Author Archives: sshuhert

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.

Pulling teeth was about all dentists did in the 1850s.

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!

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

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.

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

Connect with the Dugoni School on social media at

World Classes: Our International Dental Studies Program turns 30

By Louise Knott Ahern

It was just one of Dr. Dugoni’s crazy ideas. He laughs about it now, but that’s how Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni ’48, dean emeritus, recalls the reaction he got more than 30 years ago when he proposed that the dental school create a program for internationally educated students.

He envisioned a program in which dental professionals from other countries could advance their learning and clinical expertise while earning a degree in the United States alongside domestic DDS students. When Dugoni suggested the idea during his tenure as dean, however, some faculty and staff members expressed concerns. How much would it cost? How would professors deal with the language differences? Would the international students meet the same educational standards as domestic students?

Dugoni eventually managed to alleviate concerns, and the International Dental Studies (IDS) program was born with Dr. Robert Gartrell ’74A, former assistant dean of Community Dentistry, Continuing Education and International Dental Studies, serving as the program’s first leader in 1987. Today, the IDS program prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2017. The program currently averages 600 to 800 applicants every year for its 24 coveted spots. And our 375 IDS graduates represent more than 50 countries around the globe.

This two-year, accelerated program enrolls 24 students in July of each year. The full-time, five-day-a-week program consists of eight quarters of education. The curriculum, encompassing academic, laboratory and clinical training, takes place at the Dugoni School of Dentistry and other clinical sites in Northern California. IDS students begin clinical patient care in the second quarter and spend the greater portion of their second year in clinical practice. Graduates of the IDS program receive a doctor of dental surgery degree and are eligible to sit for any state or regional dental board exam in the country.

Dugoni couldn’t be happier about the program’s progressive success. “The entire institution is extremely proud of the IDS program,” Dugoni said. “We love our students from various parts of the world who come here. We’ve had quite a few graduates return to their countries and distinguish themselves as deans or chairman of departments, and because we were so successful at it, we became a role model for other schools starting international programs.”

Filling a Need

Dugoni served on the board of the FDI World Dental Federation, an international association of dental professionals, for numerous years. As part of his involvement with FDI, Dugoni traveled around the world—an experience that exposed him not only to the vast differences in dental training and resources, but also to a great need for sharing knowledge. “I began to realize we don’t have all the answers,” Dugoni recalled. “We’re leaders in many areas, but it struck me that there could be a two-fold benefit if we brought international dentists to our dental school. We could learn from them while they would learn from us.”

Dental school administrators also learned from University of Southern California and its Advanced Standing Program for International Students that began in the 1960s and used that knowledge to take the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s IDS program to the next level.

But there was another motivation for the IDS program, as well. Foreign-trained dentists could not—and still cannot—practice in the United States without earning a license here. Currently, that means immigrants and foreign-trained dentists who come to this country can attend and graduate from a program at an accredited dental school and sit for a license exam.

“In the state of California, even if they have had years of experience in practice, internationally-educated dentists cannot practice in the United States unless they obtain a DDS degree in this country and take board exams,” said Dr. Patricia King, assistant professor and director of the IDS program, who has been a part of the IDS team for 26 years.

“Many IDS students are aware of this when they arrive in the country,” King said. Others may not find out until they get here. Either way, the IDS program offers individuals the opportunity to receive a dental education in the United States while expanding their dental skills and knowledge.

More than 135 languages and dialects are now spoken at the dental school.

“We’ve had people come in who have worked as dentists in their native countries for 12, 15, 17 years, and some who just graduated a couple of years ago,” King said. “IDS students are in a different social culture in the United States, and a new educational environment, thus making the learning experience a little more stressful than that of American students. There are a lot of variables IDS students must overcome. I admire them.”

Assistant Professor Roberto Masangkay ’89 remembers clearly the way he felt when he came to the Dugoni School of Dentistry from the Philippines to enroll in the first IDS class. After earning a dental degree and training at the University of the East, School of Dentistry in the Philippines, he was attracted to Dugoni School’s state-of-the-art clinical programs and educational methods. But, like many students, Masankay felt nervous walking into class the first day.

“It was a bit intimidating and almost as if I was going to school for the first time again,” said Masangkay. “I was surrounded by smart people of diverse backgrounds coming from all over the world and I thought to myself, ‘How will I compete?’ But it was great to have all this uniqueness and my fellow students were supportive. We bonded well.”

Staff and faculty members are integral to helping IDS students with the cultural differences when they arrive. There is even a course in the first quarter, led by King and Dr. Bruce Peltier, devoted entirely to helping IDS students acclimate to the Dugoni School of Dentistry.

“The program brings in other faculty and students to help the IDS students integrate into the school,” said Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94. “Our DDS students and leaders in the student body have been increasingly collaborative during the last 20 to 30 years to do more to involve IDS students in their activities and programs and make them feel welcome.”

Melting Pot

The IDS program has proven to be a benefit not only for international students, but also to the community and the Dugoni School of Dentistry at large.

“One of the greatest values is the diversity and experience the IDS students bring to the student body,” said Nadershahi. “We hear from our DDS students that they learn so much from these students who are older and have practice experience and life experiences outside the United States. It broadens the foundation for all our students.”

More than 135 languages and dialects are now spoken at the dental school. That’s an asset to patients who find it easier to communicate when seeking dental care in the Dugoni School’s community clinics and who are more likely to trust a dentist who speaks their language, according to Dr. David Nielsen ’67, retired associate dean for the IDS program.

“San Francisco is a melting pot,” Nielsen said. “We have always had patients come in who are not fluent in English. Fortunately, our students can communicate with these different ethnic and cultural groups. But at first, it raised a great deal of frustration on the part of some of the faculty members because students would be talking to patients in their native tongue, and faculty members wouldn’t be able to understand what was being said. Yet, we finally got across to them that if patients can only communicate in their native tongue, then our ability to provide that communication is an asset.”

The melting-pot atmosphere also invigorates the student body, said Dr. Sarwat Zaffer, president of the IDS Class of 2018, who received her first dental degree in India. “In our current cohort, we represent 12 different countries,” she said. “It’s interesting to see different cultures come together. There is also age diversity among the IDS students. Our youngest student is 26, and oldest is 44. It’s good to have recent graduates as well as people with years of dental experience.”

The strong science background of the IDS students has also influenced the rest of the student body. Many IDS students have already completed graduate-level research by the time they enroll at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Their passion for science has fostered a strong push among undergraduates to become involved in faculty-led research, Nielsen said.

“The foundation in the basic sciences is very strong for our international students,” Nielsen said. “Their interests and abilities have spilled over into our undergraduate DDS program. The students on their own have started study clubs and research groups because of the international students.”

Making A Difference

“The best measure of the IDS program’s success is its students and graduates,” said Nielsen. He recalls one graduate from Laos who settled in a small community near Fresno upon graduation. “Why there?” Nielsen asked him.

The graduate, Dr. Chanh Viet ’92 IDS , told him that the area had a large Hmong population working in agriculture, and he wanted to work with people from his own culture. A few years later, Nielsen spoke with the graduate again, and he was in awe of the impact the alumnus had been able to make in the community. “Because of his familiarity with the culture and his ability to speak the language, he started a fluoride mouth rinse program in the community schools, a sealant program and an educational program amongst the population,” Nielsen said. “He raised the level of dental prevention in the community as no one else could.”

The IDS program averages 600 to 800 applicants every year for its 24 coveted spots.

The IDS program honors its diversity every year with an annual Bridge Builders event where all students, faculty and staff are invited to prepare meals from their native countries. Many also wear clothing that represents their cultures. “They open up the eyes of our young domestic students about the rest of the world,” Dugoni said. “There is a reciprocal richness.”

Though they represent a wide array of nations from around the world, most IDS graduates stay in the United States after graduation, according to King. “They pick up and come to the United States because they all want a better life. We are here to provide the education for them so they can work and provide for their families. They’re here to improve their lives.”

For Masangkay, that better life was right here. He was offered a teaching position in the school’s Department of Dental Practice upon graduation and passing the board exam, and he didn’t hesitate to accept. “It was such an honor to be asked and I could not pass up the opportunity to work with the best educators,” he said. “I have had good memories being part of this wonderful institution known for its excellent standing locally and internationally.”

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

It’s All in the Family

A lifelong association with the Dugoni School family gives our #9 dean a very strong start.

Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi ’94, the new dean, remembers things. He remembers that the annual alumni-hosted Cioppino Dinner for entering first-year students began in 1991, the summer he matriculated. He remembers that Dr. Arthur Dugoni’s predecessor, Dr. Dale Redig, became dean only 14 years out of dental school. He even remembers that the dean in 1952 was Dr. Frank Inskipp. Nadershahi knows these things as comfortably as he knows the school’s current operating budget and its department heads. To say that the new dean knows the Dugoni School—its history, its patterns, its strengths, proclivities and quirks—is like saying Spielberg knows storytelling or Clapton knows blues.

“Proudly, Nader is one of us—he was born in and grew up in our dental family—[a product of] our humanistic model of education,” said Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni ’48 at a June 13, 2016, event honoring the new dean. “He is passionate about it, and he understands it is the engine that drives our greatness. He lives our core values and knows why they exist—he helped author them.”

“I’ve done almost everything here,” Dean Nadershahi admits, “from welcoming guests to taking out the trash. I’ve even been a patient.”

Nadershahi really did grow up with the Dugoni School. As a six- or seven-year-old newly arrived in San Mateo, California, before his family found a private dentist, he became a patient at the dental school’s Pediatric Dentistry Clinic on Webster Street; he returned as a teenager to the Oral Surgery Clinic to have his wisdom teeth removed.

Nadershahi was inspired to explore a career in dentistry when his older brother, Dr. Navid Nadershahi Knight ’89, entered dental school at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, studying integrative biology and visual arts, the dean remembers a visit from Navid, who, knowing Nader’s enthusiasm for sculpture, invited him to model a molar out of wax.

“It really piqued my interest,” he says.

“I’ve done almost everything here,” Dean Nadershahi admits, “from welcoming guests to taking out the trash. I’ve even been a patient.”

Nadershahi became a part-time, pre-clinical instructor in his first year after completing his general practice residency at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital. A year later he expanded into clinical teaching and soon became a course director and group practice administrator, then professor and chair of the Department of Dental Practice.  By the time he gave up private practice in 2010, Nadershahi was already associate dean for Academic Affairs and serving as acting dean.

“I liked practice,” he says. “I liked problem solving, and I liked helping people. The school just offers a bigger picture, a bigger way to make an impact.” Describing the impact dental school faculty and administration can have on students and the community, Nadershahi says, “I became excited about the opportunity to create an environment to inspire quality, ethical treatment.”

Nadershahi went on to earn two graduate degrees from University of the Pacific—a master’s degree in business administration and a doctorate in professional education and leadership—and assumed practically every administrative position possible at the dental school: associate dean, acting dean, executive associate dean and interim dean.

In fact, Nadershahi has achieved a first in the history of the dental school. Of three acting (temporary or transitional) deans, including Dr. Fred West in 1953, Dr. Leroy Cagnone in 1978 and Nadershahi in 2010—all alumni—only Nadershahi went on to assume the deanship on a permanent basis.

“Wouldn’t it be great to give 10 free tuitions?” he says.
“Can you imagine the impact?”

“Nader is exceptionally well qualified to be dean,” Dugoni says, as if marking off a checklist for the ideal applicant. “He is very intelligent, hardworking and industrious. He has a strong capacity for emotional intelligence. His ethics and principles are at the highest level. He understands the principles of the multiplier. He makes people better and smarter.”

While his thoughtfulness makes him unassuming, Nadershahi is perhaps the most deeply connected, best-prepared entering dean in the school’s history. In getting to this place, he has absorbed, to an uncommon degree, the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s traditions, its ethos and its deeply ingrained sense of community.

“Nader understands the culture of the dental school,” Dugoni says. “He lives and breathes its humanistic and family model.”

Indeed, as Nadershahi said in remarks prepared for the dean’s search open forum on May 21, “Our humanistic culture is a defining characteristic that creates our sustainable competitive advantage. Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Sitting in the lobby of the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley, Arizona, just before an alumni dinner, Nadershahi looks fresh and relaxed. Relaxed and engaged. Engaged and focused. He is wearing a gray suit, a pink shirt with an open collar and pink striped socks, as if to blend organization man integrity with an independent creative streak. He listens intently and speaks softly, with an enthusiasm bordering on urgency. He leans forward as he talks, briskly returning an anecdote, a memory, a connecting point of reference, tacking from what-is to what-if without a pause. He’s quick to smile. (“I promise,” he said in his open forum talking points, “to keep my sense of humor.”)

“I just read a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” he says. “It talks about what’s good in life, what’s better and what’s best. It’s about setting priorities, cutting out distractions and focusing on what’s really important.”

“Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Three broad priorities that Nadershahi has publicly identified are: 1) excellent educational experience, 2) excellent educational outcomes and 3) lower cost of education. In the service of those objectives, he has set out to strengthen ties and foster relationships.

“One of my challenges has been and will be to rebuild the sense of family in our school,” he said at the dean’s search open forum.

“We need to stay in touch with each other,” he says today.

By both training and temperament, Nadershahi is a unifier, a consensus builder.  He holds open office hours and fosters an informal monthly morning get-together called “Coffee with the Cabinet” to encourage dialogue among faculty, students and staff.

“Students, faculty, staff, alumni, the Foundation and fundraising groups,” he says, “are all connected organically.” He places himself, Dugoni-like, in a variety of settings that help him take the profession’s temperature. He is, for example, a delegate to the House of Delegates of both the American Dental Association and the American Dental Education Association, and he chaired the ADA Reference Committee on Education, Science and Related Matters.

Dean Nadershahi knows the numbers, knows the curriculum and knows the politics, but at heart his plan for moving the school forward depends on knowing the people. Alumni are particularly important. He’s conscious of his own status as an alumnus, of course, as well as that of his brother, his sister-in-law Nahid Fazeli-Knight ’97 and his wife, Nilou ’91. Nadershahi has planned a round of alumni visits, like this one to Phoenix, and to Los Angeles, San Diego, Stockton, Portland, Hawii, Marin, Seattle and Dallas.

We were thinking of calling these Dugoni Family Dinners,” he says. “People enjoy reconnecting, and I love hearing people reminisce. The stories may be different depending on who your faculty were, but the warmth is the same.”

The dean is a people person, affable and gregarious, and his native goodwill gets returned in spades. In Phoenix, alumni gather to greet him, forming a line in front of him like fans waiting for autographs. “Every step of the way,” he says of his ascent to the deanship, “people have been wonderful.”

As a teacher, Nadershahi is first a student, and he acknowledges the tutelage that informs his outlook. “I have two mentors,” he says. ”One is Art Dugoni. I watched Art. I took note of what he did that made him successful.” And the other? “My mom. Both Art and my mom care for others and help others achieve.”

Nadershahi aims to project that mindset forward. He is ambitious, but his is a collective ambition, the kind that mentors have for protégés, that parents have for their kids. The kind that casts a wide net.

Nadershahi is perhaps the most deeply-connected, best-prepared entering dean in the school’s history.

“Internally, my role is to inspire students, faculty and staff to achieve more than they thought possible,” he says. “Externally, I connect with donors, organized dentistry and the community to help support the school and its educational mission.”

“He is ambitious first and foremost for our vision, our mission and our work—not for himself—and he has the will, the passion and experience to lead us, and to make good on that ambition,” said Dugoni. “Nader wants our school to be the best—it is in his DNA.”

Best, of course, is a moving target. “Most dental schools, like everything else in life, fall somewhere between mediocre and good,” Dugoni added. “Few are great—we are—but greatness is an inherently dynamic process, not an end point. Nader understands that!”

What’s more, the process itself involves less a continuous acceleration than the starts and stops of busy traffic. Sensitive leadership demands balance and timing. “You have to understand when to put your foot on the gas and when to coast for a while and let people catch their breath,” Nadershahi says.

The school is currently re-examining its clinical education model and competencies. “We are about to experience a historic transformation in health care,” Nadershahi said in the open forum. “Clinicians will be able to predict, prevent and treat disease before it impacts the quality of life.” Given those eventualities, he asks, where is dentistry going? What skills will our graduates need?

Recent advances are encouraging. The new graduate program in endodontics has graduated its first residents. The school recently announced two named endowed positions: Dr. Cindy Lyon became the first James R. Pride, DDS, and Carolyn L. Pride Endowed Chair for Practice Management, and Dr. Sheldon Baumrind the Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni Endowed Professor of Orthodontics. The clinic has become much more efficient, rendering more care for the community and a better experience for students.

But even an efficient clinic can be improved if the administration can develop ways to offset costs, perhaps through accessing medical reimbursements or attracting grants. “There aren’t many people in higher education,” Nadershahi concedes, “who understand that we are running the equivalent of our own hospital in the middle of a teaching program.” He would like to find money for scholarships; the high cost of education weighs heavily. “Wouldn’t it be great to give 10 free tuitions?” he says. “Can you imagine the impact?”

For the past 120 years, the Dugoni School of Dentistry has always offered very strong clinical training. “Clinical skills are a hallmark of our education,” the dean notes. Any calculation for the future has to preserve Pacific’s humanistic culture, its connection with people and its clinical excellence. But Nadershahi envisions a wider role. Dentists should be leaders in health care, in determining both how it’s rendered and how it’s compensated.

“Most people and institutions wait to see what will happen,” he says. “Rather, I would like us to take the lead in oral healthcare delivery. The challenge before us, the one that nags at me, is how the Dugoni School can become a leader. Our school should be shaping the future.”

Dentists should be leaders in health care, in determining both how it’s rendered and how it’s compensated.

Ambition is a dance with the future. You know the moves, but your partner is moody and unpredictable. You take a step, and the future takes one of its own. You’re trying to lead, but you never know when the future will pull left just as you are sliding right. You never know when it will step on your toe. So every success brings a new challenge, every answer a fresh question—although some questions, it turns out, are one continuous loop. “I have to constantly ask myself, ‘How can I make dental education and the profession better? The students more prepared? The school more inviting?’” Nadershahi says.

High energy, careful planning, adaptability, sensitivity, a sharp memory, an agile imagination, a talented team and supportive alumni and friends: the new dean brings an impressive array of strengths to bear in moving the Dugoni School of Dentistry forward.

“The best way to predict the future,” he wrote to the Dean Search Committee when he applied for the job, “is to play a key role in shaping that future.” Every moment is an opportunity to change what lies ahead, and for Nader Nadershahi, every moment counts.

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

The Art of Dentistry: Global Collaboration Brings Amazing World of Microscopic Photography to SF

Art and dentistry collided on August 12 as the dental school was transformed into a fascinating art gallery — a first for the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. Dental students, faculty, alumni, guests and exchange students from Peking Medical University, School of Stomatology gathered for a unique glimpse into the human body at the deepest levels. What they found was a colorful collection of images that gave them new appreciation for the sheer beauty of nature under the microscope.

As part of the “Art of Dentistry” showcase, large-format works of microscopic photography from a new book, Poetic Life by Dr. Tie Jun Li, were prominently displayed throughout the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s first floor. The exhibit featured 34 pieces of photography displayed around the themes of Genesis, Flourish, Succession and Harmony. A special darkroom gallery set up in Dorfman Hall featured a montage of photography digitally projected on the walls. Participants enjoyed the pieces while listening to music on wireless headphones.

The artist, Dr. Tie Jun Li, is an associate dean and professor of oral pathology at Peking Medical University, School of Stomatology in Beijing, China. His distinguished career in oral pathology has spanned three decades and he is considered a renowned expert in the field of odontogenic tumor research.

“As a pathologist, he is trained to assess the slides of blood vessels, teeth, muscle tissue and bone tissue with an objective, clinical eye. However, as a photographer, he appreciates the sheer beauty of nature under the microscope,” notes his artist statement. It’s his passion to artistically show these images and share them with the world.

“In fact, every cell has a story to tell, every molecule works a miracle,” remarked Li to Chang Jun, a writer with China Daily USA, who was on hand to cover the art show. “They are themselves very artistic and have waited thousands of years to be explored and to be appreciated.”

Dr. Tori Nan Xiao, a former student of Li’s nearly a decade ago in China and currently an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, says Li works in a medium where science and art exist in harmony.

“Dr. Li aims to capture the beauty within ordinary structures,” said Xiao. “His artwork moves viewers to consider pain and dentistry not just as physical deterioration and disease, but as part of a larger whole in the context of life. Perhaps one of the most moving sentiments of Dr. Li’s photography is that in many ways, the images embody the spirit of dentistry as both a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.”

Explore the images

Student volunteers from the school’s Global Relations Club organized the event, with additional support facilitated by Dr. Colin Wong ’65, adjunct professor and Dugoni Foundation board member. The students, led by Richard Ly and Laura Tsu both from the Class of 2017, worked on designing the exhibition—everything from choosing, enlarging and framing the images to designing the invitation and program and determining where the images would be displayed in collaboration with the school’s Design & Photography team. “School leadership and the development office fostered the dream of helping to bring family together on campus,” said Ly. “Through a digitally enhanced dark room gallery and physical displays, we were able to innovate in our own way—on school grounds!” (Read Richard Ly’s related article in this same issue, “Reflections from a Student”)

“Through the association between the Dugoni School of Dentistry and Peking Medical University, School of Stomatology, I became friends with Dean Li,” said Wong. “The beauty of his microscopic photography of the cells of the oral tissues truly exemplifies the ‘art’ of dentistry. We are very glad that he accepted our invitation to exhibit his beautiful photographs.”

Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 and Wong were on hand to welcome attendees and visitors from the community to the art exhibit. Special guests included Ren Faqiang, Chinese Deputy Consul General to San Francisco, who also gave remarks.

In fact, every cell has a story to tell, every molecule works a miracle. They are themselves very artistic and have waited thousands of years to be explored and to be appreciated.
— Dr. Tie Jun Li

“It was an honor for the Arthur Dugoni School of Dentistry family to welcome our colleagues from China and share this special event,” said Dean Nadershahi. “The Dugoni School’s Global Initiatives program seeks to pool intellectual resources and the collective wisdom of partner dental schools and educators from across the globe. Our long-standing partnership with Peking Medical University, School of Stomatology is one example of how we build bridges with others.”

Established in 2012, the student exchange program between the two schools is designed to give Dugoni School students and their counterparts in China an opportunity to learn about dental education and culture in each other’s respective countries. Eight dental students from Peking Medical University finished a two-week exchange visit to the Dugoni School of Dentistry in August, as part of this partnership.

In fact, both Ly and Tsu travelled to China last year to participate in the student exchange program with the Peking Medical University and they met Dean Li, the artist, during their visit. “The humanism fostered from day one was really the epicenter of all this,” said Ly. “For us students, the exchange program in China provided an opportunity to bond with peers across cultures in search of broader perspectives.”

The goal of these exchange visits is to create opportunities to share knowledge and resources, and ultimately raise standards in dental education globally. In addition to its ties to Chinese dental schools, the Dugoni School of Dentistry continues to develop outreach, links and exchange programs with schools in Asia, the Caribbean, Oceania and the Middle East. The school also supports international dental mission trips to Fiji and Jamaica each year.

“More than ever in today’s increasingly global economy, institutions of higher education must prepare students to thrive in an international work force,” said University President Pamela Eibeck. “I applaud the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and Peking Medical University School of Stomatology for facilitating many cross-cultural opportunities, including the Art of Dentistry event featuring the innovative and inspiring photography of Dr. Tie Jun Li.”

If you are interested in sponsoring a piece of Dr. Li’s artwork as a permanent showcase at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, please contact Anita Ayers, Dugoni Annual Fund manager, at 415.929.6402 or

Reflections from a Student

by Richard Ly, Class of 2017

As first-year students, finishing third quarter was the most difficult part of dental school thus far—and is considered our rite of passage. After our last final that quarter, I traveled to China with seven classmates for an exchange program in search of broader perspectives in dentistry. It was an adventure of a lifetime.

(See also “The Art of Dentistry: Global Collaboration Brings Amazing World of Microscopic Photography to SF” in this same issue)

Wide-eyed and foolish, we landed in Beijing, China, ready and excited for the unknown world of dentistry outside of Western parameters—the practice of dentistry as everything from caries to cancer of the oral maxillofacial regions are all treated under one roof of a hospital facility. By day, we saw surgeries, specialty clinics, radiology, general dentistry and research facilities. By night, all of Beijing beckoned with an irresistible charm.

One evening in particular, we found ourselves in a private dining room at Quanjude Roast Duck restaurant—the city’s premier Peking duck experience—hosted by Dr. Tie Jun Li, associate dean and professor of pathology at Peking Medical University, School of Stomatology.  It was somewhere between the laughs, cheers and perfectly crisp duck skins on sweet rice buns that a familiar magic took hold. It was humanism that brought us together over dinner where we first learned about Dr. Li’s passion for photography and work as an artist.

We received a call from Dr. Li’s assistant saying that there were packages for us at the front desk of the hotel. Eight copies of Poetic Life, Dean Li’s recent publication of dental themed microscopic photography, were left for us as parting gifts.

In August 2015, Peking Medical University sent a group of their own students to the Dugoni School of Dentistry. They lived with us as students and during the course of their stay we bonded and shared our exchange experiences. In passing, we mentioned that our biggest regret was not getting Dr. Li’s text from Poetic Life translated because we knew the images were much deeper if we could understand their scientific and artistic backgrounds. Before they left, the Chinese dental students surprised us with their own gift—the complete translated text of Dr. Li’s publication. We were thrilled!

Inspired by their kindness and the unique art of dental structures and pathology, we drafted a proposal for another collaboration between the Dugoni School and Peking Medical University. Dr. Colin Wong became our mentor and faculty facilitator who oversaw the project. From there, we had the amazing opportunity to work with dental school administration in digital design, marketing, development and building operations to put together the “Art of Dentistry” exhibit.

Faculty, staff, alumni, students, family and friends attended the exhibit and showed great support for the collaborative project, and we were thrilled to be involved. Dean Li’s presence at the event was a huge blessing and helped make the art gallery a dream come true. Through the “Art of Dentistry”, we were able to explore our passions for art, dentistry and community. Thank you to everyone for supporting us all the way through. At any other institution, this project would not have happened the way it did and for that, we as students are extremely grateful.

Building a Bright Future – Together

Dear Dugoni School family,

I cannot begin to describe the great honor, responsibility, excitement, joy and hope I feel since beginning my service as your dean. Being named the ninth dean of our great University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry is truly special.

Thank you to all of our alumni, friends, faculty, staff and students for the love and support you have shared with me as I transitioned to this position through the last year.  I am grateful for our wonderful Dugoni School family and, of course, for my immediate family.

To borrow from Sir Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In our 120-year history as a school, there have been many giants who have shaped who we are as a school, as oral healthcare providers and as leaders in our great profession.  Thanks to those of you who have served and continue to serve as giants for future generations, especially Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni who inspires and motivates all of us.

The challenges and opportunities ahead energize me. With your help, we will strengthen our culture of humanism, enhance our relentless focus on excellence in our programs and build an institution true to our commitment to excellence, respect, trust and integrity.

I believe in the Dugoni School family and that we will build a bright future for our great school, profession and alumni.  Please join me at our alumni gatherings and share your ideas about our school.

I look forward to seeing you very soon.



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

Kimberly A. LaRocca ’06 DH | Building Bridges

As a young girl, Kimberly LaRocca ’06 DH and her family would travel from Southern California to San Francisco every March for a meeting her father, Dr. F. Paul Senise ’65, attended. “I never knew, as a child, what this meeting was and never asked,” she says. Fast forward to 2016, where LaRocca not only attends the spring meeting—the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association—but as its president, leads it as well. Her father also served as president of the Alumni Association.

In addition to being the first daughter of a previous president to hold the position of president herself, LaRocca is the first dental hygiene graduate to head the Alumni Association.  “I started in 2007 as a board member, and I served six years,” she says. “During the last year, I didn’t want to leave, and to continue on you have to move up the ladder.”

LaRocca was nominated for president, but held her breath, not sure it would come to fruition. All previous Alumni Association Presidents have been dentists.

When she was elected last March 2016, LaRocca was thrilled. “This is an incredible opportunity to give back to a University that has given me my professional career,” she explains. “It has provided me with an inner confidence to lead, given me a higher obligation and a greater sense of purpose.”

LaRocca didn’t necessarily plan to pursue a career in dentistry. She graduated from University of the Pacific in 1989 with a bachelor of arts degree in communication, along with her twin sister, Dr. Kristina Cameron ’98 DDS. She then spent 13 years working in San Francisco in technology as a human resources staffing manager, responsible for more than 400 job orders, including international and domestic hiring. It does get a little emotional, adds LaRocca. “I don’t think my father ever thought any of his daughters would follow in his profession, and to share this experience with him has been very touching.”

In 2001, LaRocca went back to school, spending two years taking science prerequisites, before being admitted to Pacific’s Dental Hygiene Program in Stockton, and then graduating in 2006. Since then, Kimberly has been working full time in private practice.

Kimberly is the first dental hygiene graduate to head the Alumni Association

“Because of her corporate background, she understands working with a wide variety of opinions,” her father says. “She listens to all sides, then tries to incorporate them into the decision-making process in a way that will make everyone happy. I think that’s probably her biggest strength, as well as her attention to detail.”

As Alumni Association president, LaRocca hopes to continue to foster a lifelong relationship between the dental school and its graduates. “We want alumni to be involved in the school—giving back, participating in events and, of course, coming back to attend our Alumni Association Annual Meeting in March,” she says.

Also on the agenda is increasing participation among dental hygienists. “There are now 200 dental hygiene alumni, and only about a handful are active, dues-paying members of the Alumni Association,” she says. “We definitely want to increase that.”

When the clinical portion of the Dental Hygiene Program moves from Stockton to University of the Pacific’s San Francisco campus in January 2017, there may be more opportunities for dental hygiene students to participate in events, says LaRocca. “They’ll be on campus, interfacing with dentists and dental students, hearing about and attending events. There’s enthusiasm and excitement among the dental hygiene alumni but they just need more communication and a welcome to the association.”

“When we talk about the Dugoni family, the dental hygienists are very much a part of that family,” says Senise.

In addition to building and maintaining relationships, another goal for the Alumni Association is to address the use of technology in communicating with alumni. “We’re more time poor today,” says LaRocca. “I think people definitely want information faster, and technology has changed the way we think about providing service to our members.” But there’s not a one-size-fits-all way of communicating, adds LaRocca. Instead, it’s about discovering the ways members are comfortable communicating.

Just as it was years ago, the Alumni Association’s main event is the Annual Meeting. Though it’s a lot of work organizing luncheons, speakers, continuing education and other events, it’s also “an awful lot of fun,” says LaRocca. “And it’s a great opportunity for classmates to come back and see each other.”

The Alumni Association is not just an organizational presence for students after they graduate. “We welcome new students at the Cioppino Dinner during the first week of school, we’re part of the White Coat Ceremony the second year and we host the Alumni/Graduate Banquet during graduation weekend. We’re here to support, guide and mentor Dugoni School alumni,” says LaRocca. That’s how family works.

Nerve Block Injection Research Garners Awards

Students Robin Lambert and Riddhima Suri, members of the DDS Class of 2017, are receiving attention and awards for research that explores a modified technique to deliver anesthetic to patients. Their project, “A New Insertion Landmark and Modification of the ‘Standard Technique’ for Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block Injections,” won the ADA/Colgate Dental Student Conference on Research award at the 18th Annual Pacific Research Day held as part of the school’s Excellence Day in May 2016. It also garnered third place in the Table Clinic Competition at CDA Presents in Anaheim in May 2016 and a first place Student Research Award at the San Francisco Dental Society and ASDA District 11 Meetings in late 2015.

Currently, dentists use soft-tissue landmarks to locate the injection sites for their anesthetics, achieving success rates that range from 98% to as low as 13%. By proposing hard-tissue landmarks instead, Lambert and Suri aim to simplify and standardize the technique while improving the success rate. Their work was recently featured in Dentistry Today in an article entitled, “California’s Brightest Students Shine at Table Clinic Competition.”

To establish appropriate new landmarks Lambert and Suri worked with Dr. Gary D. Richards, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. They first carried out extensive dissections in the anatomy laboratory to establish nerve pathways and relationships. With that data in hand, Lambert and Suri moved to 3D virtual reconstructions of adult skulls from the dental school’s Atkinson Collection, curated by Dr. Dorothy Dechant. These virtual reconstructions were critical to establish the validity of the new landmarks and to test for variation related to age, ethnicity and the presence or absence of third molars or complete dentitions.

Lambert and Suri’s work, the first of a series of research projects, is leveraging the dental school’s resources in multiple departments to address topics of clinical interest. To this end, Lambert, Suri and Richards are working with Drs. Bernadette Alvear Fa ’06 and Karen Schulze in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences to begin a clinical trial to establish the efficacy of the new landmarks. Additionally, Lambert and Suri are mentoring a group of four students in the DDS Class of 2018 who, with the help of Dr. A. Jeffrey Wood, chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, plan to extend the study to include infants and children.