Dr. Alan Budenz | Leading by Example

By Marianne Sampogna Jacobson

Dr. Alan Budenz has long contributed in myriad ways to the dental profession, the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the student experience. Modest by nature, Budenz, who is currently a professor and vice chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences, is a quiet leader. When speaking of him, students and colleagues express gratitude for his dedication, patience and mentorship, and laud his commitment to patients, students and service.

He now has a new role in which to display those qualities: president of the Dugoni School of Dentistry Alumni Association. Joanne Fox, director of the Alumni Association, calls him “an enthusiastic faculty member who gets to know our students well—developing valuable and sincere insight into future alumni who will become our association’s base.” 

As president, Budenz aims to support the mission of the school and increase the size of the association’s membership by enhancing the value for its members. He is the first person to serve as president of both the Dugoni School of Dentistry Alumni Association and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry Alumni Association, which he led from 1998-99.

As a young man in Riverside, California, he enjoyed rolling up his sleeves, and favored hobbies and puzzles that required both hands and mind. His father, a radiologist, was an active role model who taught Budenz and his two brothers woodworking and steered him toward dentistry because of his aptitude for working with his hands. Budenz picked up ceramics in college, a hobby he has continued for many decades. His innate dexterity and strong drive to create is a huge asset and was part of his motivation to pursue dentistry. In college he was initially pre-med, studying comparative anatomy and zoology at University of California, Los Angeles. He went onto UCSF School of Dentistry, where he earned his DDS degree in 1982. While there, he served as class treasurer for four years as well as student body president. In those days, the students were responsible for purchasing much of their own materials and one of the duties of the class treasurer was placing high-value gold orders for restorations.

After graduation, Budenz worked in private practice in the Marina District of San Francisco in the early 1980s, but discovered his true passion was teaching. He served as a teaching assistant for many courses at UCSF and enjoyed tutoring his peers. Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni recruited him to teach at University of the Pacific because of his broad talent and expertise. “Dr. Budenz is a Renaissance man with a vast knowledge of anatomy and other subjects,” commented Dugoni. “He is a very generous person with his time, talent and treasury! Because of his passion, he gives so  much to his students.” Students echo that Budenz cares deeply about them and their patients. In 1984, he began teaching one day a week. Over time, that one day became five, leading to 27 years as a full-time educator.

Budenz’s work as a faculty member went beyond the classroom. In 1993, he helped launch the CARE Clinic, a unique program specializing in treatment for HIV and AIDS patients. Budenz found that work very rewarding as he learned a great deal about general medicine and psychology in an intense environment, which helped make him a stronger instructor.

Often he finishes lectures with a picture from another locale to inspire his students to travel the world and to be fascinated and inspired.

One of the many significant contributions he has made over the years has been leading more than 10 student service trips to Jamaica and the Philippines. Budenz coaches students on fundraising for these travel programs and inspires students to serve the underprivileged during these transformative trips. Victoria Saykally, Class of 2020, recalled, “Dr. Budenz is incredibly passionate about these outreach trips and does everything he can to empower students, like pitching-in, grabbing instruments and cleaning operatories rather than just standing and evaluating.”

In addition to his academic mentorship, Budenz adds to the fabric of the close-knit community by bringing fun and humor to students. As Leah Life, Class of 2020, shared, “Every interaction with Dr. Budenz leaves me with a little pearl of knowledge but also a smile or a laugh.”

He founded the Ultrasonics Swim Team in 1996 to foster camaraderie and fitness while balancing busy workloads. Wanting to help his students manage stress, he also sponsored them on boat trips and swimming events at Lake Tahoe. He continues to urge students to find balance in their lives and think beyond their work. Often he finishes lectures with a picture from another locale to encourage his students to travel the world and to be fascinated and inspired.

As president, Budenz aims to support the mission of the school and increase the size of the association’s membership by enhancing the value for its members.

Budenz has earned numerous honors and awards for his many contributions to dentistry and continuing education. He has been recognized for creating educational content, presenting hundreds of lectures, writing dozens of articles, conducting research, volunteering in the community and serving on boards and committees. At the Dugoni School of Dentistry, he has served on the alumni board for six years, followed by three as an officer. After this coming year as president, he will work an additional year as immediate past president—a total of 11 years of service to the association. Fox commented, “Alan’s voice has been consistently steady and calm. He weighs situations carefully and makes feasible suggestions and I look forward to the ideas he’ll bring to our association for implementation as president.”

Budenz enjoys traveling all over the world, lecturing in new places and keeping active by bicycling, skiing, surfing and hiking. He swims every weekday morning in the San Francisco Bay at the Dolphin Club.