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Lives We Have Touched

By Jennifer Langam

“Our purpose is to help people lead healthy lives,” says Dean Nader A. Nadershahi ’94. For student dentists at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, the almost 900 clinical hours they spend in their second and third years are essential to their education; for the patients they treat, those hours translate to lives touched.

The clinics in San Francisco and Union City, as well as extramural sites, provide approximately 118,000 patient visits per year to 28,000 active patients. Those numbers are impressive, but, as Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs Sig Abelson ’66 says, the most important thing students should learn in the dental clinic is that these are all individuals with unique backgrounds, stories, expectations and health needs.

“From the day students arrive at the Dugoni School, we don’t talk about the teeth or the mouth; we talk about the person, about the patient,” says Abelson. “We teach the students about empathetic listening and that the most important thing dentists can do is listen to their patients.”

Around 35% of patients at the Dugoni School have Denti-Cal insurance, so the clinics are a healthcare safety net for people who have almost nowhere else to turn for dental care, given how few practices accept the low-reimbursement insurance. But, the remaining 65% of Dugoni School patients come from all walks of life, from businesswomen and musicians to retired individuals and military veterans. For these and for all patients, quality care is delivered in a highly supervised setting.

This means that students can practice skills essential for connecting with patients, such as using language patients understand, which can be challenging for student dentists, according to Dr. Bruce Peltier, professor of diagnostic sciences.

“They’ve just learned a whole new vocabulary of big words, and they want to use them! Instead, we teach students to show patients things, like pictures, clay models or models of the restorations they’re going to do. In fact, we talk to our students about the importance of teaching patients,” says Peltier.

The goal of their training, Abelson tells students, is not to teach them to become dentists but to become oral health professionals who care for patients.

And in caring for patients in the clinic, those student dentists and supervisors touch the lives of countless patients, often across many years.

Terry Irvin

Terry Irvin first came to San Francisco in 1968, hitchhiking from Michigan with $25 in his pocket. Irvin briefly returned to Michigan but has otherwise spent almost his entire adult life in the City. He owned a restaurant and then worked in restaurants, food service and catering for the rest of his career.

He heard about the dental school when he joined a union for restaurant workers in the late 1970s and has been coming to the clinic since the early 1980s.

“The clinic has been a godsend. I’ve had lots of difficulties with my mouth, since I was young, and I’m so thankful for the care I’ve received there,” he says.

Our purpose is to help people lead healthy lives

Irvin has seen lots of changes at the clinic through the years, the most obvious of which is the location. “I love the new building,” he says. “The architecture is beautiful and the clinic facilities are so much nicer than in the old building.”

The location change has, however, changed how Irvin gets to his dental care. “I could walk to the old [Sacramento Street] clinic, and I especially loved my springtime appointments, when I could see the flowering plum trees lining the streets in Japantown,” Irvin remembers. “But times change, and now I take the bus for my morning appointment and get off at Fifth and Market and see the whole city coming alive. So, I appreciate that the new location gets me downtown and out of my neighborhood.”

Because of his long association with the clinic, Irvin has also gotten to know the people at dental school as well. Dr. Lisa Itaya ’98, ’00 AEGD, now associate professor of clinical oral health and a group practice leader in the clinic, was once a student and resident at the Dugoni School—and she was Irvin’s dentist in the clinic and now supervises the student dentists who treat him.

“Dr. Itaya has been taking care of my teeth for the last 25 years!” says Irvin. “Now I see her and she always gives me a big hug, and it makes it fun going there, knowing her and all the supervisors in the clinic. The Dugoni School is really family to me.”

“Patients like Terry are our most valued resource at the clinic,” says Itaya. “He is reliable, patient, cooperative and kind. It takes a patient with a certain temperament or personality to embrace being a dental school patient, and Terry has it.”

Itaya adds, “The patients who consider the Dugoni School as their dental home appreciate the energy of the students, the faculty expertise and the quality work they receive for the price they pay. I think they mostly like the fact that students enjoy being their doctors, and they are polite and caring. The students try hard, and I think patients like that.”

Dr. Itaya has been taking care of my teeth for the last 25 years!

Steve Plante

Born and raised on the Peninsula, Steve Plante now lives in San Bruno, California. “I love being near the ocean, and I love baseball and football, and this is a great place for that,” he says.

For 20 years, Plante worked for Sears, where one of his health benefits included access to an in-house dentist. But the 2008 economic downturn hit the retail sector hard, and by 2010 Plante had to leave his job—and his long-time dentist.

A friend referred Plante to the dental clinic, and he went there for the first time in 2012 to get some crowns replaced. His student dentist at the time, he remembers, was an international student from India, and he was very impressed with her work and enjoyed getting to know a bit about her.

“Everyone I’ve ever seen at the Dugoni School has been high quality,” Plante says. “They are professional and focused on their careers, and they explain things in a way I can understand.”

In addition to the crown replacements, Plante has had fillings and cleanings at the dental clinic, and he’s now in the process of getting an implant.

Plante has enjoyed finding things in common with his dentists—he has met some who are as passionate about the San Francisco Giants as he is—as well as learning about the different cultures and backgrounds of the students.

“You get to work with them, and I do everything they tell me to do,” Plante says. “And if I leave the clinic and have any questions, I can always call and get someone to answer them.”

Plante now feels a close relationship with the dentists and staff at the dental school. “It’s almost like you’re a part of the family here,” he says. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful place.”


Joaninha (known simply by her first name) has lived abroad for most of her life and has worked as a model, a fashion designer, an artist and most recently, a cookbook author. One of the downsides to her early traveling life is that she had almost no preventive dental care during her 20s when she was living in South America. So when she moved back to San Francisco for a time in the 1970s, she went looking for a dentist.

“My boyfriend’s brother worked in the lab at the Pacific dental school and he knew first hand who the best students were,” she recalls now.

Some of the gold foil restorations Joaninha received from the dental school at that time have lasted until quite recently. “They had a good run,” she says, noting that she just turned 70.

Over the years, as she has spent time in the Bay Area in between living in Paris, Kyoto, Taiwan and other global locations,  Joaninha has appreciated the team approach at the Dugoni School clinic. “The students are very well supervised, and the students and faculty dentists consult with each other when they need to do complex procedures for me.”

She has memories of several noteworthy dentists at the clinic through the years: one who was particularly good with her dental sensitivities, another who spent extra time helping patients relax with shoulder massage and music and many international students whom she has enjoyed getting to know.

“I come into the clinic with my lavender eye pillow”

“I have such a complicated mouth,” she laughs. “But everyone at the school is very understanding of all my issues and very patient in explaining every recommended procedure and answering my questions.”

Because of her long tenure with the clinic,  Joaninha has joked with students and staff that she could teach an extracurricular course on optimal patient care and management.

“I’ve had so much dental work done that I know a lot of the terms,” she says. “I come into the clinic with my lavender eye pillow; I meditate and I relax. I have the reputation of being a very good patient!” She adds, “It is because of the students’ and staffs’ careful guidance regarding preventive home care that my teeth and gums are quite healthy, even with all the dental work.”

Joaninha is not, however, ready to go abroad again yet. Her priority right now is finding a publisher for her new cookbook, which she describes as “a mélange of information on healthy eating and living” based on her global experience. But when she does travel again, it will be with a smile, probably not long after a visit to the dental school.

Jennifer Langham is a contributor to Contact Point and other University of the Pacific publications.

Filling the Gap: Students Learn and Patients Benefit from Denture Block Program

In what has become an annual event, second-year DDS and IDS students joined forces to provide complete denture prosthodontic services to a group of underserved individuals. Last November, the Fall 2012 Denture Block culminated with the delivery of new sets of dentures to 30 pre-identified individuals at no cost to the patients.

Launched in 2010 as a collaboration between the school and San Francisco’s Project Homeless Connect, Denture Block initially aimed to counter the lost treatment and educational opportunities for dental students and dependent patients resulting from elimination of many adult DentiCal benefits. Since then, the program has expanded its reach to include an underserved population of patients who are missing their natural dentition and cannot afford dentures. Patients are now referred to the program from numerous Bay Area social service agencies and religious groups, as well as by word of mouth.

The complete Denture Block experience includes five consecutive Friday appointments involving groups of five students and one regular or adjunct faculty mentor for each appointment. Faculty members include Bay Area prosthodontists and department staff from preclinical courses.

Drs. Peter Hansen and Eugene LaBarre, associate professors in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences, spearheaded the fall project, which involved 30 patients and 160 dental students. Invaluable assistance was provided by Doris Bailey, clinic operations manager, and the clinical administrative staff together with Olga Matveyeva in the dental laboratory.

The Denture Block is funded in part through the generosity of private donors David and Jane Jackson, the Middleton Foundation and Richard and Linda Leao; corporate support from and the Myerson Corporation; and interest from an endowment from Dr. Henry Sutro ’50. The dental school contributes support staff, supplies and other clinic resources.

“The Denture Block experience is replete with unanticipated appreciation for involved students and patients,” said Hansen. “These emotional responses result from the satisfaction the students receive from — for the first time — providing treatment which so dramatically affects a person’s quality of life and sense of self-worth.”
Future Denture Block programs remain contingent on funding. The school hopes to continue the program due to overwhelming positive feedback from all involved. If you would like to support this program, contact the Development Office at 415.929.6431.

Fueled By Passion

by Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., Dean

Among our many other responsibilities as healthcare providers, we are responsible for possessing an honest passion for what we do. Our patients expect us to care deeply about their health and well-being. An important motivator, passion plays a similar role in dental education. Often the best faculty members are those who feel a true drive to help students become thoughtful and well-rounded practitioners. Students who have a passion for learning or for helping others will get through the rigors of dental school better than those who don’t share that inner drive.

This issue of Contact Point is about passion — those things that make us feel fulfilled as individuals and professionals. In the following pages, you’ll find stories about passionate members of the Pacific Dugoni family. We’ll explore the non-dental passions of some of our alumni and faculty in one of our feature stories. From organic farming to singing, I think you’ll be fascinated by what these dental professionals do in addition to their work in dentistry.

You’ll also read about some recent school milestones and how these accomplishments were driven by passionate individuals from every level and group at our school — students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends. We’re in the midst of a very forward-thinking time at the dental school, especially with the creation of our new San Francisco campus, but it’s also important to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and from where we’ve come. I know that all of these milestones would not have happened if not for hard work coupled with—yes—a passion for keeping Pacific Dugoni on the forefront of dental education.

We round out our feature stories by profiling our Alumni Association, which recently transitioned from being a separate nonprofit organization to an official department of the dental school. You’ll get an up-close look at our Alumni Association’s activities, which are all driven by a group of individuals who care deeply about providing a reliable and valuable resource for our thousands of alumni.

Finally, I hope you enjoy an excerpt from the Journal of Dental Education, written by one of the most passionate individuals I know, Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our students who are discovering and demonstrating their passion for caring for patients. It makes me feel optimistic and excited about the future of dentistry, dental education and Pacific Dugoni.



Patrick J. Ferrillo

Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr.


Dental Camp: Kids Explore Careers in Oral Health

Junior high and high school students from throughout the Northern California area recently gathered at the Dugoni School of Dentistry for Dental Camp, an annual program hosted by the school. Due to high demand for the program, the 2013 event increased its attendance capacity from 60 to 80 young students, who spent the day of February 9 immersed in hands-on dental activities. And, there were another 35 students on the wait list.

Students visited from schools throughout San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton, Santa Rosa, and Sacramento and many other areas in the region. All were excited to come to the dental school to learn more about careers in oral health. The students spent time in the simulation laboratory and dental clinics, learning how to restore and create models of teeth, as well as learning some of the day-to-day activities of dental professionals. They were able to take molds of their own teeth, and prepare a restoration on a mock tooth during the hands-on activities.

Many volunteer dental students, faculty and staff members participated in the event and helped educate attendees about the importance of oral hygiene, careers in dentistry and what life is like as a dental student. Volunteers from Pacific’s Dental Hygiene program in Stockton were also on hand for the day.

Careers in dentistry were recently mentioned in the national news, with U.S. News & World Report listing “dentist” as the No. 1 most desirable profession in 2013 in its annual list of the best jobs in the country released in December 2012. The magazine analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, including employment growth, median salary, future job prospects, the unemployment rate and the occupation’s estimated stress level and work-life balance. Additionally, “dental hygienist” made the list in the number 10 spot.

One Word: Dugoni School Students Participate in Creative Self-Reflection Exercise

A group of Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry students recently participated in the Pacific One Word Project, a successful initiative originally started on Pacific’s main campus in Stockton to encourage personal reflection.

Twenty five students went through the One Word exercise this past May as part of a pilot project organized by the school’s Office of Academic Affairs. Student leaders were asked to select a word that describes themselves at their “ideal or best” self and write a short explanation of their choice. Students also participated in an interpretive photo shoot coordinated by the One Word Project creative team.

Dugoni School students selected a variety of terms such as “contentment,” “courage,” “blessed,” “all-in,” “habitat” and “unrelenting.” Some students also chose words in a foreign language (Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic), or made up a word to appropriately describe their ideal self.

Class of 2013 student Peter Ingoldsby chose “progress” as his one word.

“I believe that every day is a new chance to improve, a new chance to say we are a better person than we were yesterday,” he explained. “Some days, progress may be slower than others, but as long as we strive to better ourselves we know we are moving in the right direction.”

The Pacific One Word Project originally began as a way to provide first-year students a shared means of expressing self awareness and connecting to future aspirations. The project is aimed at developing students’ social and emotional competencies, which are considered essential in preparing students to enter a global community as responsible leaders.

Many faculty, staff, alumni and current students from the wider Pacific community have participated in the One Word Project since it began in 2008. The project celebrates people and spotlights the diverse cultures, individuals and ideas in the University of the Pacific community.

All the photos, words and reflections from participating students are combined into a community mosaic that is being displayed as a photo tapestry on campus and an online presentation.

To view the One Word Project, visit:

Launching the Leadership Strand

By Louise Knott Ahern

When Dan Hammer, Class of 2011, envisions his career, he sees a lot more than a nine-to-five dental practice. He sees himself as a leader who motivates others in his profession, his community and in the ever-changing world of health care while providing the best care for his patients. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he chose to attend the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. The school prides itself on developing people first and dentists second.

“I chose Pacific first and foremost because of its humanistic model of education,” said Hammer, Associated Student Body president. “The amount of camaraderie and collaboration that goes on here is unparalleled.” This makes him the perfect student to usher in a new extracurricular program to the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s world-renowned curriculum.

Launched last fall by Hammer and fellow Class of 2012 students Alan Chee and Jonathan Gluck, the new Dugoni Practical Leadership Initiative (DPLI) is an enrichment program that offers students a way to learn and practice the lifelong skills that will help them become effective leaders. Featuring a mix of workshops and hands-on learning opportunities, the program is designed to foster leadership skills in three key areas: as individuals, as members of a team and in their communities.

The program developed in part as an offshoot of research by Hammer and faculty mentor, Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, executive associate dean, which found that students and faculty alike would support opportunities to promote the importance of personal leadership. “This is innate in the culture of our dental school and our humanistic approach,” Hammer said. “DPLI’s catch phrase is, ‘As a dentist, you have no choice but to be a leader.’ So to be a respected health care professional, you have to step up.”

How It Works

The program features four components, all designed to not only create leadership skills that students can build on throughout life but which they can also put to use immediately. “Our goal is that after every presentation, they can take something away that will translate into daily life immediately,” Hammer said. “They may hear something about motivating a team or delivering a treatment plan, and we hope our juniors and seniors will go to clinic the next day and use those tips.”

The program’s four components are:

  1. Workshops: Students will attend six workshops over six months focused on each of the three leadership themes. Workshops challenge students to identify their own leadership personalities, explore effective management techniques for running a successful dental practice, learn how to motivate a team and discover ways to network as a young professional.
  2. Experience Leadership Mentorship Program: Five students will be paired with a faculty member or Dugoni School of Dentistry alumni mentor based on their areas of interest. Organizers hope this will give students an inside view of the differing fields of dentistry and broaden their networking horizons.
  3. Distinguished Speaker Series: Three speaker series programs will allow students who are not participating in the leadership curriculum to grow as leaders. Experts and dental practitioners will offer valuable insights on how to be leaders in both their personal and professional lives.
  4. Leadership in Action Practicum: Students will work in groups to research and execute real projects. The first: students will present to the Dean’s Cabinet on the newly
    released feasibility report from Kahler Slater architects regarding student response to early plans for a new dental school building.

How It Fits

For many Dugoni School of Dentistry students and faculty members, the program is a logical and natural fit with the school’s history and mission. “Leadership, historically, has been an implicit part of our curriculum,” said Dr. Cindy Lyon ’86, chair of the Department of Dental Practice. “Given that our vision statement—leading the improvement of health by advancing oral health—is dependent on great leadership abilities, I think nothing could be better aligned with Pacific’s mission than this personalized program.”

But the program is also part of a broader curriculum initiative. The dental school recently began rolling out the Helix Curriculum—an effort to infuse every aspect of a student’s training with both the technical skills to succeed as a dentist and the personal skills to interact with patients, co-workers and peers.

“Critical thinking, reflection and lifelong learning are important parts of this curriculum,” Lyon said. “The DPLI gives students new tools to assess their personal strengths and weaknesses as leaders, explore the dynamics of how groups interact and examine how they can best influence and effect change.”

The effort—including the leadership initiative—recently helped earn the Dugoni School of Dentistry the prestigious Gies Award for Outstanding Vision for an Academic Dental Institution. Awarded by the ADEAGies Foundation, the award is named after dental education pioneer William J. Gies, PhD, and recognizes individuals and organizations for contributions to global oral health and education initiatives. The winners exemplify dedication to the highest standards of vision, innovation and achievement in dental education, research and leadership.

How It Will Help

The Dugoni School of Dentistry already stands out among dental schools for its personalized approach to education. Third-year students, for example, are asked to prepare a full business plan that would prepare them to launch a successful dental practice. Lyon and Hammer said the Dugoni Practical Leadership Initiative expands that approach, giving students a way to build a life plan, not just a business plan.

“Mission statements calling for us to actualize individual potential and develop and promote policies addressing the needs of society,” Lyon said, “really inspire us all to roll up our sleeves and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.”

Louise Knott Ahern of Williamston, Michigan, is a freelance writer, writing coach and former editor at University of Redlands.

Sea Change: New Small-Group Approach Planned for Main Clinic Mirrors Private Practice Model

By Dan Soine

A sea change is coming to the sea of chairs spanning the Main Clinic at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

The physical expanse of the operatories looks impressive. New patients, visitors, students and others who visit the Main Clinic for the first time have a nearly unanimous reaction to its sheer size – it sure doesn’t look like any dental clinic they’ve ever seen.

But now the clinic is preparing for a major transformation. While the full expanse of Main Clinic operatories will remain in place, much of the organizational and behind-the-scenes structure of the clinic is changing in the next year.

Ultimately, these updates will ensure that the school continues its legacy of providing an outstanding, clinically based education to students, and comprehensive, patient-centered care to Bay Area residents in need.

“Creating clinically trained dental professionals is at the very heart of our school’s mission,” explains Dr. Richard Fredekind, associate dean for clinical services. “The new changes will keep us at the forefront of dental education and ensure that the clinical experience we provide remains second to none. Our clinics were good before, but with these updates, they’ll only get better.”

The most fundamental shift to come is a reorganization of the Main Clinic from four group practices into eight student private practices, each with its own practice leader (formerly known as group practice administrators or GPAs). The reduction in the average size of each practice will allow practice leaders to work even more closely with students than before.

Other changes are coming as well. The second- and third-year classes will be merged in the clinics. There will no longer be a separate second-year clinic or “second-year experience.” Students now will have two years of clinical practice at their individual learning paces, achieving competency in the various disciplines managed by their student practice leaders, and faculty within the practices.

In addition, first-year students will have an opportunity to gain additional exposure to the clinic. From the start of their first week, first-year students will get introduced to their student private practice and forge an even closer relationship with their practice leaders. They won’t be treating patients directly at this point, but will spend additional time getting familiar with the people, processes and procedures involved in patient care.

The changes to the clinics are the results of a planning process that started several years ago as part of the implementation of the school’s strategic plan, Advancing Greatness. More than 50 people were involved in two task forces to analyze how the Main Clinic can continue to refine and enhance its structure and processes to the benefit of patient care and student education.

A Model Adjustment

What’s driving these changes?

In 2008, the Dugoni School of Dentistry made a major philosophical and practical change to the way it educates its students through the development of the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum. This new approach places a strong focus on active learning and critical thinking by integrating multiple disciplinary areas. The goal is to move toward small-group, case-based learning as a signature pedagogy. The process of developing the new curriculum also called for a complete review of the clinical practice model to make sure that this important component of the school’s educational program was staying on the leading edge of dental education.

“A major component of the development of the clinical practice strand of the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum is to serve as the practical laboratory to integrate the practice management curriculum into the student private practices,” said Dr. Nader Nadershahi, executive associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs. “Students are not only learning to manage the diagnosis and delivery of care, but also the management skills to develop and maintain a productive practice.”

In early 2009, a task force was created to look at the existing clinical teaching model and make recommendations on the organization and management of the system. As part of its background work, the task force performed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the clinic system. The group also discussed issues such as faculty coverage, student and faculty attendance, and differences in teaching between the second- and third-year clinics. A separate task force reviewed the resulting recommendations (See Master Plan sidebar) and developed an implementation plan.

The task force teams identified strengths in the current clinic teaching system that the new model retains or improves upon. These current strengths include excellent clinical training; a humanistic approach to education; comprehensive patient-centered care; the school’s generalist model and the use of specialists for difficult cases as in private practice.

Educational and Operational Benefits

The new clinical model is designed to be truly patient centered, stressing the “ownership” of the patient’s care by all treating and supervising team members. The new model will provide some flexibility in teaching and allow all members to capitalize on their personal strengths. It will also tie into the Helix Curriculum through the integration of clinical, biomedical, and behavioral sciences, and ensure careful supervision of patient care, with meticulous safety precautions during all clinical procedures. In addition, the new model will better ensure adequate patient distribution among students.

Delivery of services will also be adjusted. The services offered in the comprehensive care setting will be expanded to include simple procedures in the disciplines of endodontics, oral surgery, periodontics, removable prosthodontics, implants and orthodontics, which will decrease the number of referrals outside of the Main Clinic to other specialists in the school. This change will ensure continuity of care for the patients and also better reflects what happens in private dental practices. Furthermore, it will increase the value of the specialists, which in the new model will supervise only more complex procedures, where their expertise can be best utilized.

The new clinical model is designed to be truly patient centered, stressing the “ownership” of the patient’s care by all treating and supervising team members.

Under the new model, the screening and emergency care rotation will be absorbed into the normal student workload. This will allow students to treat and follow up with their own emergency patients. As in private practice, emergency patients will be seen when time allows. This means that students who have cancellations or “no show” patients can still have learning experiences. Patients will be screened by teams, which will allow faculty to assign new patients as needed within the team.

Another key benefit of the reorganized clinic model is the strengthening of team spirit, thanks to the inclusion of a strong leader who organizes huddles and monitors each team. A more hands-on approach will increase knowledge about individual students and allow for small problems to be handled before they grow to impact learning and patient care.

Another change will involve patient scheduling. Rather than having students schedule appointments on their own, the school is moving toward staff-managed and technology-assisted appointments. Lightweight laptops will be available for staff to use chairside to make next appointments for patients. Plus, touchscreen monitors have already been installed in the patient reception lobby for use by patients to check in. The electronic check in will be a more convenient and quicker way for patients to check into the clinic, compared to waiting in line at the lobby reception desk.

All of these operational changes are expected to increase chair utilization and decrease complaints from patients about not being seen by their own student dentists. The shift to smaller and more collaborative teams is also expected to lead to a decrease in waiting times for students looking for supervision by faculty. Thanks to these changes, the school expects clinic productivity to increase by 10%.

A Commitment to Delivering the New Model

The changes in the clinic model, and the resulting new policies and protocol, will require significant cross-training among faculty, staff and students.

“Everyone is interested in how the changes will impact them,” said Fredekind.  “We’re keeping the lines of communication open with students, faculty and staff as we move forward. We’re open to feedback and want to make sure that the overall implementation will ultimately enhance the experience of both students and patients.”

The dental school expects to fully implement the new clinic model by July 2012, with minor adjustments as needed subsequently. However, while the clinic will run differently, the changes do not mean an immediate end to the sea of chairs in the clinic. The switch to the new model will not be complete until after the school takes occupancy of new facilities in the future. Then, it will more adequately have physical space that allows for the new distribution of eight teams with physically separate clinic spaces.

While the school incorporates the new model within its existing facilities, there may be some bumps along the way. A sea change does not guarantee smooth sailing! However, the faculty, staff, students and administration are committed to this clinic transformation and excited about what the future holds for education and patient care at the school.

Dan Soine is Director of Marketing & Communications at the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?

By Stan Constantino

Behind Pacific’s unique culture, there are extraordinary students. Behind every admitted DDS student there is the Office of Student Services. Student Services has created its own humanistic brand that mentors, encourages and inspires the next generation of dentists and dental students.

The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry has a rich tradition of producing the best and brightest dentists in the profession, but not all students came looking for a career in dentistry.

If you asked Dr. Chris Nelson ’09 what he thought about dentistry when he was a college student he would have said, “dull.” Crafting an ideal prep for an amalgam restoration? “It’s as interesting as poking holes in a paper with a pencil.”

“Dentistry had been simply the family business, a career my father and his father both enjoyed,” Nelson said. “I knew dentistry combined the science, leadership and business management I desired in a career, yet I was reluctant to pursue it.”

Nelson wasn’t the only one disinclined to pursue dentistry. Dr. Daniel McMillan ’06 exclaimed, “I wanted to make a lot of money and be an actor like Tony Danza!”

“I was into music growing up, but I loved animals too,” added Dr. Jenika Hatcher ’08.

Despite having different, endearing childhood aspirations, Hatcher, McMillan and Nelson landed on the same path—at the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

The dental school’s Office of Student Services, under the leadership of Associate Dean Kathy Candito, has a long history of inspiring and educating potential students through innovative and engaging programs. The Student Services staff of 10, who have a combined 110 years of service at the dental school, also oversees other services including financial aid, insurance, health care and housing.

“We are dedicated to developing and fostering relationships with students who show promise of meeting the oral healthcare needs of the communities they’ll eventually serve,” said Candito, who recently became one of the first women to be named associate dean in the school’s 115-year history. “One of our objectives is to provide these students opportunities to motivate them for a career in dentistry and mentor them in hopes of getting into a dental school—it’s an added bonus if it happens to be at Pacific.”

Predental Clinical Simulation Course

The predental clinical simulation course is a two-day program designed for prospective students to gain hands-on clinical experience and insight into the dental profession as well as dental school.

Taught by current dental students, course activities include: a Class I preparation on an ivorine tooth using high-speed hand pieces and other instruments; amalgam condensation into a Class I restoration on an ivorine tooth; detection of basic interproximal caries on X-rays; and using composite, tooth-colored restorative material and articulating paper.

Last year, the course admitted 60 participants and had 30 people on the waiting list. Predental students come from throughout the United States to attend this highly desirable and innovative program that yields rave reviews.

“The moment I began drilling, I realized with amazing clarity that dentistry was actually fun! With every spin of the bur I was filled with more excitement,” said Nelson, a third-generation graduate of Pacific, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Dr. Leon Nelson ’60 and father Dr. Mike Nelson ’81. “Taking the predental clinical simulation course at the dental school was the deciding factor for me.”

Armed with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence, Nelson began paving his way to dental school. He immediately joined the predental club at University of California at Davis and later became its president. As a student at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Nelson was active in student government and became involved with numerous outreach and admissions programs, including the predental clinical simulation course that sealed his professional fate.

Dental Camp

In partnership with the California Dental Association, Student Services hosts a day-long dental camp for middle school and high school students to expose them to the dental profession. During the hands-on program, students take impressions of their own teeth, make cavity preparations and learn how to perform oral cancer screenings. Every year, more than 30 students from across the San Francisco Bay Area participate in this event.

Pacific Pride Day

Pacific Pride Day, the dental school’s annual open house, attracts up to 600 prospective students and their families every year. Attendees get an intimate look at the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s educational program through hands-on demonstrations in the preclinical simulation laboratory, student-led tours and information sessions about admissions and financial aid. Participants have lunch with the dean and learn about student life through a panel discussion with current students.

“As a first-year student, I was a host and tour guide at Pacific Pride Day. I really enjoyed it because some of the students on my tour ended up becoming Pacific dental students,” described McMillan, who is now a faculty member at Pacific and practices in Brentwood, California.

“Some of the reasons I chose to apply to Pacific werethe amazing people and indescribable energy and support I felt when I met people associated with the school and when I attended Pacific Pride Day,” said Keon Aghar, Class of 2014. “It’s a special place. Despite how tired and stressed I am at this moment, I really love this place. I just don’t understand how that is possible.”

Developing Connections

At universities and colleges throughout the Western United States, Student Services amplifies its outreach efforts by strategically hosting large admissions and general information sessions for prospective students, especially at predental clubs and honor societies. The two-hour visits usually feature an official presentation followed by a question and answer session. Student Services also participates in career fairs, graduate school and pre-health professions information programs and college advisor meetings.

I hadn’t even thought about being a dentist, but after the presentation, I wanted to be one…I wanted to go to Pacific.”
– Dr. John Kim DDS ’04

In 2010, the staff visited a total of 17 colleges and universities, which attracted more than 500 attendees.

“While other recruitment tools, like online forums and social media, are becoming more prevalent, we believe that building personal relationships with potential students is very important,” said Candito. “Not only do these visits help us find the best and the brightest students, it gives us the opportunity to mentor and nurture students who are undecided on a specific health professions career.”

Dr. John Kim ’04 can attest to the value of developing connections. “As a child growing up in a family of physicians, medicine was always in the back of my mind. But in college I wasn’t so sure anymore. Although, I knew I wanted to stay in the health sciences,” Kim remembered. “By my junior year, Craig (Dr. Craig Yarborough), then associate dean for student services] visited our campus and made a presentation to our health professions study club. The school, the faculty, everyone and everything we learned about Pacific was amazing. I hadn’t even thought about being a dentist, but after the presentation, I wanted to be one … I wanted to go to Pacific.”

Kim eventually matriculated at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, but also received more than what he expected during dental school. After graduation, he married classmate Dr. Misty Cervantes ’04.  Both have thriving practices in Seattle and are raising two children.

Hatcher, who is a dental associate with La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland, California, recalled her first encounter with Pacific and echoed Kim’s sentiments. “When Pacific came to present to us at UC Davis, everyone was so nice  and so warm. I told myself if everyone there is like this, I want to go to school there,” said Hatcher, who was offered admission to several schools throughout the country.

“When I interviewed at Pacific, I fell in love with everyone in admissions and the school. Everyone is genuinely nice. The ‘happy air’ rumors were true,” Hatcher recalled. “Interviewing at other schools was a completely different experience.”


Built around the dental school’s core value of humanism, Student Services, current students and alumni personify the “Pacific family.”

“The family environment is one of the greatest drivers of the dental school’s success in enrolling talented students and producing excellent clinicians,” added Candito. “It is also the talented and hardworking Student Services staff, the administration’s vision and the invaluable foundation built by Dr. Craig Yarborough when he was in the position of associate dean for student services.”

“There’s always a sense of family in dental school that continues after graduation,” added Kim. “After I graduated and started as an associate in private practice, I met Dr. Ron Redmond who is a Pacific regent and graduate. Instantaneously, he became a great mentor, a huge factor in my success and my growth. There’s a ‘Pacific type’ and no other dental school can exemplify that.”

“Dr. Art Dugoni used to talk about the magic at Pacific,” McMillan added. “After I graduated and became a faculty member, the first day I pulled up to the school, I thought, ‘the magic is still here.’”

Stan Constantino is assistant director of admissions for the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

It’s A Small World After All: Dugoni School Initiatives Go Global

By Eric K. Curtis, DDS, MA

For some time now, the planet’s skin has been tightening. It’s as if the whole earth has been trying to merge and integrate, even coalesce, at least in terms of connectivity and commerce. The telephone made the world accessible. Television made the world familiar. Jet propulsion made the world small. The personal computer made the world—as journalist Thomas Friedman famously phrased it—flat. These days, the world is more open and competitive than ever before, and on its newly level, equal-opportunity playing field the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry lately has been busy exercising, reaching out in fresh, exciting directions. The world is reaching back. Welcome to Pacific’s world of global initiatives in dental education.

The dental school has a long history of promoting international relationships. When I graduated in 1985, faculty members Walter Hall and Don Strub encouraged me to apply for a position at the dental polyclinic of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I would follow a string of Pacific grads, including Drs. Woody Isch ’84, Bill Dorfman ’83, Karin Hansen ’83 and Paul Griffith ’82, into the pale green corridors of the Service Odonto-stomatologique. In 1987 the school brought its cross-cultural proclivities home when it inaugurated the International Dental Studies (IDS) program, enabling foreign-trained dentists to earn a DDS degree in the U.S. The Dugoni School of Dentistry’s international orientation went from program to policy with the development of its 2007 Strategic Plan, which identified as a key directional goal “to become an international leader in educational innovation and professional development.”

Yet even in their nascent stages, Dugoni School of Dentistry’s international initiatives have already yielded significant fruit. “We’re interested in these relationships because both sides grow,” says Nadershahi.

A clutch of congruent interests moved the school to that intercontinental tipping point. Pacific’s main campus in Stockton, launching its own University-wide international initiative, the Global Project of Professional Development, supported the dental school taking a central role in world outreach projects. The dental school’s strategic planning committees realized that transborder connections would neatly serve all seven of the school’s declared core values—humanism, innovation, leadership, reflection, stewardship, collaboration and philanthropy. Dean Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr. brought with him a strong interest in the international cross-pollination of ideas. (In 2009, for instance, Ferrillo gave a presentation in Rio de Janeiro, “Leading Global Change in Undergraduate and Postgraduate Cariology Education,” at a conference initiating an ambitious 10-year enterprise called the Global Caries Initiative.) And a new generation of dental students, eager to make improvements in the world, was itching to organize trips to developing countries, and students in fact were already making them on their own to places like Guatemala, Peru and the Philippines. “The world has flattened,” says Ferrillo, “and we have the kind of motivated, far-seeing people at the Dugoni School of Dentistry who feel an obligation to share and then go out looking for opportunities. They continuously want to do more.”

As a result, the dental school is now engaged in a number of collaborative educational projects around the world, from the Pacific Rim to the Middle East. One strong sign of the dental school’s commitment was its agreement in 2009 to house the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations (IFDEA), a 15-year-old organization of several hundred dental schools worldwide previously operated through the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Ferrillo, who is currently IFDEA president, named Dr. Anders Nattestad, professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and director of global initiatives at the dental school, as IFDEA executive director. IFDEA’s presence at Pacific also helps facilitate school-sponsored leadership programs for international faculty and administrators. Dental school representatives, including Drs. Ferrillo and Nattestad, Executive Associate Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94, IFDEA vice president, and Foundation Board Member and past Alumni Association President Colin Wong, traveled to China in 2009 to sign a collaborative agreement to develop student and faculty exchanges with the School and Hospital of Stomatology at Wenzhou Medical College, which had already previously sent representatives to the Dugoni School of Dentistry several times. Their visit to China also included meetings and lectures at the Guanghua School Stomatology at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

The strategic planning process itself made the dental school’s international inclusivity easy to envision.
Dr. Karl Haden, founder and president of the Academy for Academic Leadership in Atlanta, the strategic plan’s facilitator, also teaches leadership development courses to the dental school faculty that educators from other U.S. institutions also attend. “We have already been including faculty from other schools,” notes Nattestad. “It was natural for us to say, ‘Why don’t we expand?’”

Expansion, indeed. While it regularly welcomes visiting international educators, the Dugoni School of Dentistry recently contracted with the University of Kuwait to provide a much more comprehensive service—a five-year faculty training program. Nadershahi points out that the program will not be the prelude to a brain drain. “We want to develop their graduates to return and become leaders in their own educational institution,” he explains. Young Kuwaiti dental faculty members—one has currently begun and another is scheduled to begin in summer 2011, while a third has gone through the graduate orthodontics program—will spend two years in the AEGD program to learn how our graduates deliver dental care, absorbing not only techniques and materials but also American dental culture and attitudes toward high standards of care. Program participants will then undergo two years of graduate work in education in conjunction with Pacific’s Benerd School of Education, and one year more in practicum teaching back at the dental school, where they will practice managing educational programs.

While the dental school has fostered relationships with schools in China, Japan, Kuwait and Thailand, among others—in 2010 Nadershahi reported to the Alumni Association that 13 initiatives have been started with other dental schools around the world—one of its most shining examples of a sustained, multi-factorial alliance is in Egypt. In 2003 Dr. Enaya Shararah, professor at the University of Alexandria Faculty of Dentistry in Eygpt, was traveling in California and contacted Dr. Eugene LaBarre of Pacific’s Department of Removable Prosthodontics. LaBarre, who had been to Egypt several times with his college rowing team in a show of Cold War-era “ping pong diplomacy,” was willing to talk. Over the course of several visits, Shararah, who hoped to foster a connection with a U.S. dental school to help improve dental education in the Middle East, took a great liking to the faculty and teaching methods at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. She subsequently invited LaBarre to an Egyptian dental conference, during which she took him on a tour of a half-dozen local dental schools. By 2006, Shararah had become affiliated with a new private dental college, Pharos University Faculty of Dentistry, which was deeply interested in getting Pacific’s input.

Dental school participants were careful to respect their hosts’ sensitivities, but the Pharos faculty was eager to learn. “They recognized that they had profound needs in curriculum and faculty development, in recognizing and teaching high standards,” LaBarre says. “We realized that improvements that start in the school will ripple out into society in the form of better dental care.” LaBarre visited Pharos University Faculty of Dentistry with Nadershahi and Dr. Terry Hoover, vice chair of the Department of Dental Practice. The Dugoni School of Dentistry drew up an agreement to cooperate with the new Egyptian school, offering advice, support and curriculum development materials; exchanging faculty and students; and eventually developing joint research projects.

In 2009 two groups of dental faculty and students from Pharos University completed two-week summer visits to San Francisco, where they participated in classes and labs at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. The Egyptian students attended specially designed seminars—in which they studied the management of such problems as pit and fissure defects and when to extract third molars in young adults—culminating in presentation of case reports and treatment plans in front of Dugoni students. Ferrillo observes that all parties benefit from this kind of exchange of people and information. “Their faculty and students learn our integrated curriculum and our humanistic model of education, which is nonexistent in the rest of the world,” he says. LaBarre thinks the process itself is instructive. “This is training for us,” he says, “in how to interact and cooperate with a developing institution in the developing world.” And now, Shararah is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Removable Prosthodontics at the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Another expression of the dental school’s international spirit is its formalization of student mission trips to developing countries like Fiji. Nattestad and Eve Cuny, director of environmental health and safety, are working out issues of insurance, travel safety, local government cooperation and allocation and transportation of instruments, supplies and equipment to transform such trips, previously organized outside the school’s auspices by the students themselves, into official Dugoni School of Dentistry delegations. His ambitions for such student ventures are much higher than simply organizing a few happy days of extracting teeth. “We would like to avoid ‘hit-and-run dentistry’ that doesn’t sustain itself,” Nattestad says. “We will try to build local centers for care and patient education—along with alliances with other U.S. schools to help support them—that will last after we go home.”

Many elements of the dental school’s strategic plan, of course, are still only beginning. Yet even in their nascent stages, Dugoni School of Dentistry’s international initiatives have already yielded significant fruit. “We’re interested in these relationships because both sides grow,” says Nadershahi. “They have to be beneficial not only to those we collaborate with, but to our faculty and students as well, to broaden their outlook and cross-cultural competency.” One reward is perspective, which demands an open mind and even a healthy dose of humility. “We can protect the strength of our education and delivery models by comparing and collaborating,” Nadershahi says.
“We can’t just close our eyes and assume we’re doing everything right.”

While he is quick to characterize current progress as modest, LaBarre expresses a deep satisfaction with his international work. “The whole experience,” he says, “including changes in the thinking process itself—for us, as well as them—is rich beyond what I can describe. I have a lot of pride that we have done something very positive.”

Nadershahi likewise sees great potential for good in the school’s increasingly international bent. “Our goal is to raise the bar for education,” he says, “which leads to improved teaching, which raises the level of care, which ultimately improves access to care. This is an important legacy we can leave for the future of oral health.”

Dr. Eric K. Curtis ’85 of Stafford, Arizona, is a regular contributor to Contact Point and is the author of A Century of Smiles, a book covering the dental school’s first 100 years.

Dan O’Neill: Practicing Dentistry on the Frontline

If you graduated from dental school three decades ago, you might be at the point in your career where you’re starting to think about taking things a little easier and even looking ahead to retirement. On the other hand, if you’re Dan O’Neill ’81, you might find yourself in Afghanistan treating the men and women of the U.S. and coalition forces, including Bulgarian, Canadian, British, Spanish and French soldiers, as well as contractors.

After graduation, O’Neill took the Canadian boards and practiced in Canada for a year before turning to his hometown of Butte to start a private practice. He joined the Montana Army National Guard in 2008, after being informed that the Army Dental Corps was at a little more than 50% strength. It was a patriotic and adventurous opportunity for him.

The most inspiring benefit for O’Neill has been meeting and treating U.S. service men and women in all branches — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, especially those at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan. He has also volunteered to give a one-hour course on dental emergencies to all the medics and staff at the troop medical clinic (or TMC). His most interesting case, however, was not human. Recently he did an endodontic procedure on the canine… of a canine. The patient, one of the dogs belonging to the Special Forces, was treated successfully in one visit.

“It has been a terrific experience for me in a lot of little ways,” says O’Neill. Not that his service in Afghanistan wasn’t also nerve-wracking at times. “We have not received mortar or rocket attacks here at Camp Phoenix since I’ve been here, [but] some of our sister camps have on occasion.”

O’Neill currently remains in private practice and has a locum tenens dentist, retired from the Navy, covering the practice during his deployment. Future plans include attending the dental school’s annual Alumni Meeting and 30-year Class Reunion in March 2011 in San Francisco. No doubt he will have more interesting tales to tell!