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Parag Kachalia ’01 | Process and Progress

Parag Kachalia was still a dental student at University of the Pacific when he realized that after graduating he would like to be a part-time dental school faculty member. So after graduation, Dr. Kachalia ’01 followed through with his plan and joined the dental school as a one-day-per-week faculty member in addition to seeing patients in private practice. This was the start of his evolving career as a dental educator.

About three years after joining the faculty, Kachalia was asked to consider taking the role of director of Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics, one of the largest courses at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. After some deliberation he decided to accept the position along with a new commitment as a three-day-a-week faculty member.

“I never imagined I would have such a high level of faculty involvement, but I’m glad I took the path that I did,” says Kachalia. “Being an educator has made me a better practitioner, and being a practitioner has made me a better educator.”

Over the years, Kachalia’s commitment to the dental school has grown, but he has always maintained the private practice that he shares with his wife, Dr. Charity Duncan ’03, in San Ramon, California. He and Charity have started a family and Kachalia is quick to acknowledge that he’s able to be successful with his busy lifestyle due to the immense support of his family.

[pullquote]Something I love about Pacific is that we are willing to take calculated risks and reinvent ourselves when appropriate.[/pullquote]

Currently, he’s vice chair of preclinical education, technology and research in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences, which he admits is wordy, but is an indication of the multiple hats he wears as a faculty member. He oversees his department’s simulation courses for first-year students who aren’t yet treating patients in clinic, and he also serves as the school’s point person for information on and implementation of new dental technologies.

Kachalia, along with his dedicated team of faculty, are working tirelessly to modernize the school’s preclinical curriculum. In recent years, the dental school has modified its curriculum to better cater to millennial learners who respond positively to interactive academic environments and personalized learning experiences. Students are now being asked to think critically about patient care and treatment plans, not just to memorize procedures and perform them.

“There has been fear surrounding changes to the educational model because our current model does work well, but we want to make sure we’re staying up-to-date with the way students now prefer to learn,” he says. “Today’s students are able to absorb vast amounts of information and correctly filter it down to what is important. Our role as faculty members is morphing from giving our students information to memorize to helping them understand where to go to find information and then teaching them to evaluate it critically.”

The technology side of his position is equally progressive. Kachalia is involved with the school’s investigation and decisions regarding new technologies, and he guides the school’s commitment to implementing them. He’s also made it a priority to ensure the dental school becomes involved with the process of helping companies develop and test new technologies, not just adopting them years after they hit the market.

“I want our school to be viewed as the place to go for information on new dental technologies and techniques, and I think we’re getting there,” he says. “We have a growing number of faculty members and school leaders who are interested in setting the bar when it comes to new technology in dental education. I view Pacific as a center of excellence, a center that allows us to lead the path for the profession, rather than reacting to it.”

Kachalia concludes, “Something I love about Pacific is that we are willing to take calculated risks and reinvent ourselves when appropriate. I am thrilled to be a part of that growth process.”

The Passionate Partnership of Margaret and Ron Redmond

By Josie Brown

For Dr. W. Ronald Redmond ’66 and his wife, Margaret, philanthropy is not a passive pursuit, but a passionate one. Many organizations have been recipients of their generosity, including the Pacific Symphony in Orange County, Casa Romantica Cultural Centers and Gardens in San Clemente and the University of California, Riverside. But the philanthropic endeavor second to none in their hearts is the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

For a quarter of a century, the Redmonds’ donations have been the driving force of much of the school’s philanthropic outreach. From 1998 to 2006, Ron chaired the largest donor drive in the history of the school: the Commitment to Excellence campaign, which raised in excess of $65 million.

[pullquote]There are three things important for me: family, career and fun, in that order. – Ron Redmond[/pullquote]

Besides being a former member of the Universitiy’s Board of Regents, Ron has served on the Pacific Dugoni Foundation for almost two decades. Along with Dr. Gary Weiner ’66, Mr. Gary Mitchell and Dr. Gabby Thodas ’77, ’95 Ortho, Ron is currently one of the four co-chairs for the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s Building Our Future, Embracing Our Legacy initiative, which will secure the purchase of the school’s seven-story new campus at 155 Fifth Street, between Mission and Howard Streets, in San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) district.

Margaret is in full support of his endeavors on the school’s behalf. In fact, she jokingly says, “I love it! It gives me some time away from him.”

For this dynamic duo, the act of giving is much more intimate than merely opening a wallet. You’ll find the Redmonds at every school celebration, many times with other family members at their side. The table of Redmonds at the dental school’s last Legacy Ball is one example of this, as is their participation in the school’s Kids in the Klinic fundraising fashion show, which became a family rite of passage for the Redmonds’ grandchildren. They have also been active sponsors of the annual Kids in the Klinic Golf Classic.

Like most life journeys, the Redmonds’ path to philanthropy was a combination of happenstance, personal and shared experiences and their mutual appreciation of those institutions that have enriched their lives. “Margaret is my balance, my pendulum and my center,” Ron says. “If it were up to me alone, I’d give away the store. But Margaret has the ability to see the big picture. She is the visionary. I was lucky she fell in love with me.”

[pullquote]The philanthropic endeavor second to none in their hearts is the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.[/pullquote]

Margaret’s wise smile is all he needs to know she feels exactly the same way.

Their love affair might never have happened if it weren’t for Ron’s Ping-Pong skills. Or, more honestly, the lack thereof. “I thought he was cute because he let me beat him at Ping-Pong,” Margaret recalls. “And he loves dogs as much as I do. From an 18-year-old’s perspective, that certainly qualified him as the perfect man.”

As for Ron, he knew she was the right girl for him because, as he puts it, “She didn’t jump out of the car when I told her that someday I’d have a daughter named Susie, and a son named Billy.”

Both came from middle class working families in the Los Angeles area—Margaret is from San Gabriel and Ron is from Pomona—and both worked their way through college. Three years after their first meeting, they married in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Halloween. “We knocked on the minister’s door. His wife opened it and gave us a wary look,” Margaret says. Then she asked, ‘Aren’t you too old for this?’ We thought she was out of her mind! It wasn’t until two trick-or-treaters walked up behind us that we realized she’d gotten the wrong impression as to why we were there.”

The ring Ron gave Margaret was one he had purchased from a friend whose engagement had been broken. He set aside a little money each month until it was paid off. “I was so nervous about asking her to marry me that instead I asked her to look in the glove compartment of the car, where I had stashed the tiny velvet ring box.” His surprise was met with squeals of delight. “I had no idea if it would fit. I was relieved to see it did,” Ron says. “But when I asked her to put it back in the box, she said, ‘No way!’ It was our very first argument.”

Since then, it has been a 51-year love affair. “There are three things important for me: family, career and fun, in that order,” Ron says.

As for their shared passion for the Dugoni School of Dentistry, it started with a typographical error. “I’m a member of the Class of 1966. Of the original 66 students, by graduation, that number had dwindled to just 40,” Ron explains. “There was no counseling back then. It was sink or swim. We would have benefitted greatly from the humanistic model of education, which is practiced at the school today.” As with most trials by fire, a solidarity was forged between Ron and his classmates, which continues to this day. Despite their friendships and the rigorous education that prepared them for successful careers, neither Ron nor his classmates were motivated to give back to the school. Several years after graduation, when Ron purchased a subscription to the Trident, the school’s orthodontic alumni newsletter, it was incorrectly noted as a donation. He was teased by several of his classmates for having given to the dental school. “Of course, I explained the situation and laughed it off. But it got me thinking about all the wonderful things the school had brought into my life.”

[pullquote]Ron’s enthusiasm was contagious. Since that reunion, some of the school’s most ardent donors have been members of the Class of ’66.[/pullquote]

Looking back, the most important of these was his relationship with one of his instructors: Dr. Arthur Dugoni ’48. “Dean Dugoni was a part-time instructor teaching an undergraduate orthodontics course. One day he came over to me and asked, ‘What are you going to do when you graduate?’ I had already lined up a spot in a practice in Palo Alto, California, and had planned on being a crown-and-bridge man. ‘You’ll be successful there,’ he said, ‘But, I hope you’ll consider orthodontics.’ When I discussed his recommendation with Margaret, she responded, ‘Crown and bridge? No! He’s right. Ortho.’ I’ve later claimed that the two of them were in collusion.”

This wasn’t the case, but it turned out to be the right choice for Ron. “I love my career. I am driven by it.”

Ron’s passion for his profession rubbed off on two of their three children. Dr. William Redmond graduated from the dental school in 1993, as did Bill’s wife, Dr. Erini Papandreas Redmond ’93, who practices next door to her husband’s orthodontic clinic in San Clemente, California. Ron and Margaret’s second son, Dr. John Redmond, also graduated from Pacific in 1997.

In 1986, right before his 20-year class reunion, Dr. Christopher Palma ’66, one of Ron’s closest friends in dental school, passed away from a brain tumor. “He wanted to go to the reunion, but he didn’t make it,” Ron says. “As a way to honor him, I decided to match any donations made to the school by our class.”

By then, Dugoni was the dean of the dental school. As the Redmonds’ involvement grew, so did their friendship, respect and appreciation of him. “Art Dugoni has the ability to see talent in others, and many times, they don’t see it in themselves,” Ron explains. “He challenged me and got me involved in the school on many levels.”

Ron’s enthusiasm was contagious. Since that reunion, some of the school’s most ardent donors have been members of the Class of 1966. “Like me, they were inspired by Art’s vision of what the school could be, what it could do and how it can inspire. Along the way, we also became doctors.”

In 1995, when he was invited to join the school’s foundation board by then-president, Dr. Ken Fat, Ron jumped in with both feet. In 2000, when it was time for the public kick-off of the school’s most ambitious campaign to date, Commitment to Excellence, Ron, who was the campaign’s committee chair, led by example with an initial gift of $1 million. “It was meant to have shock value,” he explains. “Sure you can start a campaign with a major gift of, say, $25,000, but a million dollars changes the mood in the room. The number was supposed to be a catalyst, and it was. It worked.”

As the campaign’s chair, Ron knocked on numerous doors. Many of his solicitations were made in conjunction with then-Dean Dugoni. “When you take a long car ride with someone, you get to know him pretty well. Art’s knowledge of our profession and of our community runs deep, and is invaluable. He’s also one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet. His own life story, as the son of immigrants, is an inspiration to us all.”

Ron learned something else, too. “There is no 30-second elevator speech, because each of us has a specific passion. Art taught me to listen to the needs of those who we solicited.” Ron took this advice to heart, as did the foundation board and the development staff. The campaign exceeded its $50 million goal, climbing to a record $65.7 million. In celebration of the campaign’s conclusion, the Redmonds gifted the school’s orthodontic department an additional $500,000.

Ron’s biggest joy came not from the success of the campaign, but in seeing his mentor honored in the best way possible. “One of the greatest joys of my life was when the school was renamed the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.”

[pullquote]Margaret has the ability to see the big picture. She is the visionary.[/pullquote]

As one of the four co-chairs of the Building Our Future, Embracing Our Legacy capital effort, Ron is once again leading by example with a $5 million pledge. “Margaret and I are very proud that the orthodontic floor within the new facility will be named in memory of her parents, John W. and Donna Ruth Fyke.”

He adds, “We have many generous and grateful graduates, and we know they’ll come through for the school. You have a diploma on your wall, but depending on your participation, that will become less valuable or more valuable. They realize an institution is not just a box, but it contains a group of talented people. Many of the giants in our lives are the educators we were blessed to encounter at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Giving generously to your school is the best way to honor those very special people who inspired you and who will inspire countless others.”

Needless to say, the Redmonds were thrilled when the school also changed the name of its foundation. “It made sense to rename it the Pacific Dugoni Foundation,” Ron explains. “When you combine those three words, you’ve pretty much got our mission.”


In their latest gesture of support for the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Dr. Ron Redmond ’66 and wife Margaret recently pledged a $5 million gift to support the purchase and renovation of the school’s new campus at 155 Fifth Street in San Francisco.

The momentous gift was commemorated at a recent signing ceremony hosted by University of the Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck, Dean Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr. and other members of the school’s administration.

“The generosity of Ron and Margaret will certainly make a tremendous impact on the next generation of Pacific Dugoni,” said Dean Ferrillo. “This is such an exciting gift that will support the creation of world-class new facilities to benefit our students, patients, faculty, staff, alumni and others. We thank them for their long-standing generosity to the school and commitment to philanthropy in so many forms.”


Josie Brown is the author of eight novels, including Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, soon to be a dramatic series on NBC-TV, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

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.

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.”

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.

Veena Vaidyanathan ’12 | Serious Goals

DDS Class of 2012 Student Veena Vaidyanathan comes from a family of physicians and a small town in Florida—Arcadia, Florida, to be exact. Growing up around doctors sparked her interest in medicine from an early age and she always knew she wanted to go into a healthcare profession.

When her teenage years rolled around and it was time to start thinking about college, she looked into dentistry. And soon, she was committed to dentistry as her career choice. Rather than major in biological sciences as an undergraduate and then apply to dental school, Veena focused exclusively on accelerated undergraduate/graduate programs. She gained acceptance into University of the Pacific’s 3+3 program, where students complete three years of undergraduate education on the Stockton campus followed by three years of dental school in San Francisco. In the summer of 2011 Veena began her sixth and final year as a 3+3 student.

“I believe in University of the Pacific. I believe in the undergrad program and I believe in the dental school,” she says. “Students who participate in Pacific’s accelerated programs are extremely well-prepared for dental school. The curriculum has been created for us to succeed.”

[pullquote]What is her ultimate and cherished goal? To become a regent of the University of the Pacific.[/pullquote]

Once at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Veena dove headfirst into student leadership and organized dentistry in addition to her studies. She became actively involved with the school’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). She helped plan two successful American Dental Political Action Committee weeks on campus, which brought several California state legislators and senior members of the American Dental Association to campus.

“Being active in organized dentistry has helped get me through dental school because it’s something I really like doing and it keeps me engaged,” comments Veena.

Veena recently assumed a new national leadership role. She was elected chair of ASDA’s Legislative Grassroots Network and oversees all of ASDA’s legislative-related activities throughout the country. She is working to increase student involvement in state and national lobbying efforts and to educate ASDA members on legislative issues affecting dentistry and dental education.

She’s also planning this year’s annual National Dental Student Lobby Day, which will take place in April 2012 in Washington, D.C. The event brings dental students together from across the country on Capitol Hill to lobby for various issues impacting the dental community. She’ll also travel all over the United States to meet with members of the American Dental Education Association and the ADA, members of the Legislative Grassroots Network council and many others.

“Holding a national position can be stressful at times, but I’m truly enjoying it,” says Veena. “I’ve met so many interesting people, new friends and contacts that I know I’ll keep in touch with in the future.”

As for her life here in San Francisco, Veena is quick to mention how happy her dental school classmates are. She’s met dental students from other schools who mention they feel as if they’re expected to fail in school, rather than to succeed. “It’s different here at Pacific,” she says. “We all help each other here. If someone is falling behind, we all do what we can to help them along,” she added. “It’s things like this that set Pacific apart.”

When asked what she has in mind after she graduates from the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Veena mentions a long and ambitious list of goals. She’s currently applying to pediatric residency programs throughout the country. After she completes her residency, she plans to go into private practice and hopes to stay active in organized dentistry through the ADA. What is her ultimate and cherished goal? To become a regent of the University of the Pacific.

“I know it’s lofty of me to say that, and I have to achieve a lot between now and then, but it really is a goal of mine. That’s how much I believe in this place.”