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Young Alums Discover the Rewards of Teaching

Teaching. It’s something many dental students imagine themselves doing, especially when they’re learning their skills under great dental educators. But for most students and young dental school graduates, teaching is something they think they’ll do someday, at a time far in the future after they’ve established other careers. The four young alumni here, though, are on a different path. For a variety of reasons, they have become full-time dental educators, and they love it.

Building a Dental Program from Scratch

For Dr. Clark Dana ’03, ’15 Benerd School of Education, the pull of teaching was there from the time he started as a student at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. “I loved my dental school experience and decided early on that I would someday teach,” says the 43-year-old Dana.

He went into private practice after graduating, and in 12 years he built up two different practices, one in Utah and one in a small, underserved town in Wyoming. Then he heard that Roseman University of Health Sciences would open Utah’s first dental school in South Jordan. It was an opportunity to be part of building a dental education program from scratch. “I made a call, and I was able to begin work at a new dental school and help create what we are today,” he says.

Dana was asked to direct the dental anatomy course, and as a new teacher at a new school, he was, in his words, “scrambling to figure things out.” He reached out to Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, his group practice administrator when he was a dental student, for advice, and he learned about the master’s degree in dental education program offered jointly through the Academy for Academic Leadership and Pacific’s Gladys L. Benerd School of Education. “The degree program was perfect for me,” says Dana. “I was taking the course while preparing and teaching my own courses and was able to integrate what I was learning. I was a sponge!”

“The degree program was perfect for me.”
–Dr. Dana Clark ’03, ’15 EDU

Dana’s role at Roseman is now director of preclinical education, and he says that his humanistic experience at the Dugoni School of Dentistry has been influential in guiding the educational direction of his program. He explains, “Our team has worked hard to put the patient at the center of every teaching experience. We value evidence-based decision making and critical thinking. We want our students to become diagnosticians, to be prepared to adapt to a changing profession. We ask ourselves, ‘What do these students need to know to be successful now… and in 20 years?’”

Dana has discovered not only the joy of teaching others but the satisfaction of adding to his own skill set. “Once I finished my master’s degree, I was hungry for more learning, and I’m now working on my PhD in discipline-based educational research at BYU.”

In building a new dental program, Dana has drawn on what he loves best about dentistry. “We get to influence the lives of others. From practicing in an underserved area—which I did as a clinician—to guiding students in their learning, we’re needed. It’s incredibly fulfilling,” he says.

Playing to Her Strengths

Dr. Civon Gewelber ’12 has known she wanted to teach since she was in high school and encountered some fabulous and inspiring educators. “I tended to be good at the subjects taught by my favorite teachers, which made me realize how important teachers are in influencing students’ attitudes and outcomes.”

The desire to teach and to work with her hands meant that a career in dental education was a great fit for Gewelber, but first, she spent many years enjoying being a student herself. After earning her undergraduate degree, she entered a three-year, pre-medical, post-baccalaureate program, followed by dental school and a year of residency. It was during her residency at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) that she was offered a part-time position after graduation to get a taste for teaching before applying for a full-time position.

“I knew I didn’t want to own a dental practice, and I absolutely loved being in the clinic with students,” says the 32-year-old Gewelber. “I have never regretted the decision to stay and pursue a full-time position.”

She still remembers giving her first lecture, on gingiva and tooth supporting structures. “I was very nervous, but the first-year dental students were so supportive and applauded at the end. I’ve been hooked ever since.”

“I knew I didn’t want to own a dental practice, and I absolutely loved being in the clinic with students.”
–Dr. Civon Gewelber ’12

Among the many faculty members at the Dugoni School of Dentistry who inspired Gewelber along her journey from dental student to professor, Dr. Mark Booth ’01 stands out. “I had previously thought that you needed at least a few years of private practice experience before being qualified to teach, but Dr. Booth made me realize that everyone has something to offer and even without years of experience I could still influence students in a positive way and help them develop a good foundation for a successful career.”

One way Gewelber influences students is in her role as the director of UNLV’s newly formed Special Care Dental Clinic, where, now as a full-time assistant professor, she teaches students about treating adult patients with disabilities. Encouragement she received from Dr. Paul Subar during her Dugoni School of Dentistry rotation with special needs patients was critical to her having the confidence to accept this challenging appointment.  “He told me that I was good with the patients and should consider looking into hospital dentistry as a career.  At the time I didn’t think much of it, but when my current position became available I remembered Dr. Subar’s comments and thought, ‘I can do this!’”

“I am so thankful to everyone at the Dugoni School for giving me a strong foundation and encouragement to pursue an academic career at a young age.”

While she admits to being surprised about the year-round nature of teaching, with sometimes long hours to grade papers, mentor students and continue her own professional development, Gewelber says she loves her work. “Teaching is a good fit for me, bottom line. I feel like I’m making a difference.”

An Accidental Educator

Dr. Eric Harris ’03 spent the first six years after graduating from the Dugoni School of Dentistry establishing two private dental practices and participating in several overseas trips providing dental care to underserved populations before transitioning to academia by accident. Literally.

In 2009, Harris crashed his motorcycle while traveling 80 miles per hour. He broke 16 bones in his hands, wrists and spine, and his right hand had to be surgically rebuilt. “When I woke up in the hospital a week after the accident, my first thought was ‘Oh no! I can’t be a dentist anymore!’” the 39-year-old Harris recalls. “But I quickly regained a profound sense of gratitude and a determination to appreciate every moment of my life. I was optimistic about pursuing a career doing other things I enjoyed.”

He eventually accepted a teaching position at A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Mesa, Arizona. He is now clinical director of community partnerships and assistant professor of clinical dentistry, teaching a simulation lab module on CAD/CAM and technology-assisted dentistry, clinical CEREC dentistry and clinical photography. He also serves as an adjunct professor at A.T. Still’s Missouri campus, teaching the same lab and photography courses, and he spends one day a month as an adjunct professor for several AEGD residency programs. Harris is also clinical director for a free dental clinic embedded in a local Title 1 elementary school.

“I love dentistry, and I am proud to have learned my craft from the best.”
–Dr. Eric Harris ’03

Harris is passionate about volunteering and has provided dental care to patients around the world. He co-founded Bright Island Outreach, an organization that takes 25-75 dental students from several U.S. universities on six expeditions per year. During a recent expedition, volunteers treated 461 patients in four days. They provided more than 800 extractions, 500 fillings, 89 root canals and 56 dentures. Students on these trips learn more than just clinical skills, says Harris. “They learn time management, encouraged by the 400 patients standing outside waiting their turn, and they develop an appreciation for participating in outreach dentistry throughout their careers, whether on expeditions like ours or in their own neighborhoods and communities.”

The accident that led to his teaching career now feels like an opportunity to Harris. “I love dentistry, and I am proud to have learned my craft from the best,” he says. “But when people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I am a teacher. It’s wonderful to teach something I love to students who are eager to learn it.”

A Career that Fits

Looking back, Dr. Keith Boyer ’08 says his teaching career started during his second year at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, when he helped out friends in the first-year class after hours in the sim lab. Now the 32-year-old endodontist finds that full-time teaching fits his family’s life and offers him the chance to inspire dental students with the same passion he has for treating patients.

After Boyer finished dental school, he completed an endodontic residency at University of Pennsylvania, then began working in private practice, first in Pennsylvania and then in California, while also teaching part-time. In 2013, he applied to teach endodontics at Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) in Pomona, California.

“At first, I maintained a practice on the side, but I found the time spent at school to be so much more rewarding,” said Boyer. “So, I dropped private practice and only see patients in faculty practice now.”

In teaching students to care for patients, Boyer relies on a familiar example. “I try to model high clinical standards and empathy just like my instructors did at the Dugoni School,” he says. Several dental school faculty members were influential in Boyer’s own educational development, including Dr. Alan Gluskin ’72, who spurred Boyer’s interest in endodontics and gave him the opportunity to teach in the pre-clinical endodontics module. Moreover, the humanistic teaching model from the Dugoni School of Dentistry is one, according to Boyer, that has been replicated at WesternU, the newest dental school in California. “It was an easy transition for me to teach here. Because my educational experience at the Dugoni School was so good, I try to deliver the same experience for my students.”

“At first, I maintained a practice on the side, but I found the time spent at school to be so much more rewarding.”
–Dr. Keith Boyer ’08

Being a full-time educator has additional benefits. Boyer notes that working for a non-profit institution offers opportunities for student loan repayment and forgiveness. And, the educational schedule fits well with family life. His wife, Dr. Jamie Parado ’09, is also a faculty member at WesternU, and although Boyer still works long hours, when he’s off he can really focus on his family. “When our daughter was born, I was able to take a full six weeks of family leave to bond with her and help my wife, something I would never be able to do in private practice.”

As a dental educator, Boyer prepares future dentists by teaching them what he loves most about the field. “Dentistry, especially endodontics, is both an art and a science. We can use our knowledge of disease processes, anatomy and physiology and apply that knowledge to help heal patients and relieve them of pain.”

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

New School Website Launches

The Dugoni School of Dentistry has a fresh, new online look thanks to its revamped school website which was launched during the summer break. Features of the site include an updated design that better aligns with University of the Pacific’s other websites; easier-to-find information; responsive design for convenient use by phone, tablet and desktop users; more flexible web page designs across the site; and an upgraded content management system.

Collaborators from Marketing and Communications, Information Technology, Design and Photo and the University Web Communications team worked together to roll out the site based on feedback from the school community. Visit the site at and explore resources for alumni, dental professionals, patients and other audiences.

Joanne Fox | Culture Builder

As visitors tour the dental school campus, they admire the state-of-the-art facilities and they consistently remark about the friendliness of the people at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. A welcoming “hello” and a kind smile go a long way to make everyone at the school, especially visitors, understand the culture here and why the dental school is one big family. And no one embodies the humanistic spirit of the school more than Joanne Fox, director of the Alumni Association. “The magic of Pacific is in its people,” as Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni ’48 often says. This statement is especially true for this extraordinary individual who has given so much to the dental school for the past 34 years.

Back in October 1981, Joanne Fox came to the dental school for a temporary, six-week data entry job in the Public Relations and Development Office. She completed the project in just one month and Al Gilmour, assistant dean, hired her right away. “I supported both public relations and development which were under Arlene Burbank and Al Gilmour at the time, and I also helped Leroy Cagnone who was in charge of the Alumni Association,” Joanne recalls. “Even though I was not officially with the Alumni Association, I was already working with it and organizing events.”

Joanne worked for the Public Relations and Development Office for the next 18 months, until Dean Dugoni hired her as an administrative assistant in administration. “The school had such a positive, supportive feeling from the get go,” said Joanne. “Everyone was so welcoming.” While working in the Dean’s Office, Joanne supported both Drs. Dugoni and Dave Nielsen ’67, assistant dean of administration, who was also the newly named executive director of the Alumni Association. In 1985, Joanne and Nielsen planned the first of 30 Annual Alumni Meetings together.

Joanne also coordinated many of the school’s signature events and programs, such as Asilomar, OKU Convocation, Dean’s Graduation Luncheon, First-Year Orientation, Faculty Retreat, along with many regional alumni events. It was at the Asilomar Conference in February 1982 when she happened to greet a third-year student, Michael Fox, at the Friday night welcome where they sat together. They have been married for 28 years and have three daughters: Denise, Alanna and Justine.

In 1995, Joanne became coordinator of the Alumni Association. She moved to the first floor suite in the 2155 Webster building and worked solely for Nielsen. It was still just a two-person operation running the association. Joanne became the friendly voice and face of the Alumni Association—the person who talked to alumni on the phone or greeted them when they visited the school or came to alumni events. Her attention to detail and willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done—even working seven days a week at times—was, and continues to be, impressive. And, everyone appreciates her warm and graceful demeanor even under the most stressful situations.

In 2008, Dr. Darryl Lee ’77, president of the association at the time, wanted Joanne to have a title to better reflect what she did for the Alumni Association. A decision was made and Joanne was named assistant director of the Alumni Association.

“I was privileged and fortunate to work with Joanne Fox for more than 30 years, first as one of my administrative assistants and later as assistant director of our Alumni Association,” said Dugoni. “In tandem with Dr. David Nielsen, they created the best dental Alumni Association in the United States.”

Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, interim dean, named Joanne director of the Alumni Association in January 2016. She continues to manage staff members Andrea Woodson, coordinator, who was hired in 2005, and Marceyl Jones, administrative assistant, who recently joined the team. “Joanne has a deep understanding and knowledge of the dental school family and will help us continue nurturing those wonderful relationships as director of our Alumni Association in the years ahead,” said Nadershahi.

As director, Joanne would like to increase dues-paying membership among the nearly 8,000 alumni and increase attendance at the Annual Alumni Meeting. “We want to engage the millennials and younger alums and find out what they need from us,” she says. “When younger graduates come to our events they benefit and see the positives of the personal interactions with their classmates and older alumni.”

“Every year, there is a different president heading the Alumni Association,” Joanne says. “Each president has a different vision and a different way to work with the Alumni Board. It makes my job interesting because we collaborate and advise each other, and I also get to know so many dynamic alumni officers and board members.”

Before coming to the dental school, Joanne worked in the banking industry for 10 years, starting as a part-time teller in college. She worked in the commercial and loan departments at Bank of America and San Francisco Federal Savings and Loan which according to Joanne, “Like the Dugoni School, it was another Camelot place to work.”

“There is such a joyful camaraderie among all of the people in the building,” Joanne says. “I have developed relationships with so many individuals over the years, and it is fun to find out what our alumni are up to when they come back to visit. My job has been decades of meeting and working with people.”

“Joanne lives the following virtues of exceptional leadership, which include enjoying and excelling in her work, believing in the organization and its mission, understanding where she fits in the grand scheme of things and she is loyal to her team,” says Dugoni. “Her intelligence, passion and caring is a model for everyone she works with.”

Joanne’s genuine personality and her ability to connect with people, especially alumni, are qualities that make her unique. She has received the Medallion of Distinction award and honorary membership in both the Omicron Kappa Upsilon and Tau Kappa Omega dental honor societies. She is a dedicated employee whose warm and caring demeanor continues to grace the halls of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

And for that, we are all fortunate.

Back to School: Our RDAEF program gets an A+

By Christina Boufis

When her dentist at a busy cosmetic dental practice brought up the idea of enrolling in the RDAEF program at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Leann Haas jumped at the chance. “I love dentistry and I love to continue learning. I was super excited,” says Haas, who enrolled in 2011 and graduated in 2012 as part of the first graduating class.

The Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF) program started at the Dugoni School of Dentistry in June 2011, explains Dr. Jane Wright-Hayes, director of the Division of Continuing Dental Education. It was the brainchild of Dr. Molly P. Newlon ’82, course director, who was involved in a smaller program at University of California, San Francisco, for many years. “But when they decided to drop it,” says Wright-Hayes, “she wondered whether we wanted to pick it up and do it here.” The answer was yes.

The application process to the Dental Board of California was extensive, says Wright-Hayes. “It took about a year to get approved,” says Newlon. And the Dugoni School of Dentistry is one of only two Dental Board of California-approved providers of the RDAEF program in Northern California.

“About seven years ago, the dental board approved the type of functions that an RDAEF would be licensed to do,” explains Newlon. “So, I created the course from scratch, and it went from about 11 days (at UCSF) to 45 days (at Pacific)—quite a bit bigger.”

The 410-hour course begins in August and runs until May, about 22 weekends. It meets for eight hours on several Saturdays and Sundays, says Newlon. “It’s a lot of work for everybody. In given treatment areas, the RDAs receive the same training that our dental students do,” she adds.

What does an RDAEF student learn? Placing and finishing permanent direct restorations, such as amalgams and composites; making impressions for tooth-borne removable partial dentures; fitting and cementing endodontic master points and accessory points for root canals; cord packing and final impressions for crown and bridge; and doing oral health assessments in community dental settings are some of the major categories, says Newlon.

“It’s hundreds of hours of lectures, hundreds of hours in the simulation lab working on the manikins. It’s pretty extensive. The students learn a lot,” says Dr. Brian Kenyon, associate professor in the Department of Dental Practice and a group practice leader in the student dental clinic, who teaches in the RDAEF program.

In addition to the didactic and extensive lab work, “Students are required to complete 20 restorations in a dental office where they work on patients under the direct supervision of their dentist,” explains Newlon. At the end of the program, students can take an exam administered by the Dental Board of California, and, if they pass, “then they’re licensed EFs and able to complete those functions in a dental office under the direct supervision of a dentist,” says Newlon.

“It was a whole year of my weekends,” says Denny Pham, RDAEF Class of 2013, who works at the Marin County Dental Service’s Community Clinic, serving a low-income population. “But I looked forward to going to the dental school and learning new things. I was very lucky,” he added. “I learned from Dr. Kenyon and Dr. Newlon—the best instructors. They taught me lots of things that I applied to my job very easily.”

For Kenyon, the feeling of excitement is mutual. “I think it’s a great program. I really enjoy teaching in it. I love teaching in general, but the dental assistants are so eager to learn, and they are just a pleasure to work with. It’s really rewarding for me.”

“I wouldn’t even call it work because I love dentistry, and they made the experience so positive. — Leann Haas

Leann Haas calls the program a “life changing experience.” But, she adds, “I wouldn’t even call it work because I love dentistry, and they made the experience so positive. I looked forward to going on the weekends,” says Haas. “You’re there for eight hours a day, which went by so fast. You’re constantly learning, and I didn’t feel like it was work at all.”

One challenge that students face is monetary. “It’s expensive to take the program, so many students are asking their dentists to help them through,” explains Wright-Hayes. “What is heartwarming is that more and more dentists are stepping forward and saying, ‘I value my team members so much, and this is such a benefit not only to me but also to them.’ Some dentists even pay the entire tuition for their dental assistants.”

Dr. Mark Harris, who’s had a private practice in Eureka, California, for almost 42 years, did exactly that with two of his dental assistants, one who recently completed the program and another who is just starting this year. Both of his dental assistants had worked for him for decades, and it was he who first proposed the idea. “You would have these valuable skills and increase your earning potential with just going to school for one year,” he recalls telling his assistants.

“They love what they’re doing.” — Dr. Brian Kenyon

What did his dental assistant gain from the program? “She had really good skills and a good knowledge of dentistry going into this, so it wasn’t difficult for her,” explains Harris. “But she gained knowledge about how to handle materials you use to restore teeth and got a better understanding of what her eye needed to see to be able to construct a restoration for a tooth. Your hands can’t do what your mind doesn’t know,” he adds.

Now that his first dental assistant has successfully completed the program, Harris says it makes his work life easier. “I don’t have to do the fillings that I used to have to place after I’ve prepared the tooth to receive them,” he explains. “Once you’ve done your first 10,000 fillings, you know how to do it, you’ve done it. But that’s not one of the easy aspects of dentistry.”

Once his assistant enrolled in the program, some of their roles were reversed, recalls Dr. Harris. “We were working a lot of the time with me being the dental assistant and her being the operator. I’d be right there watching her place the fillings and helping her with instrumentation. To have somebody that gets to the skill level where you trust that they can pull that off and do it properly, that becomes a big load off the dentist’s back. Not only does it lessen the intensity of what you do all day, but your efficiency goes up.”

Kenyon hears similar things from students who’ve gone through the RDAEF program. “They love what they’re doing,” he says. “It gives them an opportunity to do a lot more for the dentist. It gives the dentist an opportunity to be able to see more patients, and if there’s a shortage of dentists, it can allow a clinic to see more patients, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Just ask Dr. Michael Aaronson ’66, part-time director of clinical services at the Marin County Dental Service who estimates the clinic serves 50 to 60 patients a day, depending on emergencies. “We’re funded exclusively by the county as a safety-net service, and we take patients no one else will see,” he explains. Having Denny Pham successfully complete the RDAEF program has been a tremendous help at the clinic. “It’s a great benefit,” says Aaronson. “Denny’s able to do many of the tasks that previously were restricted to dentists. He’s able to finish many restorations, to adjust and fix and cement restorations. It frees up some of the other dentists to perform other tasks like oral surgeries. It’s been very valuable for us to have him, and we truly appreciate his ability and experience.”

“It adds to their professional growth.” — Dr. Molly Newlon

For Haas the range of functions she’s now able to do has also expanded. “Now on top of the typical RDA license, I’m able to cement final crowns and veneers, finish composites and restorations. That allows my dentist extra time, so once she starts the procedure I’m able to take over while she’s able to do more productive procedures.”

In addition to freeing up her dentist, an added benefit is to serve as “almost an extra set of eyes for the dentist. You have a better understanding and knowledge of why things are done,” says Haas. “My dentist really appreciated all the new skills I’ve learned because I’m able to communicate things that I see on a tooth that she probably couldn’t see on her side of the patient.”

Harris echoes the sentiment about his dental assistants, saying that their level of observation has increased. “Instead of looking in the mouth and dental assisting, they’re now looking in the tooth to understand exactly what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.”

As for the graduates, many of them continue to keep in touch, touting the benefits of the RDAEF program. “They’re all so happy that they did it,” says Newlon. “It adds to their professional growth. They are more valued members of the dental team. They can work much more independently than they ever did before, and make more money.”

“If I could go back to school, I’d do it all over again,” says Haas. “The Dugoni School of Dentistry felt like it was a close-knit family, which was awesome. I didn’t even want to graduate.”

Newlon recalls what one graduate of the RDAEF program recently posted on her Facebook page. “Best decision I ever made.” For students and instructors alike, the RDAEF program at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry earns an A+.

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

Chrystle Cu ’08 | Changing the Way You Floss

As a practicing dentist at Young Dental Group in San Mateo, California, Dr. Chrystle Cu ’08 felt like she was treating the same diseases and conditions over and over again and her message about oral health education was falling on deaf ears.

“Though I invested a generous amount of time on hygiene instruction with each of my patients, my message wasn’t adequately getting across,” says Cu. “Floss was simply undesirable.”

So Cu and her sister Catherine Cu—a Stanford entrepreneur and non-flosser—worked together, interviewing family, friends and patients to understand their flossing habits and feelings about floss. Their finding: flossing and oral care are universal pain points. Their goal: making flossing seem less like a chore and more like a treat.

The result is Cocofloss—a soft, microfiber, Caribbean blue dental floss that the creators say is more effective at removing plaque than the average floss. It’s infused with coconut oil to ensure smooth gliding and prevent shredding and has natural flavors and aromas to make it enjoyable to use.

As Cu notes, brushing your teeth daily is something everyone grew up with, whereas flossing is often introduced later in life. “In the early years, kids don’t floss because they don’t yet have the dexterity for it and most of their teeth don’t touch. Next they’re in braces, when they can’t floss even if they tried. Before we realize it, they’re adults. Professionals struggle to help adults build new habits.”

“We started this company to make flossing and oral care more rewarding, delightful and accessible for everyone,” says Cu. “We want to inspire people to take good care of their smiles by creating products and experiences people love.”

We started this company to make flossing and oral care more rewarding, delightful and accessible for everyone

During her time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Cu served as president of the Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) program, which is a student-run volunteer community service organization at the dental school. SCOPE officers encourages the student body to take active roles in sponsoring or participating in activities such as prevention education and screenings to underserved members in the Bay Area community. Through all the events helping out in the community, Cu learned that succeeding as a student doctor meant helping patients understand the state of their mouths and how to improve their long-term health.

This sense of community health awareness stuck with Cu after graduation, and she’s using her company as a platform to give back to the community. For every Cocofloss product purchased, the company pledges to deliver dental essentials to someone in need. She’s teamed up with Philos Health, a non-profit organization established to improve health services in the Philippines. Philos provides medical, surgical and dental services during visits to the Philippines three times a year. Their latest initiative, Philos Dental, will provide a brand-new dental clinic as well as supplies, staff and oral health care education to children. The program is supported by volunteer dentists and students from the Philippines and the United States.

“During my time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, I learned that oral health education and prevention are the most valuable gifts that we can pass to our patients and peers,” says Cu.

And what advice does Cu have for all of us? “Cocofloss daily!”

Cocofloss is available online at And with the growing dental school alumni network, a number of alumni also carry Cocofloss for purchase in their practices.

Serving and Changing the SoMa Community

By Kathleen A. Barrows

Dr. Sig Abelson ’66, associate dean of clinical services, has lots of stories to tell about patients being served at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry’s new campus. He remembers well a neighborhood woman, with no money, who had tripped and broken her two front teeth. The emergency department was able to correct her fractured teeth with crowns, and she walked out with a smile that might help her win a job. There were the children with swollen faces, screaming in pain, brought in by their worried parents who are so grateful to have the clinic nearby.

Stories like these were just a small part of what members of the dental school community—faculty, students, staff, donors—told us when we asked about how the move had affected our service to the community, the students’ experience and the surrounding SoMa community. Everyone agrees that the future of the dental school seems to be as a bright as the light now shining through the new building’s windows.

Serving more patients and increasing access

“If you build it, they will come.” It’s an old adage that Interim Dean Nader Nadershahi ’94 says, “certainly rang true for us as we opened our doors to the public.” Everyone agrees that the location— only 1.5 blocks from the Powell Street BART/Muni Station — has been a big plus. In the past, patients would have to connect from BART and take an extra bus or two to reach Pacific Heights.

As a result, the increase in patient numbers has been tremendous. Abelson estimates that we are treating 25% to 30% more patients compared to a year ago. “We have too many patients,” he admits, pointing out that many dental schools have a challenge in providing patients for their dental students.

The increase in patient numbers has been tremendous.

Now, with a larger and more efficient clinic, the pediatric dentistry program has grown by 40%. Ninety percent of pediatric patients whom the dental school treats are on Denti-Cal. And in a city like San Francisco, where nearly 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten (in comparison to a 33% national average), that’s important. Emergency services and the orthodontic clinic have also experienced large increases.

Of course, the recent decision by Western Dental to no longer accept Denti-Cal patients in California has put increased pressure on the system. The school is only able to take a few new patients a day for comprehensive care. But Abelson assures us, “We’re taking as many new patients as we can and no one is turned away for emergency services.”

Enriching the students’ experience and expanding community partnerships

The socio-economic conditions surrounding the new campus have also brought students a broader perspective and a more illuminating experience to better prepare them for the future. As Christine Miller, associate professor and director of community programs, notes, “We’ve been out developing community-campus collaborations for our students for decades. Now we’re really in the heart of the action. The physical proximity to where our clients are living, working and going to school engages students more deeply.” Programs for community members of all ages are just blocks away: from Early Start and Head Start for children to senior housing.

Abelson points out that this experience of interacting with people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities is a significant mind-opening part of the students’ education. He recalls one student admitting, “Sometimes you have preconceived ideas of the homeless and you don’t know how to interact. But many are really nice people. They just have needs.” Abelson hopes that the students will take those experiences with them when they graduate and help in their communities.

In addition, with the enthusiastic support of University of the Pacific President Pamela Eibeck, new projects are being launched to integrate oral health with other social and health services. Now that Pacific’s audiology program is at the SoMa campus (with food studies, music therapy and data analytics also a part of the San Francisco campus), the dental school is reaching out to these schools as part of a strategic plan to establish linkages for interprofessional education.

Miller reports that from day one of dental school she engages her students in interprofessional health projects with a focus on prevention. Her goal is to demystify health care and social service collaborations and to enlist students in evolving healthcare delivery projects and models. Recently, for example, Cantonese-speaking pharmacy students from the Stockton campus acted as translators in dental screenings in Chinatown as part of a special project with Chinatown social service and health agencies.

In addition, in collaboration with the San Francisco Public Health Department and University of California, San Francisco, Miller contributed to the 2014-2017 San Francisco strategic plan to advance children’s dental health in programs designed around best practices in public health. “It was true synchronicity when the SF strategic plan was released at the same time we were opening our clinic doors to the neighborhood and Bay Area with ready access to public transportation.”

Exciting the alumni, donors and patients

There is overwhelmingly positive response to the design of the new building itself. Former Major Gifts Officer Will Hall reports that when he walks the halls of the new school giving tours, “People are flabbergasted at how modern it is.” The alumni have come through in a big way. More than half of the $40 million capital campaign has been secured in gifts and pledges.

There is overwhelmingly positive response to the design of the new building itself.

But it’s not just the stunning new look of the building that has attracted praise and funding from alumni and donors. Melanie and Richard Lundquist, owners of the InterContinental Hotel and former owners of the building that houses the new campus and generous benefactors to the dental school, appreciate the expanded opportunities which the new campus offers to treat the underserved. “What captured our hearts,” says Melanie, “was….most importantly how the school treats its patients, particularly those people in need.” It’s a location that Richard recognizes as, “much more convenient for all those who are underserved to get quality dental care.”

Dugoni School of Dentistry students, too, report the glowing comments of their patients, both new and those who have been coming for 20 years. Dr. Emily Vaccarezza ’15, currently doing a pediatric dental residency at San Diego’s Lutheran Medical Center, speaks from the perspective of a student who saw patients at both the old and new campuses. The former CDA class representative was excited by the move and says her patients especially enjoyed the “more private” feeling of the new clinic set-up, where patients no longer face each other. She admits it was an adjustment at first for the students not to all work on the same floor, but everyone adopted.

Rosemary Tran, Class of 2016, whose “big sibling” was Emily, agrees. As a third-year student, who also plans to specialize in pediatric dentistry, she never worked in the clinic at the old campus, but reaffirms that patients love the new building and location. Tran always makes a point of asking her clinic patients how far they’ve traveled. She reported that her first patient of that day, who now lives just a bus ride away, had exclaimed “how the new building is bright, open and easy to find.” Patients also enjoy the modern check-in process and appreciate the security.

As CDA representative for her class, Tran herself is also taking advantage of the proximity to underserved populations. She recently participated in an oral education program for struggling mothers and their children at Compass Family Services in the Tenderloin district, just a few blocks away.

Brightening the neighborhood

But the dental school is not only serving the dental needs and brightening the smiles of an expanding population. It’s also helping to change the face of the neighborhood. As Dr. Craig Yarborough ’80, senior development officer, explains, “People and local businesses say, ‘thank you for coming.’ It’s brightened the neighborhood.”

But the dental school is not only serving the dental needs and brightening the smiles of an expanding population. It’s also helping to change the face of the neighborhood.

Yarborough is the dental school’s liaison with the Yerba Buena Alliance, an organization which strengthens partnerships among residents, businesses and cultural and educational institutions, stretching from Second to Fifth Streets and Market to Harrison Streets. With the 5M Project—an office and residential complex to be built in stages over the next decade that will transform the lots directly across the street from the school—the area is destined to become a technology hub. Yahoo! is already there in the San Francisco Chronicle Building, and EventBrite and Slack occupy the top two floors of the dental school. Two new apartment buildings just south of the school are under development as well. The burgeoning high-tech industry in the neighborhood also helps expand the demand for the faculty practice.

On another level, it’s also helping local restaurants and businesses. Hall meets with potential donors at great local restaurants like Michelin-rated Luce in the InterContinental, The Cavalier and 54 Mint. But it’s not only the high-end restaurants that are appreciative, he says. On Wednesdays and Fridays the food trucks enjoy lines of hungry students, staff, patients and faculty.

Just as San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee had predicted at the dedication of the new building last year, “In addition to enriching San Francisco’s education landscape by training future innovators who will improve the lives of many of our residents, the new campus in SoMa will support San Francisco’s growth and economic vitality.”

It seems to be doing just that, while at the same time broadening the students’ educational experience and creating innovative new health service models. Interim Dean Nadershahi sums it up well: “For years, the Dugoni School of Dentistry has cared for people from all walks of life. Our new location brings us even closer to underserved people in nearby neighborhoods, giving them a state-of-art new home to obtain quality oral health care. It’s exciting to carry on our mission in a new home in a vibrant and ever-changing neighborhood.”

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

Erasing Time and Space in Our Dental Education

WOW, what a magnificent new building. And, the technology to go with it. Imagine a faculty lecturer being able to get real-time feedback from students who merely touch a personal device and the cumulative results appear instantly. Great for testing, stimulating discussion and keeping students involved.

Well, we’ve come a long way since those primitive days of wood-burning computers. That was Room 411 in the building in Pacific Heights back in 1967. There was a tangle of wires under the floor connecting little dials in the armrests of students’ seats to display dashboards on the lectern. We were so far ahead of the times that no one knew how to use that functionality, and it quickly fell into disrepair.

The current building at 155 Fifth Street is a marvel. Its physique is striking. But one might be dazzled by the elephants, marching bands and baton twirlers and miss the parade, unless the focus is on the deep innovation here which is fundamentally digital. We have a new nervous system in the building. That, to a much greater extent than the layout of faculty workstations and clinic operatories, is what is changing the way the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry does dental education.

And we are unlikely to repeat the mistake of Room 411 because technology is now a pervasive part of our culture; digital savvy is broadly distributed across students, staff and faculty and there are almost no wires to get tangled. Literally, we do not do dental education the same way anymore. And the relationships between us are shifting, even down to re-interpreting our core value of humanism.

It’s All a Laboratory

Let’s start where students first feel like they are doing dentistry—the simulation lab. Dr. Parag Kachalia ’01, vice chair of preclinical education, technology and research in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences and lead designer of the preclinical facility, turns slightly sideways when he hears this term. “We are not simulating a laboratory; we are simulating the full clinical experience. In every detail possible, the delivery system for first-year students is identical to what they will be using in the clinic, and we hope when they begin practice.” The computer system is the same in both places (students’ manikins are registered clinic patients), the high-torque electric handpieces are also the same and manikins have features such as cheeks and tongues. They are designed with space for computer boards which can be programmed to emulate conditions such as gagging and health limitations.

We have a new nervous system in the building. That, to a much greater extent than the layout of faculty workstations and clinic operatories, is what is changing the way the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry does dental education.

The physical configuration is a U shape—there are eight of them with 18 students each. This shape mirrors the group practice concept used in the clinic (although clinic groups are multi-year) and allows for teaching “in the round.” The electronic instructional platform in the lab has the full complement of camera, PowerPoint and video and Internet access one would expect. But there is a common feature to educational technology in the lab, clinic, lectures and seminar rooms. Everything is tri-level: presentation and access can be instantly customized and delivered to the entire class, groups within the class or the individual student.

The context matters as well. Next to the lab is a grading room. Students slide their projects into numbered cubbies, faculty members retrieve them and work around a table to grade the projects, then replace them in the cubbies. It is expected that this will disappear or be modified, as it is hoped that grading in the future will be digital. For students, there are polishing labs and a wet lab (no busier than they were at 2155 Webster Street) and these too will be replaced with digital impressions and milling. Instead there will be a digital design lab. One ancillary area that will likely remain is the student lounge immediately off the lab. Food, conversation and personal computers will stay. There is even a photocopy machine—unremarkable, except for those of us who can remember the days when administrators had to request photocopying privileges, and only a few got them.

Kachalia gives a grin as he summarizes what this new facility represents. “There is one sense in which it is correct to call this a lab. The faculty members are continuously experimenting to determine the best ways to teach preclinical dentistry. If you come back a year from now, it will be different, maybe sooner, but certainly improvement is constant.” The amount of input received in designing the facility was enormous, both in volume and range of sources. The school partnered with students, staff and faculty, and even with vendors. In fact, there is a standing weekly meeting with the company that did most of the design work because they want to know what is working and what is not. Our students have never been shy about letting us know what might be done better. Because our basic structure is small group configurations and complete digital connectivity, everyone is in the center, and everyone participates in continuous improvements. Very humanistic.

Patient Access

Possession of information is not as important as access to it. The same is true for this building. Patients are in certain areas of the building. Students are in other places, and there is even a floor for faculty and administration. Access is controlled by swiping one’s identification card.

Patients have their own entrance to the building and are greeted by staff and are issued a pass at a computerized kiosk. Taking the escalator to the second floor, they can expect to be greeted by their student dentist who was alerted to their arrival by the kiosk. All records are digital, and there are computer monitors for both students and patients. Faculty members have ID cards to swipe. Radiographs are digital, and soon other aspects of care such as impressions will be digitized. Students can now access their segments of the Axium computer clinic management and patient record system from their laptops anywhere in the building.

All records are digital, and there are computer monitors for both students and patients. Faculty members have ID cards to swipe.

The image of students and faculty members lugging around carousel trays of slides or backpacks full of models and notes would be a bit anachronistic. It would not even be correct to think in terms of students and faculty carrying computers filled with the information they need. A better image is that we carry access devices that have wireless connections to information that exists “somewhere.” Occasionally, it is necessary to plug into a display device, as when giving a presentation. But the metaphor is what we need to know is “there” and is rich, publicly owned and constantly being updated. We do not even have to do the updating. The challenge is access, and that is expanding dramatically.

I Never Did Know Exactly What Didactic Meant

All lectures are on PowerPoint or Keynote when presented, but usually are posted on Sakai, a learning management platform, ahead of time and the actual delivery is archived on a system called Dental Lecture Capture. This is supplemented with study guides, schedules, information about test coverage and links to related material not produced at the Dugoni School of Dentistry posted by faculty and students. Students know, for example, that they can use the Internet to access the collection of histology slides at several universities (for free) or look up Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on the connections between heart disease and periodontitis that may be more current than the PowerPoint presentations faculty prepared last month.

In the education system for which the old school on Webster Street was built, it made some sense to talk in terms of learning 80% or 90% of what an instructor said. That is largely meaningless today, except in the vestibular ritual of multiple-guess tests.

Our two large lecture rooms are vastly superior to anything a CE speaker could expect at modern convention centers. The multiple large screens across the front of the room can handle up to four different input streams at the same time from as many as six media sources. In addition, there are television screens throughout the lecture and seminar rooms to support breakout groups. Most of this technology is “plug and play” in the sense that the expert connects his or her electronic device to the system and is off and running. No, we did not get rid of blackboards in the seminar rooms. Except they are now white, and many work with colored pens, automatically project to large screens and erase themselves with one click. The days of students crowding to the front of the room to grab a copy of the handout are, of course, gone. If it is not online, there is a serious possibility that it does not exist.

Our two large lecture rooms are vastly superior to anything a CE speaker could expect at modern convention centers. The multiple large screens across the front of the room can handle up to four different input streams at the same time from as many as six media sources.

More Can Play

The old model was that information was transmitted from faculty to student. The new model is that faculty and students sit around a virtual table covered with content. But there is a new player in the building on Fifth Street. Staff members have assumed a role in education that goes well beyond the old days of typing course outlines, handouts and final exams. Not that long ago, staff members drew their power primarily from controlling access to faculty members. Virtually every course strand in the curriculum now has a staff facilitator (not a faculty member) who helps manage student learning. Just the business of arranging multiple small group meetings in the building involves one full-time employee, plus the discipline-based staff. It is all electronic, down to green and red digital displays near huddle room doors. The Department of Information Technology, once three brave souls, now has a broad range of experts in many areas, often in direct and continual contact with students and faculty. The number of staff at the dental school has increased 15% in the past five years. Staff members have assumed new importance, and we could not implement technology as we do without them.

Students Are Different

Students tend to see technology a different way than the administration and faculty do. It is not so much about content and transmission of information as it is about participation. It is also about options and connectivity.

Students are motivated to navigate the rich environment of learning opportunities. And just as there are some students with strong biomedical backgrounds and some with natural mechanical ability, there are differences in digital literacy. Some, after all, have graduate training and work experience in IT. But it is the network that matters. Every student has access to the digital tools provided by the school; but most go well beyond that. Facebook is used for sharing class notes, tips about additional material, social events and community service opportunities, interpretations of clinical protocol, appeals for help and venting and humor. Most students have multiple Facebook accounts: some for general broadcast information, some for school business of various sorts and even exclusive accounts. Some are open and some are moderated. Students may organize files by discipline content, as the curriculum and faculty are organized. But they are also organized by media and student life experiences. In the clinic, the computer is centered on the patient experience, not on requirements.

Students learn much of how the digital world works from classmates. The Dugoni School of Dentistry was one of the first dental schools to issue laptop computers to students in the 1990s. In the early days, we insisted that only a single type of school-issued device was allowable, and the faculty voted not to install electrical outlets on the seats when remodeling a classroom because “who knew what students might be doing on their laptops when they were supposed to be listening to the lecturer?”

Access matters to students; and so does redundancy. The usefulness of media content is dependent on being able to get to it in a useable format at the time it is needed. In my interviews with students, the quality of content of instruction was never mentioned—it is assumed. What seems to matter is being able to download content to devices that fit various students’ personal styles and are familiar to them. Having two monitors in each clinic operatory is excellent. One is for the patient, and they will be shown reruns of old sitcoms or homecare instructions, both found by the student from YouTube rather than provided by the school. The other is for the student-dentist. Two monitors are good in the preclinical technique lab as well. One is for faculty members presenting information; the other—in line of sight for students while operating—provides moment-to-moment support.

New Relationships

A cynic might question whether students really do learn more content or get it better than was done in the good old days. Of course, we knew most of the answers to these questions decades ago. In the 1970s, a typical research article in the Journal of Dental Education compared student learning in various media formats. We found that media does not matter as long as faculty control the experience. We also did studies when various platforms such as Sakai were introduced to host course content. We found that students glance at newly posted material to see whether it is of value and spend a bit more time with the resources immediately prior to examinations. National Board scores are largely unchanged.

But all of this misses the point. We have a new relationship with information and a new relationship with each other. Learners (and that would include faculty members) can change what they know more quickly these days. That matters a lot because dentistry and the context in which it is practiced are changing at an ever-accelerating pace. It is no longer high praise to say that Professor Centric is the most knowledgeable individual on occlusion in the whole building. Students now have and expect to have a more responsible role in acquiring and managing their learning. They also know that that information is “somewhere,” and they are pretty good at getting it.

What the speed and complexity of information technology has forced on us is a democratization of knowledge. The concept of an expert is drifting; clock hours are losing their meaning as a measure of knowledge. Humanism has gone digital because what we need to know is no longer tightly controlled by a few. We are gaining the technology to break down traditional barriers and allow more people to participate in the advancement of dental education.

Remember that old tangle of wires in Room 411 that was a showcase for progressive technology in the “new” building on Webster Street? That was then and there. We did more than move to a new building.

We are erasing time and space in dental education.

David W. Chambers, PhD, is a professor of dental education and former academic dean at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, and is editor of the American College of Dentists.

Development Team Welcomes Three New Members

The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry welcomes three individuals — (Top to bottom) Melisa Caminata, Mynor Aragon and Charleen Yson to the school’s Office of Development. They will work together with the development team to continue the school’s fundraising efforts.

As the annual fund manager, Aragon oversees unrestricted support of the school, reunion giving and fundraising for the campaign. He has seven years of experience in higher education, most recently as head of the parent giving program for University of the Pacific in Stockton. Previously, he managed major gift prospects and reunion giving at University of San Francisco’s law school. Aargon holds a bachelor’s degree in politics, a master’s degree in non-profit administration and an MBA—all from University of San Francisco.

Caminata serves as a development officer and will focus on identifying, cultivating and soliciting gifts in the $5,000 to $25,000 range. She spent the last three years leading the reunion giving program at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Born and raised in Stockton, Caminata earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Sacramento State University and started her fundraising career there as a student caller.

Yson is the team’s administrative assistant. She has been a receptionist in the school’s dental clinic for the past two years. Prior to working for the school, she was an administrative assistant at California Pacific Medical Center.

New Pathways

When I first started as a new student in our school in 1991, I never would have imagined my path would lead me to my new role as interim dean. Having the opportunity to serve in this position is a tremendous honor. I am thrilled to carry on the legacy of leadership at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

I would like to thank our former dean, Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., who for the last nine years provided leadership and a steadfast commitment to fulfilling our school’s mission. I wish him well on his sabbatical and his future retirement.

We are in for a great year ahead. The classes, simulation laboratory and patient clinics have been humming with activity. I am recharged every time I walk around our new state-of-the-art school. Our students are finding their own pathways in their programs after having settled into the routines of dental school. Our action-packed first quarter featured signature events such as the First-Year Student Retreat, Cioppino Dinner, White Coat Ceremony, guest talks organized by our student clubs and alumni receptions around the state. It is always exciting to participate in opportunities to bring our school family together, celebrate our culture and reinforce our values.

I look forward to seeing you at future events organized by our Alumni Association and other departments. In the meantime, feel free to visit us in San Francisco and catch up on the latest happenings at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry!


Nader Sig
Nader A. Nadershahi, DDS, MBA, EdD
Interim Dean