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Our Living Legacy

Legacy can be defined as something handed down from one generation to another. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”

At the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, we see legacy in action every day as faculty and staff work with students to pass along time-tested techniques and as they also discover new knowledge through research and best practices.

I hope you enjoy this issue of Contact Point, which includes articles about our legacy and our future. We profile alumnus Frank A. Brucia ’44A and the new loyalty society launched in his name, explore some hot topics about the future of our profession, share news about global collaborations and show how our alumni are making an impact in the field of sports dentistry.

Speaking of sports, one of our great legacy events—the 20th Annual Kids in the Klinic Golf Classic—was held in October at The Olympic Club. This event raises funds to provide oral health education and treatment for underserved children. We thank all of you who were able to join us on the links or otherwise support the cause.

As we take time to reflect on our successful past, it is also important for us to evolve and grow as an organization. This will ensure our legacy stays strong for future generations. Our legacy is not carved in stone; rather it is an ongoing, living treasure that we are all part of each day as members of the Dugoni School family.


Nader A. Nadershahi ’94, DDS, MBA, EdD


Members of the Team

by Kathleen A. Barrows

We are all familiar with classic images of our sports heroes: Stephen Curry, with a mouthguard hanging from his mouth. Or maybe it’s a hockey player sporting a toothless smile. But most fans don’t even know there’s such a thing as a team dentist for professional sports teams.

It wasn’t until 1983 that sports dentistry came into its own with the establishment of the Academy for Sports Dentistry. Now, aided by technological advances in equipment, more and more professional sports teams are paying attention to issues of players’ safety and dental health.

We interviewed four alumni of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, representing five professional teams in the Bay Area, who are responsible for the dental health of our local sports heroes, to better understand what their job entails and hear some amusing behind-the-scenes stories.

Dr. Samuel Thacher ’99 knew nothing about sports dentistry until about 10 years ago when a patient of his, at his private practice located a block from AT&T Park, asked if he was the San Francisco Giants team dentist. Intrigued, he called the existing team dentist, whose name, much to Thacher’s amusement, happened to be Dr. Les Plack. Plack became his friend and mentor. Thacher later took over the job in 2012, after attending his first Sports Dentistry Symposium in 2010. Today, his prized possession is a 2014 diamond-encrusted San Francisco Giants World Series championship ring.

[pullquote]Dr. Samuel Thacher ’99 knew nothing about sports dentistry until about 10 years ago when a patient of his, at his private practice located a block from AT&T Park, asked if he was the San Francisco Giants team dentist.[/pullquote]

Thacher admits that his job is “more boring than those other guys”—the team dentists who work with football, basketball and hockey players. Baseball-related dental injuries are rare as there is not a lot of violent contact involving the head and neck. Also, during the occasional times when players can’t rely on non-verbal signals, they don’t want a mouthguard to interfere with shouting, if necessary. The most common baseball-related dental issue stems from chewing tobacco.

Thacher finds the white striations on the inner lip that result from this habit occur in a much higher percentage of baseball players as compared to the general population, despite the efforts by Major League Baseball to curb tobacco use.

The Giants team trainers—Dave Groeschner and Anthony Reyes—are Thacher’s point of contact with the team. The league mandates that team dentists be on call for home games and conduct pre-season screenings, with most of the latter being done by Arizona-based dentists during spring training. Thacher has only had two instances of emergency sports-related trauma in his five years with the Giants.

Most of his interaction with the team, then, is for routine dental situations, such as exams and pain-related issues. He sees not only the players, trainers and coaches, but also their extended families, given that many players bring family members with them to the San Francisco Bay Area during the baseball season.

One of Thacher’s most memorable experiences as team dentist came in 2014 on the day the Giants won the pennant.  One of the starting pitchers came into his office with a chipped tooth, after having opened a bag of sunflower seeds with his teeth. Within 15 minutes of his departure, the news of his dental procedure was all over social media. Later that evening when the pitcher ran out onto the field, blocking Travis Ishikawa from reaching home plate after a home run, the explanation was that he was still foggy from his morning dental visit.

As someone who has loved baseball since he played it as a kid, Thacher says his role is not about being “the dentist to the stars.” What he enjoys is “talking about baseball with the guys, one-on-one.” He keeps a wiffle ball and bat in his office, which he has used to take batting practice from a pitcher, and enjoys watching the fist bumps and man hugs exchanged between two baseball players crossing paths in his office. First and foremost, he says, “I’m a fan.”

Every Warriors fan can’t help but wonder how many mouthguards Stephen Curry goes through in a basketball game. One person who can answer that question is Dr. Todd Yerondopoulos ’96, team dentist for the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland Raiders. He’s a very busy man, attending all Warriors and Raiders home games, as well as three Raiders away games each season.

[pullquote]Every Warriors fan can’t help but wonder how many mouthguards Stephen Curry goes through in a basketball game.[/pullquote]

When Yerondopoulos first took over the job from Dr. Derric DesMarteau ’90, nine years ago before DesMarteau’s passing, only one professional basketball player used mouthpieces. Today, at least half the players on the Warriors team use the device. Now, “it’s cool to wear them,” he says, “even if, for Steph, it’s something to chew on rather than to protect his teeth.” He estimates having made “quite a few hundred mouthguards” during the star’s first four years with the team. Following the auction sale of one of his used mouthguards for $3,000, Curry once joked that they could both quit their jobs and make money just throwing them out to the fans.

But it’s not just about mouthpieces. Compared to football or baseball, dental injuries are more common in basketball—where elbows to the face can involve the teeth. It is Yerondopoulos who has final say about whether a player with a mouth injury can return to play. Sitting a couple of rows back from the court, he is always within eye contact with trainers should an athlete have a problem.

Similarly for Raiders football games, Yerondopoulos stands on the sidelines, arriving one and half hours before the game. He’s always ready for a text or call from the trainers, should a player lose a crown or temporary filling or need pain relief.

One of his favorite football stories relates to a lost tooth. Early on with the Raiders, during an away-game in Chicago, Yerondopoulos received a call at home during the third quarter while watching the game on TV.  It was the team orthopedist asking what to do with a permanent tooth that had popped out when a player took a hit. Yerondopoulos immediately responded, “Put it back.” When the player appeared the following morning in his office, one of his front teeth was one centimeter longer than the others. Only then did Yerondopoulos learn that the player, without notifying anyone of the mishap, had first tried unsuccessfully to locate the tooth himself on the field. Referees miraculously found the tooth, but it only went back in his mouth after the player’s post-game shower. As it turned out, an implant was later required.

Yerondopoulos says, “Our office is not that much different from the average dental office. We just see more sports-related injuries, like chipped or avulsed teeth.”  Of course his name is out there more, and his other patients may see an athlete sitting in the reception area. And with an 11-year-old son who plays basketball and baseball, he offers young athletes free, custom-made mouthpieces with the logo and color of their choice. “We’re just trying to keep them—the players and all our patients—healthy and happy.”

Dr. Mark Nishimura ’99, the team dentist for the San Jose Sharks admits that he didn’t know much about ice hockey until he joined the Sharks staff as team dentist.  But now, after two seasons with them, he’s come to appreciate the quick pace and physicality of the game. “It’s a dangerous sport,” he explains. “When there’s a facial injury, it’s usually serious.” So he’s grateful for the amazing team of health professionals he works with: a general dentist, oral surgeon and endodontist, as well as an orthopedic surgeon, emergency doctor and family physician. “They are all available on a moment’s notice.”

Although hockey players wear helmets and visors, there is nothing else protecting their faces except for their mouthguards. A flying puck that can travel more than 100 miles per hour, a hit from the carbon fiber sticks used in the game or cuts from sharp skates or even the sharp edge of the player’s own protective face shield—all can cause serious facial injuries.

[pullquote]Although hockey players wear helmets and visors, there is nothing else protecting their faces except for their mouthguards.[/pullquote]

Nishimura’s primary function is “to get the player back on the ice as soon as possible.” In an emergency situation, this can consist of immediate treatment in the locker room 1) with no further follow-up; 2) with after-hours treatment at his office; or 3) with office time and further collaboration with specialists. Nishimura also provides general and preventive dentistry for the team and staff.

He laughs when he recounts a story about Brent Burns, who is known for his sense of humor.  As he was walking Burns out of his office, the famous defensive player joked with some girls outside, warning them with his big toothless grin and pointing to Nishimura, “Do NOT go to that guy!” Luckily, the girls were the daughters of the dentist upstairs, who happens to be a Sharks season ticketholder.

Nishimura’s first introduction to sports dentistry came back in 2001 when he was training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  He was asked to make a mouthguard for a then-unknown mixed martial arts fighter named B.J. Penn, who was making his debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s been making mouthguards ever since.

Nishimura and his wife, Dr. Tiffany Kitamura ’99, run a family dental practice in San Jose. When he started his practice 12 years ago, he also signed up to provide dental services for the County of Santa Clara. In the public health setting, Nishimura was able to gain valuable experience with trauma and surgery, which would later help him as a National Hockey League team dentist. He still works two days a month for the county.

Hockey keeps Nishimura busy during the season. He is on call for 41 games a season and is present for most of the games, where he sits above the bench in seats accessible to the locker room or in the locker room itself. Though he has the option, he doesn’t travel with the team. Nishimura also oversees the San Jose Barracudas, the Sharks minor league hockey team.

After more than five years of treating one hundred National Football League players, coaches and office personnel, Dr. David Meng ’04 was selected as the official team dentist for the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year. It’s an appointment he calls “a privilege, honor and tremendous opportunity” and he hopes to continue working with the team for many more years to come.

[pullquote]After more than five years of treating one hundred National Football League players, coaches and office personnel, Dr. David Meng ’04 was selected as the official team dentist for the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year.[/pullquote]

An athlete his entire life, whose sports repertoire has included tennis, basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, swimming and skiing, Meng recalls having quite a few bumps and bruises over the years. He’s grateful to his parents for insisting that he always wear the appropriate protective gear and mouthguards. He still stresses how important it is for all athletes, both amateur and professional, to use properly fitted custom sports mouthguards to help prevent oral facial injuries.

He has also been an avid sports spectator and San Francisco 49er fan since childhood. His most memorable encounter treating atheletes was in 2013, when the 49ers played in the Super Bowl. Meng describes how a few days before the big game, many of the players came by his office to “prepare their smiles for the upcoming media attention.” The excitement was palpable, with the feeling of an “uplifting and cohesive camaraderie” shared by the players. “It was amazing,” he says “to partake in such a glorious moment with the NFL players.”

Meng has been a 49ers season ticket holder for years, a tradition he never plans to give up. During the games this season, however, it will be different. He will be sitting on the field, making sure the players receive the dental attention they need.

He and his wife, Kelly, a graduate of Pacific’s Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy, work together at their Silicon Valley dental practice. They also have four young children, ranging in age from one to six years. Needless to say, when the time comes, their mouths will be well protected as they follow in their father’s footsteps.

Despite the differences among sports, the teams and their dental needs, the Dugoni School of Dentistry alumni agree—being a team dentist is exciting, fun and professionally satisfying. They are there to give the best quality care to the professional athletes and all their patients. And being a “member of the team,” no matter how time-consuming, is a wonderful extra perk.

Kathleen A. Barrows, an East Bay freelance writer, is a contributor to Contact Point.

Striving for Excellence

By Kara A. Sanchez

Clinical excellence is a hallmark of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, as the school prides itself on producing outstanding, clinically trained dentists. During the rigorous, three-year curriculum, students develop the tools they need to adapt to an ever-changing world, where new skills and knowledge are required to keep pace with advancing technology and the challenges faced by an increasingly diverse population.

“As a group practice leader, I am in a privileged position to be part of our students’ journey,” said Dr. Des Gallagher, assistant professor and group practice leader. “Each day, I see the students grow and develop as they interact with their patient family to provide outstanding, patient-centered care to each person as if they were a close relative. I am humbled by their passion, drive and willingness to always strive for the best outcome.”

On May 31, Dugoni School of Dentistry students showcased their best in patient care at Excellence Day, a long-standing tradition where students share their clinical accomplishments with faculty, staff, classmates, friends, alumni and other guests. “Excellence Day is a culmination of our students’ efforts in clinical care of patients, research and community service,” said Dr. Nathan Yang ’06, assistant professor and coordinator of Excellence Day. “Through the guidance of dedicated faculty, the patients of our school and the community we are apart of; the students present their endeavors to the entire Dugoni School community. I am ecstatic to have participated as a student and now, as a faculty member, to coordinate one of the crown jewel events here at the dental school.”


“Excellence Day is a culmination of our students’ efforts in clinical care of patients, research and community service,”


Many students invited one of their patients to participate in the program to showcase the successful treatment in person. Faculty judges recognized clinical achievements in categories such as aesthetic dentistry, implant dentistry, complex restorative, removable prosthodontics and endodontics. In addition, the Dr. Henry A. Sutro Award for Best Oral Rehabilitation Design was presented to the top three senior students in each group practice, and an overall winner was announced at the Alumni/Graduate Banquet in June. More than $40,000 was awarded to the winning students, thanks to generous funding from the Dr. Henry Sutro Endowment. The late Dr. Henry Sutro, an alumnus from the Class of 1950, was an ardent supporter of the dental school.

“Working on this patient’s case was very instrumental in facilitating my growth as a dentist,” said Dr. Spencer Hiura ’17, overall Sutro award-winner for outstanding presentation. “I appreciate the faculty members who helped me work on this case, such as Dr. Sadowsky, Dr. Vallee and Dr. Kachalia, who gave me so much guidance. I felt so honored to win the overall Sutro Award and I will continue to give my best to provide clinical excellence to my patients going forward.”

Yang adds, “Year after year, the event never ceases to amaze me and what our dental students have the potential to accomplish.” We invite you to take a look at the outstanding clinical cases from several Sutro award-winners, all from the Class of 2017.

Collaborations Grow with China

In addition to its other international activities, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry continues to expand relationships with partners in China through collaboration, education and cultural exchanges. Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 recently announced the appointment of Eve Cuny as assistant dean for global relations and Dr. Colin Wong ’65 as vice dean for China-U.S. relations.

In January, Cuny, Wong and Dr. Elliot Xia ’00 IDS traveled to Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of China to meet with faculty members of the West China College of Stomatology and members of the California Center, an organization that promotes U.S.-China business relations. They discussed possible collaborations including student exchanges and academic opportunities related to the opening of a new school to train dental technicians and dental hygienists in nearby Ziyang. The group visited the site of the future technical college which is contained within a larger dental complex that will include manufacturing of dental equipment, distribution, testing and many other dental-related endeavors.

In June, Cuny visited Chengdu again, where she continued discussions with West China College of Stomatology and the Ziyang city authorities regarding collaboration on the potential dental hygiene program. While she was there, California Governor Jerry Brown, in Sichuan to discuss California’s continued collaboration with the Sichuan Province, attended a breakfast hosted by the California Center. The organization is deeply involved in the California-Sichuan relationship to promote education, health care, clean energy, environmental stewardship and technology.

On July 10 at the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s San Francisco campus, the Governor of Sichuan and former member of the Chinese Ministry of Health, Dr. Li Yin, attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the West China College of Stomatology. Dean Nader A. Nadershahi ’94 also signed an MOU with the Tianfu Technical College, where the potential dental hygiene program will be housed, if realized. The dental school hosted a large group of dental industry leaders, Sichuan Province government officials and West China College of Stomatology leadership for the one-day meeting in San Francisco.

[pullquote]On July 10 at the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s San Francisco campus, the Governor of Sichuan and former member of the Chinese Ministry of Health, Dr. Li Yin, attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the West China College of Stomatology.[/pullquote]

Students and faculty also recently participated in international exchanges with Chinese counterparts. Over the summer break, Class of 2018 students Derek Appelblatt, Stefka Bozhinov, Jonny Volland and Jacob Woodward attended an international dental summer camp at the West China College of Stomatology in Chengdu held during the first two weeks of July. They joined other dental students from around the world in a program that fosters understanding and collegiality among students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

In addition, the Dugoni School of Dentistry completed an agreement to provide faculty presenters at a special one-week program of lectures to Chinese faculty, students and residents as part of Sun Yat-Sen University School of Stomatology’s efforts to foster bilingual education for its faculty, residents and students. The highly successful program featured faculty members Drs. Gene LaBarre, Anders Nattestad, Ray Scott and Adrian Vogt ’92, ’94 Ortho. The program took place in June in Guangzhou, China.

Ojcius Leads Research Team

A new leadership team is now in place to help guide the future of research at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Dr. David Ojcius, chair of the Department of Biomedical Sciences, was recently named to a new role as assistant dean for research. He will continue to serve as department chair in addition to his new duties. Ojcius brings a wide range of research, scholarship and leadership skills to this role.

He completed his baccalaureate and PhD degrees in biophysics at University of California, Berkeley and two postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Rockefeller University. He then worked for 13 years at the Institut Pasteur in Paris and the University of Paris-Diderot, where he studied interactions between human pathogens and the host immune system and taught biochemistry, immunology, cell biology and microbiology.

Ojcius recently served as professor, chair and vice provost for academic personnel at University of California, Merced. He has a sustained record of scholarship and acquired $2,300,000 in funded research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as principal investigator since returning to the United States in 2004. He has served as a permanent member of the Oral, Dental and Craniofacial Sciences (ODCS) study section of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research/NIH for the past seven years.

He is also editor-in-chief of Microbes and Infection, a journal published by the Institut Pasteur, and serves on the editorial board of several journals that publish results from research in the biomedical sciences or projects related to sustainable development.

“Our goals are to increase the visibility of scholarship at our school, foster more collaborations between the clinical and basic sciences and align ourselves with national trends in research at dental schools, such as learning to use the oral cavity to diagnose non-oral diseases, “ says Ojcius. “This is an exciting period of growth in research on oral health, which is rich with opportunities for all of us.”

The research leadership team includes several others who are well known among the Dugoni School’s community of researchers.

Dr. Karen Schulze, associate professor in the Department of Preventive and Restorative Dentistry, is serving in a new role as director of clinical research. This position will offer the school enhanced leadership in all forms of clinical research opportunities and partnerships.

Dr. Nejat Düzgünes, professor of Biomedical Sciences, will continue to serve as director for student research, and Dr. Stefan Highsmith, professor of Biomedical Sciences, will continue to serve as research coordinator. Both of these individuals have extensive experience working with students, faculty, staff and the wider research community.

Ojcius says the leadership team is very open to input from the rest of the school about emerging strengths and other areas that could be developed into new research foci.

[pullquote]“This is an exciting period of growth in research on oral health, which is rich with opportunities for all of us.”[/pullquote]

The team looks to closely align its goals with key national trends in research at dental institutions and with the dental school’s new strategic plan. Before the winter break, Dr. Martha Somerman, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), visited the Dugoni School of Dentistry for the first time. This fruitful visit gave the team an opportunity to hear first-hand about high-level developments at the NIDCR. For example, one goal of the NIDCR is to expand the ability to use the oral cavity to diagnose non-oral diseases. NIDCR has identified other opportunities and trends in which the school hopes to become involved in coming years.

The team plans to increase extramural funding from federal sources and corporate partners, as well as work to leverage the University’s strategic focus on health sciences. “Research has become more complicated with important issues that need active, constant attention such as space allocation, budget management, interest in growing student research, efforts to obtain funding and many other issues,” said Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94. “We are excited to have this leadership team in place to help us navigate new opportunities in this area.”

Transforming Our Future

Spring is a season of new beginnings and reinvigoration; it’s also a time of transformation, growth and energy around the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

Our new strategic planning initiative, Transforming the Future of Oral Health Education, is bringing the Dugoni School of Dentistry family together to identify key strategic priorities that will pave the way for our continued success and identity in the future. Thank you to everyone who has provided input and shared feedback as the plan comes together. Your ideas, suggestions and feedback are critical to our success.

The students and residents of the Classes of 2017 have also been transformed. They have grown into competent and caring oral healthcare professionals. Their talents and drive will carry them far in their personal and professional lives. We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments during the upcoming commencement weekend in June.

As my first full academic year as dean comes to a close, I am filled with gratitude. It is such a pleasure to serve as your dean. Thank you to everyone who has stayed engaged with the Dugoni School of Dentistry and has supported our people and programs. We have an exciting future ahead of us.


Nader A. Nadershahi ’94, DDS, MBA, EdD Dean

Online Exhibit Showcases History of the Toothbrush

“Different Strokes for Different Folks: A History of the Toothbrush,” a new exhibit on the Dugoni School’s Virtual Dental Museum website, provides an in-depth look at the story of this deceptively simple tool, from the toothpicks of thousands of years ago to the introduction of electric toothbrushes in the 20th century.

While the concept of cleaning teeth and gums was not a hard sell (even in prehistoric times, humans used small sticks to do so), more recent technological developments initially met with some resistance. “For the average family the electric can opener is silly enough, but the electric toothbrush is stupidity on such a magnitude that it reflects a new, all-time low in the intelligence level of our American way of life,” wrote one Consumer Reports reader in 1962. However, electric toothbrushes ultimately prevailed, though they happily coexist with their manual brethren.

The exhibit, which can be viewed on the museum’s website at, joins several other online collections, including handpieces, dental chairs, Victorian-era business cards and other artifacts from dental history. More information about the collections is available on the school’s website. Students, alumni, researchers and dental professionals interested in studying the collections may contact Dr. Dorothy Dechant, curator and director of the Dugoni School’s Institute of Dental History and Craniofacial Study, at 415.929.6627 or

Gold Country Connections: History of a Pacific/Columbia Partnership

By Dorothy Dechant

Former University Provost Phil Gilbertson writes in the opening line of his recent book, Pacific on the Rise: the Story of California’s First University, “It all started with the Gold Rush of ’49.” By promoting education, the Methodist founders of the University had hoped to spread “civilizing” influences, and counter the gold-discovery-induced “unregulated greed and violence” to which San Francisco and surrounding areas had succumbed. Over time, as gold diminished and that frenzy subsided, Pacific established positive relations with the Gold Country, nurturing and promoting preservation of the town of Columbia, to recognize and honor its role in the rich history of California.

In March 1850, not far from Pine Log, California, transient prospectors discovered gold. Originally named Hildreth’s Diggings, the site quickly evolved from a mining camp to the bustling, internationally diverse community of Columbia. Businesses, social organizations, places of worship, theaters, restaurants, hotels, schools, newspapers and cemeteries were established, along with the requisite saloons/gambling houses and banks and renowned European chefs, doctors, teachers, lawyers and barbers (versed in pulling teeth) were among the varied professionals attracted to this prosperous, self-sustaining boomtown. Incorporated on one square mile, at its peak the town’s population numbered around 6,000 permanent residents.

Ties with San Francisco were strong, as many merchants moved their businesses from the City to Columbia. During the 1850s, Columbia’s citizens were enjoying and exchanging considerable wealth. Claims were producing a lucrative one ounce of gold per day, and yielding a weekly “take” worth $100,000. By 1857 a number of towns in California’s Mother Lode were in decline, but Columbia’s 4,500 miners continued to extract up to $17,000 in gold per week, and earn $8 to $10 daily.

After the Boom Comes the Bust

By the late 1860s, the town’s population had dwindled as the abundance of gold diminished and families moved on to stake more profitable claims elsewhere. When residents departed, their vacated buildings were torn down and the plots mined. Columbia’s overall valuation dropped from near “$1 million in the late 1850s to $150,000 in 1868.” Gold no longer fueled the economy, but the remaining 500 residents adapted to the changes by working in the local marble quarries, for the water company, at farming or ranching or as merchants providing supplies to other mining camps in the Sierra foothills.

[pullquote]Pulling teeth was about all dentists did in the 1850s.[/pullquote]

P&S Dentist Helps Revive Historic Columbia

Though its wealth and resources declined, and buildings deteriorated, Columbia was never entirely abandoned. Fond memories of the town as the “Gem of the Southern Mines,” so nicknamed for its wealth, diversity and ambience, still lingered in the stories of resident “old timers.” Over the years, the town’s character had retained much of its original feel as when miners and merchants roamed the streets.

Enthusiasm for recreating the excitement of California’s colorful gold rush history by restoring Columbia began to grow. Local residents suggested that Columbia be included in the new California State Parks System, but efforts in the 1920s and 1930s to raise enough funding for building restoration failed.

As new residents of the town in 1940, Dr. James McConnell ’24, a dental graduate of San Francisco’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and his wife were instrumental in raising $50,000 in matching funds to finally secure Columbia a place in the parks system. In 1945, McConnell, then chairman of the Columbia State Park Committee, was present when California Governor Earl Warren signed the bill. An inspired supporter of the project, the governor imagined Columbia becoming “the Williamsburg of the West.” Based on old plans and photographs, new replica buildings were constructed, and those historic buildings still standing were restored.

Pacific Summer Theatre at Columbia

For 40 years, from 1949 to 1989, University of the Pacific’s drama students inhabited Columbia when the Fallon House Hotel and, later, Eagle Cottage served as their residence during the school’s summer Fallon House Theatre repertory. Throughout a 95-year period, Fallon House Hotel had changed hands repeatedly, was burned and rebuilt after three separate fires and underwent a number of remodels, with the theatre added on in 1885. In 1944, Dr. Robert Burns, then president of the University, had purchased the hotel and later, in 1947, sold it to the State of California for $1. Soon after, the State and the College of the Pacific collaborated to support the Fallon House Theatre and make Columbia a popular stopover for performance enthusiasts.

1870s Operatory Becomes Columbia’s Dentist Office Exhibit

In July 1978, the Pacific-Columbia connection grew even stronger when artifacts from the dental office of Dr. Paul F. Sikora, P&S Class of 1908, were donated by his son, Columbia dentist, Dr. Paul J. Sikora, to create an 1870s-era operatory for the park’s new Dentist Office display. Following a luncheon held at the University’s cottage (formerly owned by President Burns), outgoing dean of the dental school, Dr. Dale Redig, attended the opening celebration along with more than 100 alumni, students, staff, faculty and friends. The display included a 1850s case of ivory handled dental instruments and tooth keys dating back to the Revolutionary War period on loan from the school’s A.W. Ward Museum collection.

After its debut, local Sonora and Columbia dentists were enlisted as honorary curators to help maintain the Dentist Office exhibit. One such curator, Dr. Matthew Cummings, also entertained visitors as a “living history performer,” portraying Dr. Malcolm McCleod Moore, Columbia’s first tooth extractor. He would dress the part, wearing a top hat, vest and gold chain with pocket watch, to impersonate a mid-19th century dentist, and display a jar of teeth, explaining that, “Pulling teeth was about all dentists did in the 1850s.”

The Dentist Office Today

Today, members of the Ward Museum Committee travel to Columbia periodically to dust the artifacts, check the lighting and make upgrades to the sound system. On busy days, a steady stream of tourists arrives at the Dentist Office viewing window, one of the park’s most popular exhibits. Many are captivated and some distressed by the array of mid-1800s elegant but scary-looking instruments. The reenacted dialogue between a gold miner and a dentist reminds visitors how lucky they are to enjoy 21st century dentistry!

[pullquote]The reenacted dialogue between a gold miner and a dentist reminds visitors how lucky they are to enjoy 21st century dentistry![/pullquote]

Dorothy Dechant, PhD, is an adjunct assistant professor in Biomedical Sciences and curator of the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s Institute of Dental History and Craniofacial Study.

Listen in on a Gold Rush-era dentist appointment in this reenactment.

Dean’s Speaker Series Explores Insights and Ideas

A new speaker series initiated by Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 is serving as a platform to explore issues and new ideas about the future of oral health care.

The Dean’s Speaker Series kicked off in January with a presentation by Dr. Marko Vujicic, chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute at the American Dental Association. During his talk, Vujicic provided many insights about the state of the profession, including changes in demographics among both patients and dental providers; new practice models and opportunities; income trends for today’s oral healthcare professionals; and details about dental care statistics among children and adults in the United States. He also discussed five broad trends he believes will affect the future of the profession, including the “value” agenda, increased consumerism, shifting demand patterns, increased collaboration and the data revolution.

The second guest speaker in the series was Peter DuBois, executive director of the California Dental Association, who spoke in March.

Dr. Debra Woo ’86, a faculty member at the Dugoni School and former Alumni Association president, is developing and leading the speaker series. She has a deep understanding of the issues facing the profession and is a recognized leader as a member of the Dental Board of California and chair of its Examination Committee, with involvement on the ADA/ADEA Licensure Task Force and other activities.

“As we commit to transforming the future of oral health education through our new strategic planning process, these presentations are focused on keeping us current with the different thoughts and activities occurring in dental education, dentistry and health care,” said Nadershahi.

For information about Dean’s Speaker Series presentations go to

Your Dental Office Has a Facebook Page, But Is It Working for You?

By Dr. Edward J. Zuckerberg

Father of Facebook Founder Discusses Online Strategies for Your Practice

Facebook debuted in 2004 as a way for Harvard University students to connect with each other. Membership criteria expanded to students at other universities in the United States, then to students abroad and finally to anybody over the age of 12 with an email account in 2006.


Then in 2008, Facebook rolled out a game-changing feature: businesses were allowed to have a presence, with features that were unique and previously unavailable for personal profiles. These included but were not limited to:

  • Unlimited audience size (personal profiles are limited to 5,000 friends)
  • Advertising network and tools
  • Clear and consistent business information including location and hours
  • Visitor check-in tools
  • Event, contest and offer tools and hosting

One of the most compelling reasons for a dental office to establish a Facebook presence is the ability to reach both current and potential patients. While almost every practice maintains a website, most website visitors are not current patients, but rather consumers trying to determine if the office is a good match for them. To be competitive, a practice should have a well-designed website that has been optimized for key word searches to appear higher in search engines, and portray the practice in a positive manner, in order to convert a prospective customer into an active one. However, this is not a zero-effort, no-cost effort; there are web hosting fees and site developer and maintenance costs. Furthermore, once a patient has selected a dental practice, they will rarely, if ever, visit its website again.

Therefore business websites, while important, are not the most effective way to disseminate time-sensitive information about new technologies and techniques, recent accomplishments or relevant healthcare news. Websites also lack the ability to tap into the existing patient base to generate referrals or to encourage them to come in for both regular maintenance and restorative care.

Instead of waiting for people to visit your website, reach them where they already are—on social media platforms. A recent Pew Research Center report ( indicates that nearly 80% of Internet users in the United States are on Facebook and 75% of those log on to the social network every day. That means that 60% of Internet users are on Facebook on any given day.

Getting your message to people is as simple as boosting your posted content and using other marketing efforts to get their attention on the site you already know they are visiting and spending time on. For many, this seems to be the most challenging part of social media marketing. Many dental practices have successfully attracted more than 1,000 fans to their page and are posting content frequently, although engagement numbers and reach for the content are low in most cases. Early adopters were beneficiaries of the easy and free penetration into the news feed that they were able to gain six to nine years ago when competition wasn’t as steep as it is today. With the average user having approximately 200 friends and 50 or more business pages in their “likes” list, there is a tremendous amount of content that will render yours unseen, unless you take steps to increase viewership.

For most dental practices, a modest budget is all it takes to get your content seen, not only by your page followers, but by others in your targeted geographic and demographic areas, as well as by tapping into the networks of your existing fans to harness “word of mouth” referrals.

For an office that posts content five days a week, a budget of $5 to $10 per post will cost $1250 to $2500 annually, much less than the average dental practice used to spend on print media only a decade ago. An additional budget of $5 per day to gain new fans or “likes” for a page amounts to $2,000 annually, for a total Facebook marketing budget of less than $5,000 annually.

Dental practices can also increase the quality and engagement of posted content by assigning staff members a day each week for which they are responsible for posting content (or less frequently in larger offices) and then having a monthly or weekly incentive for the staff member whose post gains the most engagement. This could be in the form of a bonus, dinner for two or an extra vacation day. Using Facebook’s advance scheduling feature, staff members can create posts well in advance, whenever inspiration hits them, which helps solve the problem of who in the office is responsible for generating content. And, it’s always a good idea to designate an editor in your practice who can review and approve posts—or send them back to the drawing board, if necessary.

Hiring third-party companies to generate content can also be successful, but rarely will these types of content reflect the personality and behind-the-scenes viewpoints of your office. Gaining online engagement is the key to a successful Facebook marketing effort. It’s something that can only happen if the content provides information that is useful to existing and prospective patients, and comes across as sincere. When you are fortunate enough to receive positive engagement on your online content, you should reinforce it with timely comments and responses to publicly show appreciation for patient loyalty and support.

At the American Academy of Implant Dentistry’s (AAID) Annual Conference last October in New Orleans, I demonstrated the use of Facebook Live to the audience as another tool for engagement and to enhance their practices’ online presence. I also had the opportunity to present to dental students at the Dugoni School in November. We were streaming live from both of these presentations and you can see the videos on With this tool, you can conduct live, streaming video presentations—using just your smart phone. A dentist can demonstrate a new technology or the latest equipment being used in his or her office. You can also showcase before and after images of a patient using video. Any users following you will have the ability to “tune in” to the broadcast. People can comment on your streaming video, share your video and like your video in real time. Ask for feedback, respond to questions and make the live experience as participatory as possible. You can also promote live events in advance and ask people to submit questions before the broadcast. There are a variety of things you can promote using live, streaming video and this is just another tool you can use to interact with your patients and potential patients online.

All of these suggestions sound like they take some time and effort—because they do. But including your Facebook presence in your marketing plan will pay off.

Edward J. Zuckerberg, DDS, is CEO and founder of Painless Social Media LLC.

Social Media Resources

In the past decade, there has been tremendous growth in popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, Pinterest and many others. At the end of 2016, there were almost 2.8 billion active social media users around the globe. Social media is here to stay so it’s important for dentists to tap into these vital resources for connecting and communicating with their patients online.

There are numerous articles, books, websites, etc. for dental practitioners to learn how to incorporate social media into their marketing strategy. Here are a few online resources:

California Dental Association | CDA Practice Support’s Guide for the New Dentist Guidance on Advertising and Marketing a Dental Practice YouTube Video:  Five Social Media Tips for Dental Practices How Dentists Can Optimize their Yelp Profile

American Dental Association | ADA’s Practical Guide to Social Media Planning Managing Marketing: Social Media Social Media: Five Rules of Engagement Social Media and Your Dental Practice

Dental Economics | Social Media Marketing: Effective Strategies to Accelerate Dental Practice Growth

Dentistry IQ | The Growing Importance of Social Media for Dentists Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Dentists and Dental Teams

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