, for children or adults. A children’s book format forced me to keep things short, simple and to the point.”

He also adds, “I really wanted to target children, because with dental hygiene, as with most areas in health care, prevention is key. Perhaps the most important time that you can really make a difference in someone’s life is when a child is four to eight years old. That is when kids can really start to understand why oral hygiene is important, and can develop good habits that continue for their whole life. Hopefully, it is also before they have had any huge dental problems, and can prevent some expensive and scary dental experiences later in life.”

According to Magleby, the most rewarding thing about writing Sugarbug Doug is that after people read it, they tell him that they learned something new, or that their kids want to take better care of their teeth because of the book. As a dentist, Magleby found himself repeatedly explaining the same things to his adult patients. He notes, “Sometimes, I would find myself saying and drawing the same thing over and over again, so I thought, why not put that in a book?”

A few years later, he finished Dr. Ben’s Dental Guide, a guidebook focused on explaining dental treatments to adults. He found it fun and refreshing to explain different dental procedures or problems as simply as possible, and enjoyed drawing diagrams, collecting pictures and including X-rays to accompany all the different procedures in the book.

After dental school, Magleby served as a dentist in the U.S. Navy, training in the military’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry program and completing a tour in Iraq where he treated dental emergencies and visited local schools to teach children about oral health care. Upon finishing his military service, Magleby moved back to California to practice general dentistry in Fresno.

Magleby and his wife currently love living in the Central Valley with their three sons, where he continues to visit elementary schools to teach children about teeth, cavities and of course, sugarbugs.

Fangzhou (Bella) Yu, Class of 2020, has written and published a Chinese novel about a young girl’s coming-of-age journey, entitled The Mermaid and the Seaweed Palace. Born in the Shandong Province of China and raised by two doctors—her father a cardiac surgeon and her mother working in endocrinology—Yu has always been interested in pursuing a career in health care.

Growing up, Yu loved to read and write in her spare time, though she never expected to become an author. Having written the novel between 2007 and 2015, Yu describes writing as something she loves to do, but doesn’t want to feel pressured about—even if that pressure comes from herself. She mainly wants to enjoy the journey of the writing process, believing that the flexible schedule dentistry provides will encourage her to write more in the future.

She completed her undergraduate degree in molecular biology at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and her master’s degree in biochemistry at Columbia University before enrolling in the DDS program at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Yu also appreciates dentistry because of the hands-on experience it allows her and has enjoyed serving as the current vice president of the Global Exchange Club at the dental school. She plans to go into private practice immediately after graduating, but might decide to specialize once she has a better understanding of the different areas of dentistry through her studies and clinical experiences.

In addition to writing, one of her other hobbies is costume design—Chinese Qi Pao in particular. She designs and sews the traditional Chinese dresses herself and describes this labor-intensive endeavor as a great exercise in building patience.

When asked what inspires her to write, Yu replied that it is the people around her who spark her imagination. As she explains, “Each individual sparkles in his or her own unique way.” She first decided to turn her inspirations into a reality during high school and began to write stories for pleasure.

Yu describes her writing process as consisting mostly of research, explaining that she spent twice the time researching her characters as she did actually writing. Though she did not change much between her first and final drafts of the novel, Yu describes the most rewarding part of writing is the process of understanding and growing with her characters.

When it came time to publish her novel, Yu found the process difficult but not unexpectedly so. She contacted an editor herself to present the story, and it took several months before the novel could be published by Unity Press in China. Yu hopes to have the chance to write more in the future, and is still most interested in fiction.

Drs. Christine ’17 and Michelle Stepanek ’17, twin sisters and current residents in the dental school’s Graduate Orthodontic program, have authored and illustrated The Twin Teeth Trilogy, a children’s book series comprised of three stories: Once Upon a Tooth, Special Smiles and Brace Yourself.

Having learned Czech as their first language, the Stepanek sisters had a slower start when it came to reading and writing in English. Born in California but having spent summers in the Czech Republic, their passion for reading, writing and language drove them to quickly become fluent in English before progressing to learn Spanish as well.

The Stepanek sisters began their journey towards becoming orthodontists at an early age. Inspired by six years of braces that involved frequent visits to their orthodontist’s office, the positive energy and artistry demonstrated during their visits solidified their passion for orthodontics at age 10. In sixth grade, they declared orthodontics to be their career of choice and have never looked back.

During their volunteer work while completing their undergraduate education at University of California, Los Angeles, the Stepaneks began to recognize the lack of dental educational material available for children in the Czech Republic as well as in underserved populations of the Los Angeles area. This inspired them to write three children’s books focusing on dental education, each book influenced by different experiences.

The Stepaneks’ first book about oral health education, Once Upon a Tooth, was based on their volunteer work through the University of Southern California, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry where they provided oral hygiene instruction to underprivileged children. Special Smiles was a result of dental school research that motivated the sisters to write a book to improve the self-confidence of children with cleft lip and palate. Their third book, Brace Yourself, is an orthodontic educational booklet influenced by their passion for becoming orthodontists and written as they began their residency applications.

For the sisters, the writing process involved a lot of brainstorming. Their books did not change much between the first and final drafts, as they carefully selected every word from the beginning so that only minor edits were needed before publication.

When asked to describe the most rewarding aspect of publishing their books, the sisters agreed that it was “seeing the faces on the children when they read our books. One of our favorite moments was when we were rotating through the Oral Surgery Clinic in dental school, and a boy with a cleft lip and palate was getting an extraction done in the clinic. He was very timid and scared, and as a distraction we read him the Special Smiles booklet, which he was fascinated by and which gave him the confidence to get the extraction without fear. Those moments make the hours spent writing and illustrating those books really worth it!”

Though they never anticipated becoming professional authors, the Stepaneks have always pursued creative outlets outside of academics. Their passion for drawing emerged during study breaks while in dental school, as they spent their free time illustrating what would eventually become their three published books. Extending this creativity to explore 3D design and printing, the Stepanek sisters have used their skills to create children’s finger puppet bite blocks that they are currently in the process of patenting.

Though they never anticipated becoming professional authors, the Stepanek sisters have always pursued creative outlets outside of academics.

The sisters have discussed writing a children’s book to accompany their patent-pending bite blocks, with the hope that the pairing could help turn a dental examination into a more entertaining, less frightening experience for patients. They are optimistic that once they graduate from the orthodontic residency and have more free time in their schedules, their writing itch will be back in full force.

Though dentistry is not always viewed as a creative profession, Drs. Ben Magleby, Michelle and Christine Stepanek, and Bella Yu have certainly proven otherwise. By applying their artistic and academic talents to educate and inspire children, these individuals have demonstrated that creativity is an integral part of dentistry that can positively impact patients and young readers both inside and outside of the dental office.

Jeremie DeZwirek ’19 | Swimming to Success

By Marianne Sampogna Jacobson

From an early age, Jeremie DeZwirek’s path was clear. At age four, he began swimming and, while still in middle school, decided to become a dentist. It’s been head down, fins on and hard work ever since.

DeZwirek was raised in Northern California by French-Canadian parents, a software engineer and a physician, who migrated from Montreal to San Jose in the early 1990s after falling in love with the weather and scenery during a visit. Their close-knit family includes four kids, all swimmers. “We attended my older brother’s practices and complained about sitting and watching, until Mom agreed we could join the swim team too,” he reminisced. All four siblings competed for years, some through college. Among their travels, a “bucket list” trip took the whole family to the Trans Tahoe Relay where they swam as a six-person team and won their division. “My father couldn’t wait until my youngest sister was 18 so we could compete!”

In junior high, DeZwirek had two transformative experiences. First, on a three-week volunteer trip to South Africa, he noticed that parents of the kids they were helping were not smiling. He learned they were embarrassed by their teeth and it became his mission to attain the “power to help people smile.” Second, as a kid he swam in a pool which made his teeth yellow due to residue from the chlorine. So, for a science fair project he tested different compounds to determine which would whiten his teeth best. He fell in love with dentistry while completing that assignment. He didn’t win a ribbon, but he earned something better—a career goal.

His childhood dentist, Dr. J.J. Salehieh ’92, ’93 AEGD, consulted on the project which began a lifelong mentorship. Salehieh helped DeZwirek select the right classes in high school and college to prepare for dental school and he convinced DeZwirek that the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry was “the only one.” Salehieh fondly recalls encouraging the precocious 12-year-old to become a dentist. He is certain DeZwirek, whom he describes as “a person with a pure heart and a quest for knowledge,” will do something memorable in dentistry because he is so special.

It’s been head down, fins on and hard work ever since.

DeZwirek trained intensely as a swimmer in high school at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, California, (where he still holds records) in hopes of being recruited to college and possibly even making the Olympics. He was successful—he was recruited to swim at Columbia University in 2011. However, homesick and with a quest for more intense competition, better facilities and coaching, he transferred to University of California, Berkeley, where Coach Dave Durden invited him to join the Cal Swim team alongside many Olympic athletes.

DeZwirek thrived in the intensely structured and competitive atmosphere. There was very little downtime, with two workouts per day, a strict diet and sleep regimen, and only a small break for fun on Sundays. While his team’s prevailing mentality was that school was important, “our minds were always focused on how we could be better in the pool,” DeZwirek explained. The discipline paid off, with the team winning the NCAA National Championship in 2014. In 2016, DeZwirek narrowly missed qualifying for the Canadian Olympic team. Coach Durden was an influential role model for DeZwirek and his teammates, educating them about future career opportunities with expert panels and instilling the importance of discipline, professionalism and character.

DeZwirek’s time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry has been extremely busy since he began in 2016. In addition to his studies and extracurricular activities, he is a master’s swim coach at the Bay Club and a swim instructor for the Purple Patch Fitness Triathlon Team. His roommate Chris DeMeyer, Class of 2019, says, “Jeremie puts his heart completely into everything he does: work, friendship, dentistry, swimming.”

Some of DeZwirek’s most fulfilling dental school experiences have been participating in mission trips to Guatemala and the Philippines. He was one of a small group of students chosen by the faculty to serve as volunteer dentists. During these programs, student and faculty volunteers provided comprehensive dental treatment to hundreds of patients with limited access to dental care. At the Dugoni School of Dentistry he has earned many honors including election to the Tau Kappa Omega honor society, which is awarded to the top 20% of the second-year class based on scholarship and character.

Recently matched with the VA Hospital in San Diego for a General Practice Residency, DeZwirek is excited to participate in a postgraduate program as he says he is not quite ready to jump into a dental practice. “It makes perfect sense for me to learn more complex procedures and how to apply the newest technological advances in dentistry before deciding where to settle and practice.” His group practice leader, Dr. Michelle Brady, knows DeZwirek will be a terrific dentist because “he excels at communication with his patients.” Fellow student Stuart Adam, Class of 2019, concurs that DeZwirek will be successful because of his “strong social skills, clinical judgment, critical thinking, adaptability, willingness to learn and dedication.”

After his residency, DeZwirek plans to enjoy a much earned travel break. Until then, for fun, he body-surfs in the ocean, rock-climbs at his gym and enjoys trying new restaurants in San Francisco. At age 25, DeZwirek has already accomplished much but, like the swimmer he is, has only just begun to glide into the next phase of his life.

Old School

Dr. Masako Moriya Wiggans (1912-2006) was the daughter of Japanese immigrants, born and raised in San Francisco. She received her DDS degree in 1937 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, becoming the first Japanese American woman to graduate from the college and to receive a dental license from the Dental Board of California.

She established a private practice in San Francisco’s Japantown and served her community as a member of the Japanese American Citizens League. Her practice closed in 1942 by the forced relocation and internment of citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II.  In spite of this, she continued to provide dental services at her War Relocation Camp in Gila River, Arizona, as well as in the U.S. Army after enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps once the ability to volunteer was restored to Japanese Americans.  After World War II, she became a civilian dentist for the U.S. Army’s Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. She subsequently pursued a second career with the U.S. Department of Treasury and retired in 1982 with more 37 years of private practice, military and civilian federal service.

See more photos from our school’s long history in the Old School section of this site.

Up in Flames

By Kathleen A. Barrows

Started Nov. 8, 2018; 100% Contained Nov. 25, 2018
Area Burned: 153,338 acres in Butte County
Fatalities: 86 civilian deaths, 3 firefighter injuries
Destruction: 13,972 residences, 528 commercial buildings, 4,293 other buildings

Started Nov. 8, 2018; 100% Contained Nov. 21, 2018
Area Burned: 96,949 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties
Fatalities: 3 civilian deaths, 3 firefighter injuries
Structures Destroyed: 1,500 destroyed, 341 damaged

Source: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Jan. 4, 2019

The 2018 wildfire season in California was the deadliest and most destructive on record, and experts predict we are facing a “new normal.” What does this mean for the practice of dentistry?

We interviewed three alumni of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry whose lives have been changed forever by last year’s wildfires: one who lost his home, one who lost his practice and another who opened the doors of his practice to the fire victims and dentists who lost their practices. Each offered valuable advice on how to prepare for the possibility of a destructive fire. They also spoke of the lessons they have learned, while expressing gratitude to their dental communities for the support they received.

Dr. Michael Viale ’79 | Dealing with a lost practice

As an assistant professor of clinical oral health at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Dr. Michael Viale ’79 tells his students that the advantage of a general practice over a specialty is the personal relationship you develop with your patients, watching them go through life’s “trials and tribulations.” But he never imagined a tribulation like the Camp Fire in Northern California. His was one of nine practices lost in the inferno, which he describes as “advancing by a football field every eight seconds.” Today, he struggles to find his patients, all of whom have been displaced.

One of his patients, who was part of the group trapped on the cement pad with helicopters above dropping water to save them, has already moved permanently to Oregon.

Though his home in Chico, California, was spared, four of his staff members’ homes were either destroyed or badly damaged. They are now living in rentals and trailers. And his patients? An estimated 30% of the town’s residents have left forever. One of his patients, who was part of the group trapped on the cement pad with helicopters above dropping water to save them, has already moved permanently to Oregon.

But the most devastating loss for Viale has not been his office, but all of his patients’ records. Despite using a “reputable firm” that specializes in dental technology consulting to take care of his data backup, he lost all chart notes, X-rays and contact information for every patient. “I thought everything would be okay,” he says, “but they’ve been unable to recover the data.” Since Viale processed insurance claims electronically, he does have access to patients’ names and addresses, but for many of those patients there is no longer an address. “For every patient I see, I need to completely start over,” he says.

Viale is currently working out of the Chico office of Dr. Mark Truhe ’99 and continues his weekly drives to San Francisco to teach his dental school classes. Fellow practicing faculty members have given him instruments. A Sacramento man, hearing of how the fire had consumed dental offices, called Viale and offered his retired father’s dental chair.

The Dentists Insurance Company (TDIC) has proved invaluable. Representatives called all of their Paradise, California, policyholders to check on their welfare and a claims adjustor was working on Veterans Day while the fire still raged. The company is covering the salaries of Viale’s dental hygienists and assistants.

Viale feels badly for those dentists in the early or middle parts of their careers who have also lost their practices. They have the expenses of raising families and paying down dental school debt, in addition to
recovering from the fire. The decision of whether to rebuild or relocate is difficult for them.

Viale had already been contemplating retiring in a couple of years. There’s an estimated year’s wait for potable water from faucets and it’s hard to know if the community will return. But for now, he says, “I just want to keep my patients comfortable for when Paradise comes back.”

Dr. Dorian Dodds ’06 | Helping the victims

Dr. Dorian Dodds ’06, who has deep roots in Chico and strong connections to the Paradise community where he has close friends, was one of the lucky ones. He lost neither his practice nor his home to the Camp Fire. Today, he is busy helping the victims—both his fellow dentists who lost their practices and their patients who lost homes.

The fire came within one mile of the 70-year-old family home of his grandparents, which Dodds was in the process of remodeling. He describes the flames he saw while he evacuated with his animals—including three horses—as “surreal.” He has since given to his neighbors—who lost everything—a house he had been renting. Dodds and his teenage daughter, who volunteered at an animal shelter while her high school was closed, have also given furniture and household items to their neighbors to help them restart their lives.

In the first week after the fire, Dodds treated 20 patients who were left homeless, with only the clothes on their backs. He also immediately opened his office to other dentists who had lost their practices. His friend, fellow dentist Dr. Adam Stephens, brought the office computer server he had saved before the fire consumed his practice and linked it up in Dodds’ office so he could access his own files while treating his patients in Dodds’ office.

The flood of new patients from Paradise has affected his scheduling. Dodds sees people with broken teeth and people in pain as quickly as possible, free of charge, but hygiene appointments are now being booked six months out. And like most dentists in Chico, he is refusing to take the fire victims as his own patients, waiting to see if their original dentists will continue to practice. He trained his staff, all of whom live in Chico, the wording to use when patients from lost dental practices started calling.

Though he feels he’s now transitioned into “recovery mode,” he says the smell from a neighbor’s burning leaves can still trigger anxiety.

Like others, Dodds feels a deep sense of gratitude to the dental school community, where he taught for 10 years. Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 reached out to him immediately. Dugoni School alumni are stopping by, offering help. “I felt loved by the Pacific community,” Dodds says.

In the first week after the fire, Dodds treated 20 patients who were left homeless, with only the clothes on their backs.

Dr. David Pokras ’97 | Facing the loss of his home

On the night of November 8, 2018, Dr. David Pokras ’97 was glued to the television in his Agoura Hills, California, home, watching the news updates on the Woolsey Fire. When the fire jumped the freeway at 1:00 a.m., he knew it was time to evacuate. He, his wife, ex-wife and five children, together with the family pets—a dog and a lizard—hopped in the car and headed for his parents’ house out of the area. Having taken measures such as vegetation clearance to protect his home, he thought he would see his house again. But tragically, it burned to the ground.

Pokras didn’t take off from work after the fire, which closed his Westlake office (one of two of his endodontic practices) for a day. “I had patients to see,” he says. But even the one-day office closure affected everyone, with the schedules falling apart. Though his staff did not suffer losses, several patients did.

Since then, Pokras finds himself going through the stages of loss: from shock and anger to gratitude. “At least we have our health and our lives,” he says. He still reaches for things thinking, “I need that” and then realizes they are not there. The hardest part is the loss of the irreplaceable things—precious family photos, collectible items.

The family has moved from his parents’ house to a hotel room and now a rented house. However, faced with many unexpected hidden costs, he doesn’t plan to rebuild.

For Pokras, it’s the little things that are making a difference. The dental school has already ordered a new diploma for him. The family lizard now has a new terrarium, thanks to one of his dental colleagues who took over pet sitting for the creature. And there is the generosity of other communities. He’s been flooded with everything from gift cards to dinner invitations to funds raised by the local PTA.

When the fire jumped the freeway at 1:00 a.m., he knew it was time to evacuate.

Through it all, Pokras is full of gratitude for what he views as the goodness of humanity. He sees people in the community “pulling together,” like offering a ride to a stranger trying to get to his burned property. “I feel lucky to be where I am,” he says. “I have such wonderful support.”

Lessons Learned and Advice

A summary of the advice these alumni offered:

  1. Make sure your practice is digital. For your practice, do a weekly backup, in the cloud or on a hard drive not stored at the office. At home, do the same for precious photos and documents. Back up everything on a server that you can carry out the door in one box in case of emergency. Viale and Pokras learned this lesson the hard way.
  2. In addition to safeguarding your records, prepare yourself mentally, recommends Dodds. Think about how you would want other dentists to respond if you lost your practice. What measures could you take to help and maintain your staff following a tragedy?
  3. As Pokras learned, make sure you have fire insurance which, in the case of homes, matches current home prices in your area. Don’t rely on fire safes, which can withstand 10 minutes of 1,000-degree heat. His house heated up to 2,000 degrees for 30 minutes.
  4. Remember the importance of organized dentistry, in everything from the Alumni Association to the California Dental Association. It is invaluable when tragedy strikes, and is well worth the membership, advises Viale.

Our Evolving DNA

By Christina Boufis, PhD

When they arrived on campus, the Class of 2021 broke new ground at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. For just the first second time in the dental school’s history, women comprised 51% of the matriculating class.

“We’re happy about this,” says Stan Constantino, director of admissions and San Francisco campus representative for the University Diversity Leadership Team. “We also have a huge Asian and Pacific Islander student population, which mirrors other dental schools in California, but is well above other schools across the nation,” he says. “And we’re making inroads with increasing the number of underrepresented minority students for the dental school, such as Hispanic, Native American, African American and Polynesian students.” A smaller applicant pool, a limited number of scholarship opportunities and dollars and the higher cost of living in the Bay Area make this a bit more of a challenge, he adds.

Nationally, women comprise only 32% of dentists in the workforce, according to the American Dental Association. But the Dugoni School of Dentistry is helping to change this uneven percentage as women have comprised nearly 50% of dental school classes for the last several years.

Women will comprise 51% of the graduating Class of 2021

But diversity at the Dugoni School of Dentistry is more than just increasing the numbers of historically underrepresented minorities and women on campus. In 2008, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a volunteer group, was founded with several goals: increasing diversity on campus, providing an advisory role to the administration about inclusivity and fostering a campus climate and culture that respects diversity in all forms. All of these goals are central to the dental school’s core value of humanism and responsibility to humanity, according to Constantino.

To that end, the committee provides diversity and educational programming and events, such as Chinese New Year celebrations with student and faculty presentations, or hosting speakers for Black History and Women’s History months. The committee is also developing and refining training and an onboarding process for new faculty, staff and students with a diversity component. “We’ve developed orientation modules for the incoming class, as well as a cultural overview of humanism to really lay the foundation for the incoming students and to share what the Dugoni School is about—our humanistic environment and how we support one another, learn from one another and respect differences,” says Constantino.

Another way the dental school embraces diversity and inclusion is through the more than 30 student clubs and organizations on campus, many of them started by students with the goal of helping serve patients in their own language. The Chinese American Student Dental Association was founded in 2018 by Co-presidents Anna Duan and Mandy Chen, both from the Class of 2020, with the goal of improving communication with Chinese-speaking patients in the clinic. “For many of us who speak Chinese, while day-to-day communication comes easily, we often don’t have a grasp of the terminology to adequately explain the implications of clinical procedures, risks and benefits, oral hygiene and lifestyle habits to our patients,” says Duan.

The club welcomes both Chinese speakers and beginners. According to Duan, the group meets during lunchtime and topics have been organized around appointment types, covering stages of exams, pre-operative and post-operative instructions and informed consent for treatment. “More advanced speakers are able to learn supplemental terminology to be able to communicate with patients on a healthcare provider level,” says Duan. Non-Chinese speakers learn the basics of the language, such as simple commands or descriptors for pain, and everyone participates in a supportive and fun environment.

In addition to the language aspect, the Chinese American Student Dental Association would like to branch out and include other activities. “Eventually, we’d like to work towards coordinating more cultural events, such as a Chinese New Year celebration, potlucks and other programs,” says Duan. “We believe that understanding cultural backgrounds is an important key to building a rapport with patients in the clinic and understanding why or why not they may choose to pursue certain avenues of treatment.”

Communication is a major key for providing the best care possible for patients.”

Similarly, the El Dentista Club, was founded by Juan Ramirez, Class of 2019, to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking patients. “Not many students speak fluent Spanish,” says Ramirez, “but you don’t have to be fluent to talk with patients. Usually Spanish-speaking patients are really appreciative if a student dentist tries to explain something to them in Spanish so they can understand the procedure better.”

Using PowerPoint slides as instruction and breaking into small groups for conversation, the club teaches dental anatomy and medical Spanish so dental students can better communicate with patients and answer questions or explain upcoming procedures. “Communication is a major key for providing the best care possible for patients,” says Emilio Tapia, Class of 2020 and current president of El Dentista.  “And, being able to communicate in your patient’s language is crucial.”

In addition, Ramirez has turned the PowerPoint materials from the El Dentista Club into a bilingual clinic guidebook, with procedures explained in English and Spanish, accompanied by images which are printed and given to the group practice leaders. “This way if you’re going to do a root canal on someone who speaks Spanish,” says Ramirez, “they’ll see a picture of the root canal and an explanation in Spanish of what’s going on, possible risks or alternatives to the procedure, as well as post-op instructions.”

“I’m proud that the El Dentista Club has been able to help dental students with their Spanish,” says Tapia, “whether that’s via a phone call, translating during an appointment, learning new terminology in one of our meetings or with the various aids we have online. I hope to continue expanding the club and creating a better interaction between student dentists and patients.”

“Our students never cease to amaze me,” says Kathy Candito, associate dean for student services. “Their dedication to the school, to the profession, all the time and effort they put not only into the actual program, but also to volunteering and making sure they’re supportive of their fellow students and everyone in the school, is impressive. So many are also involved in student clubs and organized dental programs where they hold leadership positions. These talented young men and women continue to inspire me every single day.”

While the Chinese American Student Dental Association and El Dentista Club were homegrown on campus, others organizations, such as the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) and the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) are national organizations with local chapters that also aim to help students succeed.

The dental school’s SNDA chapter, founded by Drs. Jennifer Villalta ’17 and Ashley Soliman ’18, works to strengthen diversity and inclusion on campus in a slightly different way. According to its bylaws, the mission of the SNDA is to support the academic and social environment for minority students through academic and community outreach and leadership development among its members. SDNA also seeks to improve the delivery of dental health to all people, with an emphasis on minorities and the underserved. Being able to work with individuals from different backgrounds allows students to become culturally competent practitioners, a mission statement from the school website that applies to all dental students.

“Even though our school tends to be half female, it’s still important to have these resources to continue to support and empower each other.”

The Pacific Chapter of AAWD was started by Dr. Melissa Styles ’14, and just last year became a nationally recognized chapter. “Our goals are to create a network of support and mentorship opportunities for women dental students,” says Samantha Lee, Class of 2019 and current AAWD president. The group sponsors lunch and learns, such as one held recently with alumna, Dr. Kristina Svensson ’12. Her presentation, “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me,” covered topics such as practicing during pregnancy and motherhood, paying off loans and working at a public health clinic. AAWD also has a mentorship program on campus that pairs female students with practicing dentists or faculty members.

In addition to advancing women in the field of dentistry, the local chapter also holds extracurricular events—wellness programs, spring cleaning clothing drives to support women’s and girls’ community organizations—and partners with Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) to visit women’s shelters to provide oral health education, explains Lee. The Pacific chapter was honored last fall by AAWD at its national conference as Student Chapter of the Year for being an active chapter with events for members, mentorship opportunities and fundraising efforts to support women’s and girl’s organizations throughout the Bay Area. In 2018, the Pacific Chapter donated more than $1,000 to nonprofits and charities, supporting organizations such as Take Back the Night, Habitat for Humanity and Napa Fire Victims.

AAWD has been busy since they first started at the dental school, says Lee, a bar set high by its previous president and one she aims to continue. Many people who aren’t members, including male students, attend the events and lunch-time presentations. “We’ve been trying to get more people of all genders involved to create a culture where women are supported in dentistry,” says Lee. “Even though our school tends to be half female, it’s still important to have these resources to continue to support and empower each other.”

What will classes in the future look like? “We believe that we’ll continue to have about 50/50 male to female students,” says Candito. “And, we hope to increase our numbers for an ethnically diverse class.” One thing is certain. If future dental classes are like current matriculating students, they’ll continue to foster a family environment where diversity, inclusion and support are just part of the Dugoni School DNA.

Christina Boufis, PhD, is a freelance health and medical writer from the East Bay.

Dr. Richard Fredekind | Keep Moving Forward

By Ashley Musick

Keep moving forward. For Dr. Richard E. Fredekind, recently retired executive associate dean of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, this motto encapsulates his constant drive for self-improvement. As highlighted by his numerous awards, a few of which include the Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni Faculty Award, Drs. Eugene and Noelle Santucci Humanism and Service Award, the Medallion of Distinction and his most recent Order of the Pacific, the University’s highest honor, Fredekind’s exceptional motivation and passion for improvement have led to an enduring and meaningful connection with faculty, staff, students and patients alike.

In the words of Dean Nader A. Nadershahi ’94, “Our school has benefited greatly from his more than 30 years of involvement with us as an instructor, leader, administrator, mentor and friend. He exemplifies our humanistic spirit through his caring, wisdom and thoughtful and friendly approach to issues large and small.”

Born in Spokane, Washington, as one of two children, Fredekind inherited both his mother’s reserved nature and his father’s humor. He recalls a supportive and educational upbringing that provided the foundation for his future aspirations; namely, his interest in dentistry, which originated at a young age, inspired by childhood trips to the dentist’s office.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Idaho, Fredekind completed his dental degree in 1979 at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, before returning to the more temperate West Coast to work at a general practice residency in Oakland, California. Two years later, he purchased a private practice with partner Dr. Robert Bonahoom in Foster City, California, where he proceeded to practice for the next five years.

Motivated to engage himself outside of work, after graduating from dental school, Fredekind became an avid nonfiction reader and potter, at one point owning his own pottery wheel and kiln. Though he no longer actively pursues pottery, Fredekind is considering taking it up again during retirement. That being said, he is also looking forward to exploring new mediums of art that will push him outside of his comfort zone.

In 1984, Fredekind began teaching part-time at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry as an instructor in the Emergency Clinic. Five years later, he switched to teaching full-time as a group practice administrator which allowed him to explore the complexity of dental practice while working with faculty members to maximize the educational experience of students. When asked to describe his career as a group practice administrator, he explains, “Every day was full of lots of work, each day different from the previous day. It was busy, hectic and challenging, but I enjoyed all of that—it was my favorite job.”

Fredekind adds, “Working with students, staff and faculty was a great experience for me, and helped me understand that staying at the Dugoni School was the best opportunity for me, for the school and the people at the school. I enjoyed being a part of the school community and working together to make the school as effective as it could be.”

Colleagues agree that Fredekind is a kind, unassuming person who has devoted years to the dental school and its students without seeking the spotlight.

“A graduate of Tufts dental school, Dr. Fredekind embodied and lived the humanistic model that is the core value of dental education at the Dugoni School. He always demonstrated the values of integrity, kindness and fairness,” says Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni ’48. “His commitment to excellence was second to none. Many generations of graduates are demonstrating Dr. Fredkind’s inspirational leadership.”

“Dr. Fredekind is a cherished friend and colleague who is one of the most dedicated, principled and hard-working people I know,” adds Dr. Eddie Hayashida, former associate dean of administration.

In 2000, Dr. Ron Borer, associate dean for clinical services, whom Fredekind had worked with for the previous 11 years, retired, and Fredekind was offered the position, which he gladly accepted.

“Paying attention to how Ron worked with people taught me so much about education and helping people reach their full potential,” Fredekind said of his experience under Borer’s mentorship. “That means not only the students, but the staff and faculty who work at the school.”

Fredekind served in his role as associate dean for clinical services for 15 years and then in 2015, Dean Nadershahi appointed him to executive associate dean.

“The three deans Richard worked for tasked him with many daunting responsibilities which he completed with an exemplary level of excellence,” says Hayashida. “He stayed on point, inspired and collaborated with others and finished projects on time all while inspiring, challenging and bringing out the best in others, leading by example and striving for the best. His successful completion of many critical assignments, such as the coordination of the move from Webster Street to Fifth Street, the digitizing of patient records, working on the strategic plan and accreditation and upgrading the clinic model, are just a few examples of his tireless work.”

Following his retirement on June 30 of this year, Fredekind and his wife of 29 years, Linn Brown, took a much-deserved vacation to visit family in upstate New York. They are making more plans to travel, with hopes to visit Ireland and Scotland. When asked why Scotland, Fredekind disclosed two reasons: the cooler weather and the many distilleries Scotland has to offer.

In addition to travelling, Fredekind is looking forward to exploring new forms of creative expression using media he is unfamiliar with, such as food. He hopes to develop his culinary skills—as cooking is an activity he describes as something he “does virtually none of and knows nothing about,” despite maintaining a health-conscious vegetarian diet. His other interests include biking, walking and the Golden State Warriors.

Though undecided on which new activities he wishes to pursue in retirement, Fredekind is determined to continue to challenge his current perspective, push outside of his comfort zone and remain both active and engaged in the world around him.

“He is deeply admired by our students, alumni and staff,” says Hayashida. “During my travels to meetings such as CDA and ADEA as a representative of the dental school, Dr. Fredekind is one of the people who alumni ask about the most and share fond memories. He has been a cornerstone of the success and reputation of the School of Dentistry.”

Fredekind’s determination and commitment to self-improvement formulate a legacy that will continue to inspire both those he has touched and those he has yet to encounter to keep moving forward.

Ashley Musick is a freelance writer from Los Altos, CA.

Pac Ave Records CD Release Benefits Santa Rosa-Area Fire Victims

Pac Ave Records, University of the Pacific’s student-run record label, released their new compilation CD, “Rose Gold: Songs for Sonoma,” in April featuring performances by student artists. The students also elected to use this year’s release as an opportunity to help victims of last October’s fires in Sonoma County, including one of their very own Pac Ave artists.

“I think it really shows a great deal of love from the school, Pac Ave and all the people who came together to make the album possible,” said Connor Devlin, a Pacific music industry studies student and Sonoma County native who was one of two Conservatory of Music students who lost their homes to the October fires.

Pac Ave staff made a unanimous decision to donate the proceeds from their new release to fire victims in fall 2017 just after the tragic fires hit. Their efforts brought in more than $3,600, which was donated in August to the Santa Rosa Junior College Fire Relief Fund to benefit students affected by the fires.

The students elected to use this year’s release as an opportunity to help victims of last October’s fires in Sonoma County.

“The charity receiving the proceeds distributed the funds to students to purchase school supplies and necessities like backpacks, bicycles or books lost in the fires,” said Olivia Valentino, Pac Ave’s marketing coordinator.

Each of the nine artists appearing on the CD performed a Grammy song of the year from the past decade, including tracks such as “Royals,” “Rehab” and “Hello.” Staff and artists promoted the fundraiser through a series of local concerts and a social media campaign to raise awareness.

Pac Ave is an independent record label and provides a comprehensive experiential learning opportunity for students in the Music Industry Studies program. More than 30 Pacific students helped create the new album, from musicians to sound engineers to Pac Ave Records’ 11-member staff and three faculty coaches. “Rose Gold” was released on CD, as well as on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby for digital download. This is the sixth release by Pac Ave Records since it was founded in 2012.

Dan Tanita: Global Ambassador, Local Philanthropist

By Louise Knott Ahern

It is, of course, a quip. But friends and colleagues of Dr. Dan Tanita ’73 like to say that if you see this longtime Dugoni School of Dentistry volunteer headed your way, guard your wallet. Because the minute he leaves, you’ll discover you handed it over at some point in the conversation without even realizing it.

Tanita, a board member of both the Dugoni School Foundation and the Alumni Association, has earned a reputation over the past three decades of having the innate ability to raise more money for the dental school and other community service projects than five other people combined. From public schools to the local YMCA, Tanita is the go-to guy when a cause needs cash.

“When he comes to my side of the clinic, I know why he’s there, and it’s not to invite me to lunch,” laughed Tanita’s longtime friend, Dr. Bill van Dyk ’73. The two graduated from the Dugoni School of Dentistry together and purchased a dental practice in San Pablo, California, after van Dyk finished a three-year ROTC commitment to the U.S. Army. They’ve been business partners ever since. “He’s not at all pushy. I think that is also why he’s such a good dentist, ” says van Dyk. “It’s not a technique or something he developed; it’s his natural easygoing personality. He makes you feel as if you ought to do it because it’s a good cause.”

But joking aside, those same friends and colleagues say Tanita is successful at fundraising because he understands that money is only one piece of philanthropy. He also devotes his time to many causes. One of his most impactful projects, for example, is now in its 21st year—a free dental clinic inside Peres Elementary School in Richmond, California, where Tanita himself treats the children. What began with a Healthy Start grant and a few donated pieces of equipment is now a fully functional dental clinic that treats 300 children a year and is named after Tanita.

“He epitomizes what we in philanthropy call the three Ts: time, talent and treasure,” said Dr. Craig Yarborough ’80, associate dean for institutional advancement. “The easiest thing in philanthropy is the last one. Just throw money at it. But Dan will give everything in each of those areas.”

Most recently, that devotion of time and resources had an unexpected outcome—a prominent write-up of the Dugoni School of Dentistry in a Russian dental magazine and a supporting role for Dugoni School alumni in the creation of a professional association for Russian dentists. Yarborough, the former speaker of the house for the California Dental Association (CDA), recently returned from speaking at a seminar in Russia along with a colleague, Carrie Gordon, chief strategy officer for the CDA.

“It speaks to our reputation as a school,” Yarborough said. “We’re known for being a family and for our humanism, one of the virtues that all dental schools should have. It also shows how progressive the California Dental Association is. They were willing to meet with these people even though they had no connection with them. It’s just fascinating how our reputation continues to be extended.”

And it all started 18 years ago when Tanita, in typical fashion, said “yes” because someone asked him for a favor.

How It Started

In 2000, the Rotary Club in Richmond was looking for a local dentist to help host a visiting group of Russian dentists and dental clinic owners for a trip around Northern California. It was a rather routine professional exchange that the Rotary Club promotes internationally.

Tanita, of course, agreed to help. That one trip became an annual excursion, and over the years Tanita has recruited his friends and colleagues to speak to the group, give them tours of the Dugoni School of Dentistry and local dental practices and even join them on wine tastings in the Napa Valley.

“The Russians kept on contacting me, and every year they had another group of dentists who were interested in coming to San Francisco,” Tanita said. “We’ve given them different tours, taken them to the dental school and just tried to give them as much of an experience as we can.”

Last year, Tanita asked the California Dental Association to meet with the Russian group to discuss how the CDA works. Yarborough took part in the meeting, which was followed by an invitation for Yarborough and Gordon to speak in Russia at a seminar for Russian dentists.

And that’s where Yarborough discovered the magazine. The funny thing is, it’s possible no one would have even known that the Russian Dental Club magazine had featured the Dugoni School if Yarborough hadn’t had a little bit of extra time while packing to go home.

All attendees and speakers were given a conference swag bag, most of which Yarborough planned to throw away, including the magazine. It was too heavy to take with him, and it’s not like he could read it. It was in Russian. But a twinge of guilt—it was a beautiful publication that someone had obviously wanted him to see—made him decide to flip through it before throwing it away.

“And suddenly, I saw a picture of the dental school,” Yarborough said.

Though he couldn’t read the words, he could tell there was an entire, six-page article about the Dugoni School of Dentistry and the California Dental Association with photos.

“And Dan Tanita is the guy who brought these people to our school and to the CDA,” Yarborough said. “That’s just Dan. He has the time and talent to bring people together. Thanks to him, the private sector—especially Moscow dentists—will probably become associated with and follow the model of the CDA, which is full of leaders from Pacific, because of Art Dugoni’s vision.”

A Lifetime of Service

Though Tanita never seeks recognition for his many years of service, it has found him anyway. He’s been honored with dozens of major dental and service awards throughout his career.

In 2014, the Northern California section of the American College of Dentists honored Tanita with the Dr. Willard C. Fleming Meritorious Service Award in recognition of the Peres Elementary School dental clinic. That same project also earned him a James M. Pappenfus Award from the Contra Costa Dental Society, as well as a Bay Area Jefferson Award for outstanding community service.

The dental school has honored him as well with a Medallion of Distinction, the Alumni Association’s highest honor, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the dental profession or their local community.

Tanita credits, in part, the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s humanistic approach for his devotion to service.

“The alumni develop a closeness and a loyalty to the school that is a lot stronger than at many other schools around the country, and that reflects Dr. Art Dugoni’s leadership,” Tanita said. “The identity of the school, the values and philosophies and the quality of the education reflect who he is as an individual, a leader and as the former dean. The quality of the people at the school and the commitment they have is so genuine and so passionate that once you get involved with them, it makes you more passionate yourself.”

Friends say it’s just who Tanita is. He became a dentist because he so enjoyed the family-like atmosphere at his childhood dentist’s office in Arizona that it seemed like a great career.

“Dan might be the most benevolent person I’ve met,” Yarborough said. “He is selfless and patient. Somehow, he unlocks the passion in other people.”

Tanita plans to continue working in private practice for a few more years, but even once he retires, he says he will stay involved with the community and the Dugoni School.

“I love the school so much,” he said. “I live very close by. I’m still on the Alumni Association board. If I can make a contribution, I’ll do that. I enjoy staying involved. I just want to see the school continue to stay at the top of its game.”

Louise Knott Ahern is an award-winning journalist, fiction writer, editor and writing coach, and is the founder of LKA Publishing in Williamston, MI.