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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.

Building Bridges with Students from China, Turkey and Egypt

The Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry’s international ties were strengthened this fall as the school hosted several groups of dental students as part of its cross-cultural exchange programs. The Global Initiative in Dental Education (GIDE), part of the school’s strategic plan, was designed to help elevate global dental education and health care standards to the mutual benefit of patients, students, staff and faculty.

Most recently, 10 dental students from Pharos University in Alexandria, Egypt, visited the school during the first two weeks of September. The exchange was coordinated by Dr. Eugene LaBarre, a faculty member who has been coordinating student exchange visits with Pharos University for the last several years.

Students from the Peking University School of Stomatology in Beijing, China, visited the school for two weeks in August. The students were part of an exchange program that was established in 2012 by the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Peking University School of Stomatology and Wenzhou Medical College School of Stomatology. The students from China were also able to attend the California Dental Association Fall Scientific Session held in San Francisco.

In July, students from Hacettepe University Faculty of Dentistry in Ankara, Turkey, visited the school. The group was invited by Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, executive associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs, following a trip he made to Turkey last year to meet with faculty, students and staff at Hacettepe University.

During their visits, the students interacted with students and faculty, attended lectures and classes and observed a variety of dental procedures in the clinics. In addition to learning about dental education in the U.S., the foreign students had time to explore many Bay Area highlights.

“It’s been a wonderful experience for all of us who have had the pleasure of interacting with the visiting students,” said Eve Cuny, director of Environmental Health and Safety. “Their excitement to learn about U.S. dental education and the American culture was evident every day.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dental Camp: Kids Explore Careers in Oral Health

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

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

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

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

Rite of Passage Includes Community Service

New students experienced a rite of passage in early August—the first-year retreat—with a new twist.

This year, in addition to the traditional team-building activities and inspirational lectures, the students participated in a variety of community service projects. Students were able to choose from eight volunteer experiences at local organizations including the San Francisco Food Bank, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society, Friends of the Urban Forest, GLIDE Memorial, Golden Gate Conservancy, San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department and the San Francisco Zoo.

“Our first-year retreat has always been a team building and bonding experience for new students, but this year we also wanted to incorporate an aspect of giving back to the local community,” said Dr. Eddie Hayashida, associate dean for administration.

Several representatives from the University’s MOVE (Mountain, Ocean, Valley, Experience) program were on hand to help organize the dental student volunteers. MOVE is an initiative designed to welcome all new Pacific students to the University community through participation in experiential learning and service projects.

Meet the Class of 2015

By Christina Boufis

Why choose oral health care as a profession? Why enroll at the Dugoni School of Dentistry? We’ve profiled four students from the Class of 2015, the first who will graduate from the new dental school downtown, to talk about what brought them here and what they were doing before they arrived. Here’s a peek at some of the interesting, unique and diverse students who exemplify this dynamic new class.

From Design to Dentistry

When Christian Favero, 29, made the decision to go to dental school, he received a lot of surprised looks from friends and family. An industrial designer for an action sports company located in Bluffdale, Utah, Favero already had a successful career in product design, where he developed backpacks and other equipment. But for him, the decision was a logical progression. “There’s an amazing overlap between dentistry and design,” Favero, a Brigham Young University graduate explains. “Aesthetically and even functionally, you very much need the skill set of a designer—the ability to mentally visualize your finished product, the ability to use your hands and instruments and technology to build things. I think that ties pretty closely to dentists who are going to restore teeth or perform surgery; they need to be able to see that end tooth or end structure in their mind before they begin.”

Favero knew that he had to “take the plunge” to go to dental school, and he found University of the Pacific a natural choice. “First and foremost was the amazing reputation. I’d heard people, including other dentists and students at other schools, talk about how much they wished they’d gone to Pacific.” Though he’d like to keep his specialization open for now, Favero, the son of an orthodontist, whose grandfather and uncle are also dentists, hopes to set an example for his own children. “As a new father myself, I want to give my children a good example of the importance of education and the importance of serving other people with a valuable skill set,” he says. “That’s the same example I had from my father and grandfather.”

Building Bridges

Before he came to the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Cuauhtemoc (Temoc) Gonzalez, 32, a graduate of Stanford University, worked in the California Governor’s office training staff from various cities and counties on how to consult with Native American tribes. Gonzalez, who has a Mexican and Native American background, was tribal chairman for his tribe, the Miwok tribe in El Dorado County (and vice chairman before that). “I have a lot of experience working with underrepresented communities,” he says. His role was to help build understanding between the government and Native American tribes.

“Even though we all speak English, we’re not really speaking the same language,” Gonzalez explains. “I was training cities and counties in how to consult with tribes on the protection of sacred sites—places where tribes had ceremonies or gathered specific medicinal plants or buried their dead—and training the tribes on how to talk to the city and county, to get them to understand each other’s point of view, to work together to get some kind of mutual agreement about a site where there was proposed development, for example.”

At first glance, this kind of work may not appear to have much in common with dental school, but the emphasis on communication and cooperation has served Gonsalez well in both. “I love it here. It’s awesome,” he says. “Everybody seems very helpful, which I had heard about prior to coming to Pacific. The school’s reputation is that everybody helps each other along.”

Gonzalez had worked in research after college, and, when he decided to return to a medical-related field, he knew dentistry and Pacific was the right choice. “I think its reputation—being able to come out of the school as an experienced clinician, as well as the three-year program, since I’m a little bit older than a lot of the students—was a definite consideration.” In addition, Gonzalez had heard his wife’s cousin, Dr. Eric McMahon ’05 speak very highly of the dental school, and her grandfather is also an alumnus from the Class of 1946.

What does the future hold for this former tribal leader? “I would hope that I’d be able to end up back in Sacramento or the foothills,” he says. “I would definitely like to give back through the practice of dentistry, if not to my own tribe then for some other Native American community.”

A Family Affair

You might think that having two sisters already enrolled at the Dugoni School of Dentistry would be an incentive for Tina Ngo, 22, to attend as well, but the San Francisco native almost didn’t apply because of that very reason. “There are both pros and cons,” Ngo says about having her sisters, Joanne, Class of 2013, and Jessica, Class of 2014, attend the same school. “I didn’t want them to influence my experience,” she says, which is why Ngo attended San Diego State University rather than University of California, Davis, as her sisters did.

But Ngo discovered something surprising when she applied: both she and her sister, Jessica, recounted the same story in their personal statements. “We have the same life experiences,” explains Ngo. “We grew up without dental insurance, and that affected us in similar ways.”

The pivotal story? Ngo was in high school and crying in class because she had a terrible toothache. “My crown was shattered, so the nerve was exposed,” she explains. Her sister Jessica went to Rite Aid and bought a temporary filling mix, which she used to treat Ngo’s tooth. Did it work? “No, I swallowed it,” she says. But her love of dentistry was born.

Now several months into the first-year dental program, Ngo says she’s really happy she chose Pacific. “It’s actually really nice having both of my sisters here,” she says. “They’ve been very helpful.” As for what type of dentistry she might like to specialize in, Ngo hasn’t yet decided, though she likes working with children.

Although Ngo finds the classes at the Dugoni School of Dentistry difficult, she says, “Everyone helps one another, and treats one another with respect. So you get through it together.” Which when you think of it, is kind of like what happens in the best families.

Pacific Pride

From the time she was eight years old, Lauren Powell, 21, dreamed of becoming a dentist. “My brother had a palatal expander,” explains Powell, “and I just thought it was the coolest contraption. My parents were supposed to turn the key each night, and they couldn’t do it, so they asked me. I loved the small surface to work with and working with my hands.”

Then when she turned 12, Powell was probably one of the few kids excited that she was getting her own braces. “I was just so interested in how my teeth were moving,” she says. So she’d pepper her orthodontist with questions: “What are you attaching now? What are you moving now?”

Powell originally thought she might like to be an orthodontist, but it was the example of her family dentist, dental school alumnus Dr. G. Bruce Valentine ’69 of Modesto, California, that made Powell consider general dentistry. “He has been my dentist since I first went to a dentist, and my parents before me,” says Powell. “And I just love the family feel of his practice, of sticking with a family and seeing people grow and progress. He’s a great mentor and definitely had a large influence on my decision to become a dentist.”

Powell shadowed Valentine in high school, and it was he who told her about Pacific Pride Day, where she says everyone was so accepting and welcoming. “Even though I was 17, the students and faculty members answered all my questions and were so excited to have me there,” she says. “I just loved the family aspect and the involvement the school has with their students. Pacific is different from other dental schools,” Powell continues. “Students help each other out, and to me that was a huge deciding factor because I wasn’t from a family of dentists, so I really wanted to go to a school that would support me.”

Powell applied to the accelerated undergraduate honors program at Pacific’s Stockton campus, close to her home in Modesto, which she completed in three years, and is now happily at the San Francisco campus, fulfilling her lifelong dream.

These stories illustrate just four different paths to Pacific. Each member of the Class of 2015 has a unique story about how he or she became a member of the Dugoni School of Dentistry family. Collectively, they are embarking on the next step in a dynamic journey through dental education and the dental profession.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Mohsenzadeh collaborated in a research study on the hidden health hazards of the hookah.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view the One Word Project, visit: http://pacificoneword.org.

Routine Dental Visit Leads to New Course in Predental Ceramics

By Sharon Mahoud

The introductory ceramics and sculpture classes taught by Visual Arts Professor Trent Burkett are popular general education courses on the Stockton campus. One reason they fill up so fast is they are highly coveted by predental students, who typically make up half of the students in the class. That’s because the Department of Biology encourages predental students to take these courses as a means of building dexterity and skill with hand tools as well as promoting other valuable characteristics such as individual expression and visual literacy.

Fateful Trip to the Dentist

Last year while Burkett was having his biannual cleaning with his dentist, Dr. Lester Low ’86, an alumnus of both Pacific and the Dugoni School of Dentistry, he learned about the Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) that prospective students take as part of a larger Dental Admission Test (DAT) prior to applying to dentistry schools. The PAT assesses a student’s ability to determine angles and shapes through logic and visual perception. For example, a student must determine how a complex geometric object can fit through an aperture.

Impressed by the difficulty of the test, Burkett said a light bulb went on. “I realized I could pattern a course from my existing sculpture and ceramics classes that offered a more in-depth focus on teaching students these skill sets,” he said.

After a relatively rapid approval process that involved meeting with the Department of Biology Co-Chair Gregg Jongeward and members of the Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, Burkett was able to offer his new course this past spring: predental ceramics.

Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, executive associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs at the dental school, who has done sculpture himself, was very interested in the idea. “The dental school wants its students to be well-rounded,” he said. “Being able to appreciate aesthetics, develop individual expression and articulate well verbally and in writing—all critical qualities a future dentist should possess—are promoted in Professor Burkett’s ceramics classes.”

Predental Ceramics Class Challenges and Inspires

A recent offering of the new predental ceramics class quickly filled during registration with 15 senior predental students, and students have been clamoring for more sessions to be offered. For the 3-unit course, Burkett took elements from his general ceramics classes but tailored the projects for predental students, upping the difficulty level and mostly focusing on small-scale works requiring a high degree of precision.

“I felt that the polishing techniques I learned in the predental ceramics class have followed through to the things I’m learning and doing in the simulation lab at dental school,” said Casey Luu, Class of 2014 and a student in the accelerated 3+3 program (where students spend three years of education on the Stockton campus followed by three years in dental school). “Working on small-scale projects was very helpful, especially working with the curvatures of various objects.”

One assignment required students to carve a perfect one-inch cube in plaster. However, creativity was also encouraged, and the final project called for students to create a “tooth-based” sculptural project—a creative, larger interpretation of teeth built in porcelain and fired in a kiln. These final works were judged and given awards, just like a juried art exhibit. The pieces were also displayed in the Biology Building on the Stockton campus.

“During the undergraduate program, we’re so concentrated on science and that’s not all dentistry is about.”

“Our initial projects, particularly the microsculpture cube, were challenging but worthwhile,” said Brydan Regehr, Class of 2014. “During the course, we had a selection of dental tools to work with, in addition to sculpture tools. The class helped improve my hand-eye skills which have benefitted me as a first-year dental student.”

“The creativity level of the students is impressive, and some show a very strong artistic sense,” said Burkett. “Since predental students have to take so many science classes, it’s exciting to give them a creative outlet and see the outcome.”

The consensus among students was that the course was challenging but rewarding. One of the rewards was a PowerPoint presentation Burkett created for each student showing his or her predental ceramics projects. “The assignments were difficult and demanding,” noted Regehr. “Dr. Burkett pushed us to do our best and helped us gain an appreciation for the art of dentistry.”

Art and Science Connect

Burkett recently revisited the dental school and showed pictures of the projects the students had completed. The faculty, staff, and alumni were impressed. Kathy Candito, associate dean for student services, was very enthusiastic and suggested that Burkett show the student PowerPoint presentations at an upcoming event.

“I am glad that the idea worked and that I can make art relevant to other professional programs,” said Burkett. “This course proves that art can be useful for science and other disciplines.” The interdisciplinary nature of the experience has been rewarding. When Burkett walks over to the Biology Building, all of the predental students know him. “There’s a lot of interdepartmental and interschool collaboration happening at Pacific that people may not be aware of,” he said.

The Future of Predental Ceramics

Burkett hopes to get the predental ceramics class approved as a permanent general education course. His long-term idea is to offer a 3-D certificate to predental students composed of three courses: ceramics (wheel throwing), predental ceramics and his intermediate 3-D studio course.

“During the undergraduate program, we’re so concentrated on science and that’s not all dentistry is about,” said Luu. “The ceramics class opened my perspective and reminded me that dentistry is a combination of science and art.”

Sharon Mahood is an East Bay freelance writer who also writes for the College of the Pacific.