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University Celebrates Landmark Purchase of New Home for Dental School

The future of University of the Pacific looks bright in the Bay Area.

The recent landmark purchase of a new home for the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and other Pacific programs is generating much excitement among the University community and San Francisco’s civic leaders and community members alike.

University of the Pacific’s purchase of a seven-story building at 155 Fifth Street in San Francisco marks one of the largest facility projects ever undertaken by the University. The future new campus is located in San Francisco’s burgeoning South of Market (SoMa) district. It will provide a distinctive new home for future generations of Pacific students.

Five floors of the 395,000-square-foot building will house the Dugoni School of Dentistry, as well as classroom space for other University programs. The remaining two floors will be leased as premium office space. The building will undergo a comprehensive renovation, including a complete replacement of the building’s exteriors and interior spaces, which is expected to take approximately two years. The new campus is expected to open in mid-2014.

“This new facility will allow Pacific to strategically expand its footprint in San Francisco by providing a highly visible presence downtown,” said Pamela A. Eibeck, president of University of the Pacific. “This will give us important opportunities for our dental school, which has been in San Francisco since 1896, and also will allow us to build programs for students in our eight other University schools and colleges.”

“I am proud to welcome the University of the Pacific’s Dugoni School of Dentistry to their new home in SoMa,” said San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “This new campus represents a significant investment in San Francisco, bringing new jobs, new economic activity and one of the top dental schools in the nation to the heart of our City.”

The new building will contain flexible learning environments, labs research areas and support space for the dental school, and will also accommodate clinical changes and technology enhancements to support patient care. The SoMa location offers many neighborhood amenities and close proximity to parking and public transportation options for students, faculty, staff and patients.

“We are proud to be part of the exciting development activity taking place in the South of Market neighborhood,” said Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. “The new facility will allow easier access for our patients to receive oral health care, and provide state-of-the-art learning environments to support our academic programs.”

Key partners for the renovation and construction project include the San Francisco office of SmithGroupJJR, Inc. as the lead architect; San Francisco-based Plant Construction Company as the general contractor; and Nova Partners, Inc., of Palo Alto, for project management services. The 155 Fifth Street renovation project is estimated to employ about 200 tradespeople over its duration.

The University is funding the cost of the purchase and renovations through an upcoming fundraising campaign, revenue from commercial leases and the sale of two properties currently used by the dental school in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.

Sending Signals: The Dugoni community embraces technology to communicate with patients

By Eric K. Curtis, DDS, MA

Dr. Nathan Yang ’06 was floored when his receptionist disappeared. Yang and his wife, Dr. Joanne Jeng ’04, had been thrilled about the practice they bought in San Francisco in 2008. But the excitement soon turned to dismay when the woman working the front desk left without warning, creating both a security breach and a practice management headache. Yang, who teaches part-time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, thought long and hard about his options. Instead of hiring a new receptionist, he installed an electronic front desk.

Yang’s solution involves two separate Web-based services, Demandforce and ZocDoc, the latter of which was suggested to him by Pacific alumnus Dr. Jared Pool ’09. Together, the services create an integrated system for managing patient flow. The system puts Yang’s practice among the first five dentists in his zip code to appear during Google searches. It invites patients and potential patients to view available openings online. It prompts patients to make, confirm, cancel and reschedule their own appointments, or leave a message for his assistant to call them back. It then sends patients appointment reminders by email or text message.

This system, synchronized with the office’s existing scheduling software, allows Yang and his assistant to monitor their appointment books and interact with patients from any location. Much of this patient interaction occurs in the operatory. “My assistant can make appointments and handle patient questions while I’m looking at X-rays,” Yang says. The office computer generates recall reminders and even sends patients surveys via smart phone after appointments to gauge their experiences, transforming Yang’s patient base into a private, interactive social medium. “If I get a bad comment,” he says, “I have a staff meeting right away to fix the problem.”

The two services together cost less than $7,000 per year to maintain. “I realized I could either set up an electronic front desk,” Yang says, “or hire a new person at $25 an hour, with the accompanying ebb and flow of emotions that hurt us before.” With his virtual receptionist up and running, Yang discovered that his scheduling improved. Open spots filled up with less hassle. His no-shows dropped. “I haven’t really had a front-desk employee now for four years,” he says.

Yang concedes that some people are “weirded out” by his technological leap of faith. “It might seem sort of ‘out there,’” he says of his lack of a human receptionist, but insists he is technologically conservative. He doesn’t maintain a conventional website, or an office Facebook presence, and he doesn’t participate in crowd-sourcing platforms such as Yelp. “I don’t believe in tech for tech’s sake,” Yang says, “but I have to ask myself what’s reasonable. I want to be accessible.” His system, he says, is low key and professional, and not self-promoting: “There is no way my patients can’t get in touch with me. I’ve found a way to communicate without being overbearing. It’s fast, easy and discreet.”

[pullquote]The upshot is this: Nate Yang runs his practice over the Internet using his smart phone. Welcome to the brave new world of communications technology.[/pullquote]

Dr. Parag Kachalia ’01, assistant professor and vice chair of pre-clinical education, research and technology in the Dugoni School’s new Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences, keeps his finger on the pulse of technical innovation. Communication is the essence of both education and patient care, and the Dugoni School of Dentistry has worked hard to attune the flexibility and sensibilities of its humanistic philosophy to changing technologies. “We try to analyze not just what’s happening now but also anticipate conditions two to five years out,” Kachalia says.

What’s happening, of course, includes new technology. The dental school, which previously pioneered clinical studies of Invisalign®, is currently testing a system for digital dentures with a computer-based occlusal scheme. On the first appointment, the dentist takes a traditional impression and creates a jig to capture occlusal records; on the second appointment, the dentist delivers the denture.

Such technologies may improve both clinical practice and the quality of the educational experience itself. The 3M ESPE company recently donated to the school 12 Lava Chairside Optical Scanner (COS) devices, digital impression machines that let dentists produce a three-dimensional model of a patient’s mouth. The fact that students—bringing long-practiced video game-playing skills to bear—can easily manipulate the hardware to visualize the mouth’s hidden recesses in magnified 3-D signals a truly collaborative approach to education. Developments such as the COS, Kachalia says, “allow us to dramatically bring the intraoral environment out of the mouth and in front of everyone.”

But Kachalia explains that the dental school’s sensitivity to trends in technology also involves a close reading of how people accept and use that technology. Accordingly, instructors are exploring the educational opportunities of social media, preparing virtual classrooms on Facebook and experimenting with communications via a Twitter feed. (Email, it turns out, is so ten minutes ago—while electronic messaging used to be the vehicle of choice for rapid information exchange, people have become bombarded with spam to the point that many mostly ignore it.)

To be sure, social media represents both rewards and risks for dentistry with pitfalls lurking next to the promises. Facebook, as Kachalia describes it, may be “this generation’s gathering around the coffee table,” but confidentiality is a concern, as are implications for ethics and professionalism. “Facebook has great educational potential,” he says. “We need to learn how to properly navigate it and put up appropriate filters.”

Yang believes that one danger of social media for practitioners is the temptation to chase immediate gratification; some may see those communication channels as a vehicle for making quick money without consequences. Another risk lies in giving the public open access to pass judgment on a dentist’s practice. The instant interactions that social media provide invite raw, unvarnished comments that can severely affect a dentist’s reputation—comments that patient confidentiality laws prevent the dentist from fully addressing. When you give the world a free canvas to paint on, Yang says, “You have to take the bad with the good.”

[pullquote]E-mail, it turns out, is so ten minutes ago…[/pullquote]

Yelp, the user review website, also presents a double-edged sword. While unedited patient testimonials can be a source of free advertising, the ability to post anonymously can provoke abuse, because, true or false, statements posted online may come to define a dentist. “Sites like Yelp, Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools,” Yang says, “that can quickly build or tear down your practice.”

“You can’t base your whole professional identity on whether you have two or four stars,” observes Kachalia, referring to Yelp’s rating system. “We need to be careful as a profession to create value within ourselves.”

One of the complications of this everyone-in-touch age is that communication is often multidirectional. “At school you have to bridge communications in a triangle, from faculty to students, then from students to patients,” Kachalia says. In one such bridge-building venture last year, the school introduced iPads, loaded with an application aimed at communicating with patients, into the Main Clinic. Students pull up the DDS General Practitioner patient education app to show photos, diagrams and animated images of common oral conditions and dental procedures, as well as present clinical findings, prevention recommendations and treatment plan options.

The electronic world has altered not just how students teach patients but how the faculty teaches students. Students today learn differently, Kachalia reflects. Having grown up in an environment of continuous stimulation, they may chafe at the traditional “sage-on-the-stage” lecture format. They are more comfortable with a two-way model of education. They want to be able to respond. More than just facts, they want applications. And because students have quick access to information, instructors must keep very current. “I can be lecturing,” Kachalia says, “and a student might be Googling to verify what I’m saying.”

Yet for all the potential insecurities that technology may serve up, even mature Pacific alumni remain enthusiastic about its possibilities. Dr. Kenneth Frangadakis ’66 is founding partner of a multi-specialty dental group in Cupertino, California, most of whose partners and associates are also Pacific grads. “As dentists,” he says, “we have to stay well educated and try to stay ahead of developments. If you are just keeping up, you’re falling behind.”

While Frangadakis admits he’s a “hybrid” dentist—“I write in the chart, and the staff puts it into the computer”—he keeps a careful eye on new developments. His current favorite clinical technologies include digital X-rays (“We’re upgrading from phosphor plates to sensors”), the iTero digital impression system and the Onpharma buffering setup for local anesthetic invented by Pacific alumnus Dr. Mic Falkel ’87, which Frangadakis liked so much that he invested in the company. “It really works,” Frangadakis enthuses. “The anesthetic is fast, it doesn’t hurt and it’s very profound.” The next piece of equipment on his list: “We need to get a three-dimensional imaging machine.” Frangadakis is also planning to incorporate an automated patient messaging software system, similar to Demandforce, called Smile Reminder.

Pacific alumni agree that no amount of technical innovation can compensate for poor patient care or sloppy interpersonal skills. “There is something to be said for treating people like family,” says Yang. “Regardless of technology, you still have to gain and keep people’s trust. You have to believe that it’s a privilege to treat people and an honor to make a living by helping people.”

“Successful practice is about giving value and service,” Frangadakis says. “Take care of people the way you want to be taken care of.”

Eric K. Curtis ’85, DDS, of Stafford, 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.

Dan McFarland ’14 | The Fish Will Have To Wait

In 2010, Dan McFarland was a fly fishing guide in his hometown of Missoula, Montana. Today, he’s more than halfway through his first year at the dental school. So how did a fisherman from a small town in Montana end up in a big city on the path towards dentistry?

It turns out the healthcare field was always of interest to him. While at the University of Montana, Dan studied health and human performance with an emphasis in exercise science. He had every intention of attending physical therapy school. However, after completing a couple of internships, he knew that wasn’t the route for him.

Unsure of what career he wanted to pursue after graduation, Dan took a job as a guide for a fly fishing company. The sport has been a passion and hobby for him for more than 15 years, so the job was attractive. As a guide, Dan encountered tourists from all over the United States, and it just so happened that many of them were dentists. Intrigued by his background, a few of them suggested he look into the field of dentistry. “They thought that with my healthcare background, dentistry might be a good fit and something I’d be interested in,” explained Dan. “And job shadowing made me realize it was perfect for me.”

[pullquote]So how did a fisherman from a small town in Montana end up in a big city on the path towards dentistry? [/pullquote]

When it came to deciding on a school, Pacific was a huge draw for him not only because it was a three-year program, but also because of the humanistic approach. Dan’s favorite aspect of the school is its supportive environment. He feels as though he can approach anyone, from fellow students and faculty to the administrative staff. If he has an issue, everybody is willing to help. “I think there are a lot of schools across the country that are really set in their ways and they’re not able or willing to adapt,” commented Dan. “At Pacific, it’s incredible that professors and heads of departments will sit down and listen to your issues and make a conscious effort to change something that is negatively affecting the school.”

His desire to make positive changes helped motivate him to become involved in student government, and he has embraced his role as vice president for his class. According to Dan, he has always had the mindset that if he is going to do something, he wants to get the most out of it that he possibly can. He sees an opportunity to build up his leadership skills too. “I have some strong qualities that I can utilize to benefit our class,” said Dan. “I want to become a better, more well-rounded person.”

[pullquote]“I definitely want to end up in Montana.”[/pullquote]

Although Dan is keeping busy with his studies and extracurricular activities, he is also finding time to experience everything he can living in a big city. He enjoys that there’s so much to do, but at the same time, this makes him appreciate where he came from—the fact that there’s less commotion and fewer people back home.

As for his love of fly fishing, it hasn’t weakened one bit, but alas, the fish will have to wait for him. “I’ve only been able to go three times since school started,” Dan exclaimed. “That’s a big change from the four to five days a week I used to go.”

Still, this is a sacrifice he is willing to make for now, recognizing the tradeoff is the supportive Dugoni School of Dentistry environment, and knowing that his new career is waiting for him upon graduation. “I want to own a private practice and hopefully have a couple of associates as well,” said Dan. “And I definitely want to eventually end up in Montana.”

So What Do You Think of the Big Move?

By Kathleen Barrows

In the words of Student Body President Greg Gardner, Class of 2012, “In its 116-year history, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry has been like a living document, modifying to meet the needs of its patients and its students.” It goes without saying that the purchase and building of the new dental school, which will open in 2014, is a bold step forward in the school’s evolution.

So what does the “dentist on the street” think of the big move? We interviewed people representing the past, the present and the future of the dental school—alumni, faculty, outgoing and incoming students—to find out their thoughts.

Excitement, sometimes mixed with nostalgia, were the emotions that predominated. Nearly everyone heaved a communal sigh of relief about having better parking options and recognized that the school has outgrown its present location. And all anticipated a spacious and modern clinic space that would allow for enhanced patient care as well as better teaching and learning in an environment more representative of real-life dental practice settings.

But each person, reflecting his or her individual and professional histories, had unique thoughts about what the move would mean. Here’s what they had to say.

Dr. Jack Saroyan ’62 – A Pioneer Looking Forward

“I never thought I’d live to see another dental school built,” admits Dr. Jack Saroyan. And he should know. He can still picture the special spade used at the groundbreaking in Pacific Heights, which he and his wife attended in 1967.

Saroyan remembers well the wooden building at 14th and Mission Streets across from the armory, which served as the school’s home from 1923 to 1962. “The clinics were like those in a horror movie, with the equipment all black and rows of dental chairs.” Those were the days when dental students didn’t even touch patients until their second year.

[pullquote]“Now, we’re going to be the new showplace.”
– Dr. Jack Saroyan ’62[/pullquote]

The long-time assistant professor, who retired from his 44-year San Francisco dental practice in 2006, understands why the school needs to move beyond its present site. And he’s especially excited about all the new equipment and the additional square footage in the new clinic design. He also looks forward to more research into areas like bone regeneration. “Now, we’re going to be the new showplace.”

For those like himself who might be concerned with security issues, he points out that there will be three entrances—one for the students and faculty, one for the patients and a third for people going to other parts of the building.

Getting a new building up and running won’t be easy, Saroyan realizes. As he puts it, “Transitions are always difficult,” especially when the move must happen during the one-month summer break in June 2014. But he’s confident that with proper planning, it can be done. As for funding, Saroyan points out that the sale value of the parking lot and building on the present site is a great asset. And he’s counting on the generosity of alumni, who responded so well to the last capital campaign, to come through again as he has.

Ms. Lauren Powell, Class of 2015 – Envisioning a Better Chance to Serve Patients

Lauren Powell knew she wanted to become a dentist since age 12. That was when she got her first braces—as she describes them, “shiny wires, pink bands, the works!”—and loved them. Even earlier, at the age of eight, she had jumped at the job of turning the tiny key on the rotating wheel of her older brother’s palatal expander. Now, as a member of the first class that will graduate from the new campus, her dream is a reality.

Under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce Valentine ’69, her beloved family dentist in Modesto, California, who “opened her eyes to the world of dentistry,” Powell attended Pacific Pride Day at the age of 17 and enrolled in the accelerated dental honors program at the University’s Stockton campus. She’s elated to have been invited to speak at the recent groundbreaking by Associate Dean for Institutional Advancement Craig Yarborough ‘80.

[pullquote]“It will be better for patients as well as students.”
– Ms. Lauren Powell, Class of 2015[/pullquote]

Powell says she’s feeling privileged that she’ll be involved in the big move, and her “biggest excitement is the restructuring of the entire clinic to implement the idea of actual general practice in real life.” The present system of four group practice administrators (GPAs) will increase to eight practice leaders (PLs), so that there will be closer support and monitoring of the students in the clinic setting, with adjacent seminar rooms for discussions.

And, she emphasizes, “It will be better for the patients as well as the students.” Right now many patients don’t live in the area, and parking and transportation are real issues. The new location will mean a shorter journey to receive treatment. After all, she says, “we’re there to serve them,” and that’s what she plans to do.

As Powell puts it, “I know this is a university that will not only teach me how to be a great dentist, but a great person as well.”

Dr. Binh Dao ’07 – Letting Go of Nostalgia

For Dr. Binh Dao ’07, the present campus holds a lot of memories. He’ll always remember, from his first tour of the school, the magnificent view from the top of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown and the Bay. And later he’d discover that there was “a cool little neighborhood sandwich shop where the lady knew everyones’ names.”

His classmates would sit in the same seats that other family members had occupied as dental students a generation before. Binh himself, whose father immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1980, has a cousin who inspired his own decision to attend the dental school.

[pullquote]“I’m excited to see how a school will be started from scratch.”
– Dr. Binh Dao ’07[/pullquote]

And then, of course, it was here that he met his wife, Dr. Alexis Lyons ’07. They were married this past September, with more than 40 classmates and their significant others present at the wedding. The two now have their respective practices in the Sacramento area.

After speaking with both Dean Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr. and Associate Dean Craig Yarborough about his initial concerns two years ago, he realizes that it was the “nostalgic part” of him that was getting in the way. “As a student you don’t realize you’ve outgrown an old building,” he says. It’s more “economically smart to buy and build the way you want” rather than remodel an aging structure. Besides, he asks, where would the students have gone during the renovations?

Most importantly, Dao is impressed with how the dean has planned for the future in a rapidly evolving technological world. “I’m excited now to see how a school will be started from scratch,” and he’s confident that whatever happens, it will be an improvement on an already great school. “Dean Ferrillo is taking the school in a forward direction, and that’s what’s important.”

Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte ’86 – Hoping to Enhance Continuing Education

As a former president of the Alumni Association, Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte ’86 is well aware of all the effort and planning that has gone into the move to the new campus. And she was thrilled to be present at the January 18 groundbreaking, where she witnessed the excitement of the University regents as well.

She sees the move as a potential boon to the school’s continuing education program. The CDA Presents fall meeting happens annually at the Moscone Center, right around the corner from the new site. This could mean a collaboration with the CDA—an organization she’s been actively involved in since 1986—using the new clinic for some of the hands-on sessions to bring in revenue and showcase the school.

Having come from the “era of long bench labs,” Tippet-Whyte is very appreciative of the new clinic design, with its feel of a group practice. It will be more practical and “help the students learn the business side of dental practice, something which has always been a challenge.”

[pullquote]“Any move is bittersweet.”
– Dr. Judee Tippett-Whyte ’86[/pullquote]

She’s also convinced that the much-improved parking situation and accessibility to public transportation will make it much easier to attract patients to help ensure a well-rounded clinical education for students. The South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood represents a “hub of activity,” which will bring in a younger population to use the school.

Any move is bittersweet. Tippett-Whyte and her husband, Pacific Director of Events Steve Whyte, have many happy memories of their early married life in student housing, in a building which even had a lab. But it was “an added perk,” and not something that she feels would impact anyone’s decision to attend the dental school.

Of this she’s sure: “The advantages of the new site will far outweigh the disadvantages of losing the student housing.”

Mr. Greg Gardner, Class of 2012 – Moving into the 21st Century

Greg Gardner, Class of 2012, is quick to admit, “I’m jealous—jealous of the newness and the firsts that will happen at the new school.” His concern is that some students may forget “how great we already have it here” and he feels the new campus will only “launch us further from the reach of other schools.”

[pullquote]“Our shoes and clothes are getting tight.”
– Mr. Greg Gardner, Class of 2012[/pullquote]

It was the inspiration and mentorship of Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni ’48 and other administrators who helped Gardner step out of his comfort zone to become student body president. After graduating, he will participate in a one-year, postgraduate residency in general practice in Mississippi, pursue a private practice for 10 to 15 years and then begin a gradual return to academia.

Gardner recognizes that “our shoes and clothes are getting tight.” Larger gatherings of the school—in both good times to make important announcements and sad times to mourn a lost colleague—have been limited by space constraints. And he definitely won’t miss the lines in the clinics for both space and supplies.

Being an older student, who left behind a short career as a chemical engineer, Gardner appreciates that the new space will allow for what he calls “a greater variety of learning skills and styles,” from lectures to hands-on learning. He realizes that from the students’ perspective there may be worries about housing and a change in neighborhood, but “ultimately it’s about the patients and the care we provide.”

“This is a timely and much-needed step for the Dugoni School of Dentistry to go into the 21st century and build a new dynasty.”

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

Doing More Than Cleaning Teeth

By Kathleen A. Barrows
Photos by Jon Draper

Dental hygiene alumni are taking on leadership roles, teaching, mentoring and expanding the definition of what it means to be a dental hygienist.

“Being a dental hygienist is not just about cleaning teeth,” asserted Hani Mohsenzadeh DH ’09 in a recent article featuring male dental hygienists in the American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s Access magazine. His statement sums up well the University’s unique accelerated program in dental hygiene. That and the word “prevention,” as the director of Pacific’s dental hygiene program Deborah Horlak, RDH, states, “Preventing disease from occurring is better than just healing a problem.”

The program—a partnership between the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the undergraduate liberal arts and sciences division of the University—was the first 36-month program leading to a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene in the United States. The general education courses, completed at Pacific’s Stockton campus or through transfer equivalents from other schools, focus on providing a strong science background as well as the humanities necessary for dental hygiene and clinical practice. The dental hygiene professional courses, which begin every January, are offered through the Dugoni School of Dentistry in the dental hygiene facility on the main campus.

[pullquote]Ours is the first 36-month program leading to a bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene in the United States[/pullquote]

There have been six graduating classes since the program’s inception. We feature here three graduates of the program—Kimberly Senise DH ’06, COP ’89, Larisa Figueroa DH ’07 and Hani Mohsenzadeh DH ’09—who exemplify the Dugoni spirit and tradition. All are not only what Horlak calls “terrific students and wonderful people” but also dental hygiene alumni who are taking on leadership roles in the Alumni Association, teaching and mentoring and expanding the definition of what it means to be a dental hygienist.

Kimberly Senise DH ’06

Dentistry and the dental school go a long way back for Kimberly Senise DH ‘06.  Her father, Dr. F. Paul Senise ’65, past president and former, long-standing secretary of the Alumni Association, and Medallion of Distinction recipient; her twin sister, Dr. Kris Senise Cameron ’98; and her brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Cameron ’95, all graduated from the dental school. Now, as a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, this member of the second graduating dental hygiene class is continuing the tradition.

[pullquote]Kim is the first and only dental hygiene alumnus on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors[/pullquote]

After 12 years of working in the high technology field, Senise returned to Pacific, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in 1989, to study dental hygiene. A memory that stays with her is seeing how the demeanor of an AEGD clinic patient with two missing front teeth completely changed with a partial. “I know that the phrase ‘having a healthy smile’ sounds elementary,” the former class president says, “but it’s true.”

The dental hygienist now works four days a week at multiple practices, including one day in her sister’s and brother-in-law’s practice in Marin County—which gives her the opportunity to “learn a little bit from everybody.”  But she envisions becoming involved in education or practice management consulting in the future.

As the first and only dental hygiene alumnus on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, Senise works to establish and maintain a relationship with dental hygiene students and graduates and to educate them about the benefits of becoming Alumni Association members. It’s not easy. There are only about 140 graduates from the hygiene program so far.  It’s a trek from Stockton to San Francisco, and the dental hygiene program students, in addition to being general younger than other alumni, have tough economic times to face. It’s also not easy to get hygiene alumni interested in an association dominated by dentists. “It’s a constant battle,” she says. “Every year I’m trying something new to draw people in.”  With Senise’s dedication, we’re sure she will.

Larisa Figueroa DH ’07

Stemming from an early admiration of her periodontist, Figueroa began her career working at a dental office as a high school student. The dentists she worked with recognized soon her passion for dental hygiene, accommodating her schedule so that she could take her early college coursework while continuing to work a part-time schedule at their office. “I’ve always been fascinated by the preventative aspects of dentistry and helping before the problems start,” Figueroa says.

Today, she works as a dental hygienist in the practice of Dr. Louis Dang ’00 in West Sacramento, but her education in the dental hygiene program has also inspired her to do much more. The rotations she went through as part of the program, especially screening children in low-income areas, sparked her interest in prevention and working in the community. “I’d see those decayed teeth,” she says, “realize the parents’ lack of knowledge about dental care, and wonder ‘why aren’t we doing something about this?’”

Following her graduation from the dental hygiene program, Figueroa received her master’s degree in public health from University of California, Davis. She now teaches head and neck anatomy at Carrington College (formerly Western Career College) in Sacramento and supervises activity in a community oral health class. When she’s not working, she takes continuing education classes at the dental school and through her local dental hygiene component.

[pullquote]”I’ve always been fascinated by the preventative aspects of dentistry and helping before the problems start.” –LarissaFigueroa[/pullquote]

Though she recognizes the financial challenges of dental professionals in these difficult economic times, she encourages other dental hygiene alumni to join the association. “It’s a way of staying connected to the field and to a wonderful school that is always at the cutting-edge and advancing education,” she adds. “Plus, networking is fun.” But most importantly for Figueroa, “I hope I can be a mentor for someone and provide the same type of guidance and support that I received at Pacific and the dental school.”

Hani Mohsenzadeh DH ’09

Like Senise, Hani Mohsenzadeh DH ’09 was drawn to dental hygiene through family ties. The Iranian immigrant, who came to the U.S. speaking very little English, shadowed his sister, Dr. Maryam  Mohsenzadeh, in her Los Angeles dental office and found his calling.

In the dental hygiene program, where he was the only male in his class, he immersed himself in many aspects of dental prevention. A recipient of the Dental Hygiene Student Award from the American Association of Public Health Dentistry and the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation, Mohsenzadeh collaborated in a research study on the hidden health hazards of the hookah, a popular tobacco pipe in the Middle East. With assistance from the Pacific Fund, the results were disseminated at a session of the California Dental Hygienists’ Association in 2009.

[pullquote]Mohsenzadeh collaborated in a research study on the hidden health hazards of the hookah.[/pullquote]

Since his graduation, Mohsenzadeh volunteers time at the dental school on Mondays as an instructor in the Department of Dental Practice, working with first-year students in periodontics. He floats around the clinic, doing everything from helping the students with scalers and curettes to explaining the preventative aspects of perio. “I have to keep telling them I’m not a doctor,” he admits. He sees his recent graduation as a plus.  “I’m still fresh, so I’m trying to teach them the way I learned.”

Mohsenzadeh’s teaching experience has further motivated him to become a dental educator as well as a dentist. But right now, he’s primarily excited about two new projects. He hopes to help facilitate the creation of continuing education classes taught by dental school professors for international dentists—an idea that came from his recent discussions with dental school professionals in Iran, Dubai and Bahrain. And, he is now working 80% of his time as a dental hygienist in the La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland, where Alumni Association President Ariane Terlet ’86 serves as the dental director. “I feel so good inside,” he adds, “providing care for the people in need.”

Looking to the Future of the Program

The dental hygiene program shares many aspects of the dental school—an experienced and dedicated faculty focused on the students, the Dugoni humanistic philosophy and a program that “becomes like family” according to Horlak, especially with the small classes of only 24 students. It’s also a diverse program, both in terms of ethnicity and geography. But it needs more visibility. Many alumni don’t even know the program exists. “If everyone would recommend one person into the program, we would have a greater pool of applicants,” Horlak suggests.

Beginning with the Class of 2010, the dental hygiene program now has a rotation to the dental school. For two separate weeks, the dental hygiene students come to the San Francisco campus to teach instrumenting skills to dental students, see patients under faculty supervision, observe work in the clinics and see patients under staff supervision at the Union City Dental Care Center. For many dental students, this is the first contact they have with hygiene students and for many of the hygiene students, the first time they’ve been to the San Francisco campus.

Horlak points out that the public doesn’t know much about the role of dental hygienists. “As health care providers, we spend a lot of time with our patients. Hygienists consider the whole person, assess his/her risk for oral disease and explain the different conditions that affect dental health,” she says. And as these three hygiene alumni attest, they grow into leaders, educators, mentors and researchers. In short, they can do much more than clean teeth.

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

Purchase Agreement Signed for New Home

The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry recently  took a bold step forward in its plan for future facilities in San Francisco. The school has signed a purchase agreement for a seven-story downtown building which features approximately 395,000 square feet of facility space.

The building is located on Fifth Street between Mission and Howard Streets in one of San Francisco’s most vibrant districts, the South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. The site was selected after an intensive review of more than 20 locations by a facilities task force made up of dental school representatives, University of the Pacific senior leaders and members of the Board of Regents. The purchase agreement, while not finalized, is expected to be complete by late 2011 barring any unforeseen delays.

Future plans will include an extensive renovation and remodeling of the entire building, which is currently vacant. The building will be completely stripped down to its structural elements. The exterior will be re-skinned and the interior designed from scratch. One advantage of the building’s large, open floor plan is the opportunity to have a blank slate for the dental school to design and create optimal facilities. Design and remodeling work is expected to take up to two years to complete before students, faculty and staff can occupy the building.

When it came time to look for a new location, the school had an extensive wish list driven by several years of new facility feasibility and programming studies. Key features include: flexible space for modern learning environments; clinical spaces to support the new group practice model being planned as part of the new Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum implementation; a more convenient location accessible via public transportation for patients; communal space to better support the school’s culture; and environmentally efficient facilities to replace the aging systems and equipment currently used in the school’s existing building in Pacific Heights.

Approximately 225,000 square feet in the building will house dental school facilities. Additional square footage will be used by University of the Pacific for other purposes, which include the possibility of leasing space to commercial tenants or use by the University for programs in San Francisco in years ahead.

“This exciting step is the culmination of many years of feasibility studies and planning as part of the implementation of our strategic plan, Advancing Greatness,” said Dean Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., a member of the Facilities Steering Committee. “While we have much work ahead of us, we are confident this new location will serve us well for decades to come. I would like to thank the school community, including our alumni and donors, who continue to support this vision to create state-of-the-art facilities that will keep us on the leading edge of dental education.”

The school also recently selected Nova Partners, Inc. as its project management firm, SmithGroup as its lead architectural firm and Plant Construction Company as its general contractor.

More details will be shared in future issues of Contact Point and other announcements to the school and alumni communities.

Get Inspired, Says Dean Ferrillo

Those of us who work at the Dugoni School of Dentistry are fortunate to be inspired each week by the motivated students in our classrooms, clinics and hallways.

Inspiration came early to some of these budding dental professionals who figured out at a young age that they would like to pursue careers in oral health care. Others came to their decisions later in life. In either case, a network of friends, family, alumni, students, faculty members and staff advisors impacted their decision along the way.

As students move from inspiration to action in pursuit of their educational dreams, our Office of Student Services is there to advise them, provide information and resources and manage the entire admissions process. As you’ll discover in this issue, the activities of this office are varied. They include everything from hosting an annual dental camp for middle school students to meeting with predental student clubs, reviewing applications, coordinating student interviews, managing financial aid packages, arranging housing, answering questions from parents and much more.

This issue of Contact Point also highlights a few other innovative and inspiring developments. We’re moving forward with changes to the group practice model in the Main Clinic to improve the student experience and patient care. The changes will include a shift to eight smaller group practices with second- and third-year students working side by side in order to provide students with an experience that more closely resembles private practice. We also cover a popular new course in predental ceramics offered on the Stockton campus by a visual arts professor to help students develop their perceptual ability and hand dexterity.

Another major initiative has been our search for new facilities in San Francisco. The following pages share an update about a new school home we are pursuing in downtown San Francisco to replace our Pacific Heights facilities. Creating facilities designed for the next 40 to 50 years is part of the implementation of our strategic plan, Advancing Greatness, and will help keep us on the leading edge of dental education.

As you think back to your own dental education, I’m sure you can recall people and moments that inspired you. This issue will give you a taste of some recent school activities that are motivating the next generation of dental professionals. We hope these updates will inspire you, too, and make you just as excited about the future of the dental school and profession as we are.

Patrick J. Ferrillo

Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr.

I Have an Idea . . .

By Kathleen Barrows

Some organizations rely on leadership at the top to take the calculated risks that innovation requires. But here at University of Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, it’s not only the deans and faculty members who are coming up with some great ideas. As former Associated Student Body President, Dr. Ryan Wilgus ’10, points out, we have “a creative innovative student body” that he’s proud to have been a part of.

Students and residents are devoting their time, passion and talent to projects that often go unnoticed. They are setting up an alumni/student mentor program, spearheading dental outreach efforts around the world and conducting groundbreaking research that will influence the practice of dentistry for years to come. Here are just a few of their stories.

On the Cutting Edge in Research

“Tissue repair by regeneration is one of the most rapidly advancing research fields relevant to dentistry today,” according to Dr. Miroslav Tolar, director of the dental school’s new state-of-the-art Stem Cell and Tissue Engineering Clinical Facility (SCTECF), which opened its doors earlier this year. And Class of 2011 orthodontic resident Dr. Nicholas Bauter ‘04 is excited to be part of it. As he puts it, “The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry is tapping into a whole new world.”

Regenerative dentistry, relatively new dental field which originally started in Japan, involves using adult stem cells of the patient to re-grow and replace damaged tissues and bone in the mouth and jaws.

Bauter has been joined by Drs. Waleed Soliman ‘09 Ortho, current orthodontic residents Drs. Manal Abu Al-Melh ’10 and Justin Hannon ’09, as well as four enthusiastic second-year students—Eric Baker, Timothy Betita, Preston Hansen and Lance Keyes. All want to specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery and anticipate the significant role that regenerative dentistry will play in their future work.

After spending a year as a fellow in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, where he co-published an article in the Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society, Bauter decided to return to the dental school to pursue an MSD in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. It was his research with Dr. Marie Tolarova, professor of orthodontics, on the causes of cleft palate, that got him working with Dr. Tolar. His thesis project on dental pulp stem cells “snowballed” into this project.

Bauter hasn’t just given of his time and research expertise—he’s given a part of himself too. “I had bone marrow taken out of my hip bone” for research, he explains—what some might call going above and beyond the call of duty.

He recognizes the challenges. Due to the need for a totally sterile, bacteria-free environment for this kind of research, it’s a very expensive endeavor. But he also knows he’s on to something big. “We are just at the tip of the iceberg in this kind of research, on the cusp. There are so many things we don’t know, and so many things we don’t even know we don’t know.” But with innovative minds like Bauter’s, the dental school will continue to be at the forefront of these efforts.

[pullquote]When Young graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, she used the alumni list to call up and ask advice of graduates.[/pullquote]

Alumni/Student Mentor Program

The idea for a mentorship program was nothing new to Drs. Ryan Wilgus ’10 and Lauren Young ’10, former Class of 2010 vice president and student representative on the Alumni Association’s board of directors. When Young graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, she used the alumni list to call up and ask advice of graduates. And through his best friend, Wilgus knew that every incoming freshman at Brown University was paired with an alumnus. “It should be easy to create a mentor program at the dental school,” thought Wilgus, “since we’re all majoring in the same thing.”

Now, thanks to the efforts of Young and Wilgus, the dental school alumni/student mentor program is almost ready to launch, with a target date of July 2011. The long-term goal is to connect alumni to students not just at the dental school, but also after graduation. Those are the key years when students need guidance on the pitfalls to avoid, how to get a loan or buy a practice, and or even how to deal with poor employee relations. And, as Young points out, there are many directions to go in: specialization, private practice, public health, research, teaching and organized dentistry.

Though the third-year practice management and jurisprudence courses are valuable, they’re not enough. “Students get hands-on experience with teeth in the lab courses and then go to the clinic and practice on patients,” points out Wilgus. “But there is nowhere to ‘practice’ your management skills.” And as someone who has a brother who is a dentist, he feels that it’s important for all students to have a mentor, whether they come from a dental family or not.

Students will be matched with their mentors by factors such as geography, specialization and demographics, and even number of years in practice. And for Young, gender is an important factor as well. “I’d love to have a female mentor with a family, so that I can work out the work-family balance,” she admits. Another issue is respecting the time commitments of the busy dentists offering to be mentors.

Young and Wilgus made a presentation at the Alumni Meeting weekend in March and are now conducting an online demographic survey to explore the issue. Already, 60-70 alumni have expressed interest in becoming mentors.

Wilgus is confident that alumni will come through. “We have a powerhouse Alumni Association and a creative, innovative student body. It’s a win-win for both groups. It’s a way to reconnect the alumni back to the school and give them direct contact with the students. And it’s free!”

For more information about the program, contact Joanne Fox at

[pullquote]As Wilson explains,
“They literally have nothing yet they are the happiest people I know.”[/pullquote]

International Volunteer Efforts

Fiji Outreach Trip

“Imagine an entire village coming to your dental clinic in five days.” That’s how recent graduate Dr. Jack Gorman ’10, describes the challenge of his recent trip to Fiji with 31 other students, faculty and alumni who volunteered their dental services during spring break at a clinic in the small village of Moala.

The Fiji trip has been a dental school tradition for seven years now, thanks to the early efforts of Dr. Karl Brose ‘72, who started this outreach effort. This year, the team provided $344,650 worth of dental treatment to more than 400 patients. And after visits this year headed by Dr. Allen Wong ’86, director of the Special Care Clinic, to a local dental school—the Fiji School of Medicine—and the local Rotary Club, there’s a good chance that some of the Fijian dental students and faculty will soon be collaborating.

For both Gorman and his Class of 2010 colleagues Jessi Wilson, Judy Chau and Joyce Kahng, planning the logistics was almost as daunting as the trip itself. The five-day effort took more than six months of planning—reserving hotels, working with travel agents, e-mailing people they’d never met or talked to halfway across the globe and ordering supplies, everything from scrubs to battery-operated hand pieces. The project depends totally on donations, with students paying their own way for the trip and supplies, so raising money involved yet another feat.

Despite the challenges, both Wilson and Gorman describe it as the best experience of their lives. They were overwhelmed by the gratitude and hospitality of the Fijian people and their culture. As Wilson explains, “They literally have nothing yet they are the happiest people I know.” Even a woman who had just had her last six teeth extracted hugged her in appreciation.

The trip was not only personally transforming for Wilson, but changed the way she goes about dentistry. “It teaches you about going back to basics, and making the best and most of what you have….We had one chair and we were kneeling on the ground with someone holding a flashlight to do extractions.”

Gorman, who had never traveled abroad before, will always remember the farewell ceremony offered by the Fijians. It was a giant party in the rain, with kids dancing, guitar music, the distribution of flowers and a symbolic ritual sharing of a kava root-based drink. “I was talking to an older gentleman who asked, ‘Will you please bring me back some shoes next year?’”

Though he is uncertain about his future other than his hopes to do community service as a general dentist, one thing Gorman is sure of is his plans to return annually to Fiji and next year, in addition to supplies, he’ll be taking along a pair of shoes.

Jamaica Trip

Since 2002, about 200 volunteers from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom—including dental and non-dental professionals—have traveled to Jamaica each year to help close to 15,000 people in what is the world’s largest humanitarian dental project. But it wasn’t until last year—thanks to the idea of dental students Sirish Makan and his friend Sue Min Mak, a previous volunteer in the program—that Dugoni School dental students became part of Great Shape! Inc.’s 1000 Smiles effort.

Makan and Mak enlisted additional colleagues from the Class of 2011—John Miller, John Nguyen and Diane Vo—to join them for the week-long mission in the fall of 2009, and Makan is now preparing for this year’s fall trip.

Still new to patient care, Makan wasn’t used to doing much more than cleanings, but the trip to Jamaica changed all that. There is only one dentist for every 80,000 people there and the clinic where the group worked, under the supervision of a licensed dentist, is only open two weeks a year. Some people waited in line for two days to receive treatment. On the few occasions he could do a composite restoration rather than the usual extraction, he loved seeing the smiles of his patients when they saw the results in the mirror.

Makan is happy about his classmates’ enthusiastic support for the project.

“I think at least 90% of the students want to participate in international missions in some way,” he estimates. In a single year, the project has grown from five students to a planned participation of 28 for this year’s fall visit with another 28 on the waiting list. He’s trying to organize the trip so that participants have some experience treating the patients quickly and effectively while still learning.

And he’s proud that students are essentially doing it on their own, while various financial and legal hurdles are being worked through. The group raised money and, in addition, were supported by alumni like Dr. Joshua Solomon ‘01 who donated $2,000 and will himself participate in the upcoming trip.

Makan, who will be doing a residency in oral surgery next year, hopes to return to Jamaica. In the meantime, he says, “I’m setting up the program in a way that everything is ready for someone else to take over.”