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Students collect donations during a break at school.
Students collect donations during a break at school.

The impact of our dental school on people in our community reaches far beyond our school's walls and the dental clinics here on campus. I wanted to highlight a few special activities taking place this holiday season, since many of our students are volunteering above and beyond their typical dental school schedule.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, students and faculty members will provide dental services for people in need during Project Homeless Connect at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. For over two years, students have taken an active role in organizing the dental services that are part of this event held several times a year. At each event, more then 1,000 community volunteers partner with government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector to provide a one-stop shop of health and human services for homeless San Franciscans. During PHC’s events, participants are able to accomplish in one day what might normally take eight months.

During the Dec. 9 event, our school will provide expanded oral health services in addition to the usual screenings. People who need further treatment will be taken back to the school for additional dental services here on campus. To learn more about Project Homeless Connect, visit www.projecthomelessconnect.com.

In another special activity this month, students involved in our American Student Dental Association (ASDA) school chapter have “adopted” a family at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. The ASDA students have been collecting gifts and will present them to the family before the holiday break.

Last month, November 10-20, students organized a holiday food drive to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. More than 400 cans or boxes of food were donated. Students also took up a collection, raising an additional $1,674 for the Food Bank.

Both the “adopt a family” program and food drive are part of an initiative called Pacific Pays it Forward. This is a student-led series of activities to give students, faculty and staff a chance to get involved in volunteer activities outside the scope of dentistry. The ASDA chapter has been busy exploring other ideas and planning for the new year, so we look forward to future opportunities to help.

My hat goes off to all of our students who are so involved in these projects to benefit the community. It is inspiring to see their commitment to assisting others, whether by providing oral health services for the public, or providing a helping hand in other ways not connected to dentistry.

To our students, present and future:

Each year, when we matriculate a new class, I have the opportunity to spend some time talking to you about oral health and how important a role you are going to play, the greatness of the dental school, and about the friendships that you make during the three years you will be at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. I tell you to look to your right, look to the left, look in front, and look behind you, because some of those people will become some of your best friends for life. I think that is true for all of us, and I think our past graduates can testify to that.

Throughout your life, with your closest friends, you are going to celebrate your accomplishments and mourn sad occasions. Last week, I had that experience of celebrating and mourning: honoring the life of one of my great friends from dental school after his recent passing. He was the inspiration to a group of us to continue on, no matter how difficult it got.

When I attended the Baylor College of Dentistry, it was a three-year program, much like ours in some ways, yet very different in some important aspects. Here, our school is the prime example of the humanistic environment. In those days, Baylor was just the opposite. Much has changed since then, but at that time it was not a place where students were treated with respect and dignity. In fact, even the faculty did not treat each other respectfully for the most part.

In order to get through those difficult and stressful times, you had to draw on your friendships. My friend, Randy Clark, was that person we would turn to. Even though he was in the beginning stages of his body‘s long deterioration as a result of juvenile diabetes, he kept a strong presence, always laughing and keeping our spirits up. At the celebration of his life, I and others made similar comments to his wife Janie: “You dealt with a lot. His antics, his life, and sense of fun, but giving back so much of his time to the people he cared about so much.”

While this was a sad event, it was also a happy moment to celebrate that he finally had come to his resting place. In the true form of an Irish wake, my friends, many of whom I had not seen in 30 years, and I went out one evening to celebrate his life, our friendships and all the good and bad times we have experienced throughout our lives.

The good news is always the good times will highly outnumber the bad times.

Build those friendships, cherish those friendships and work on those friendships.

In July 2009, Dr. Pamela A. Eibeck became the 24th president of University of the Pacific. Over the four months since she has been in her role, I’ve been impressed with the collaboration and openness she brings to her involvement with all of the University’s schools, including the dental school.

As part of her transition, President Eibeck is conducting an extensive “listening and learning” tour to gather input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members in Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco. The Dugoni School of Dentistry looks forward to hosting her at the San Francisco campus on November 11 for a series of departmental meetings and a town hall meeting for the whole school. While she has been to our campus several times before and met with campus representatives, we are pleased to welcome her again for some more in-depth gatherings.

University of the Pacific has built a very solid foundation when it comes to academic programs, people, financial stability and other aspects of the University community. It’s an exciting time to plan for the future under the direction of a new president. Our team at the dental school is looking forward to working with her more closely and seeing her ideas for the University unfold.

On a personal note, she is a joy to work with. She is a great listener and a quick study. Her enthusiasm rubs off, instilling me to do even more for the Dugoni School of Dentistry and the University. I look forward to many great years working with her.

President Eibeck follows in the footsteps of a respected and successful President, Dr. Donald DeRosa, who served in his position for 14 years. In her new role, I can see President Eibeck is already building up a positive track record through her enthusiasm, ideas about the future and collaborative style.

My experience becoming dean of this dental school more than three years ago also gave me a deeper understanding of what it’s like to follow in the footsteps of a leader with a storied track record, Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni in our case.

In any leadership position, I think it’s important to respect history and learn from the past, while planning new ways forward. A change at the top brings a chance to do all of these things.

President Eibeck is in a unique position to build on our strengths by continuing to enhance educational quality, deepen the University's involvement in community engagement and build national visibility for the University – all areas in which she has expressed interest. We wish her all the best as we continue to work together for the good of the entire Pacific community.

A video of President Eibeck’s recent fall address can be watched below.

[vimeo vimeo.com/6534192]

Dr. Gerald Kim (left), Dr. Joseph Yamamoto (center) welcomed alumni with true Hawaiian friendliness
Dr. Gerald Kim (left), Dr. Joseph Yamamoto (center) welcomed alumni with true Hawaiian friendliness

I looked forward to meeting up with colleagues and leaders in our profession at the American Dental Association’s Annual Session in Hawaii during the first weekend in October. This year is a significant milestone for ADA, which celebrated its 150th anniversary during the meeting.

We had a contingent of numerous faculty members, administrators and alumni, as well as some student leaders who made the trip. I was proud to see all of the familiar faces from San Francisco so actively involved, including some who presented lectures.

Our involvement also included significant representation in the ADA House of Delegates, part of the association’s governance. I was very impressed with the University of the Pacific presence when I looked around the room in the House of Delegates meetings. With our strong network of alumni, our school is among the dental schools with very significant involvement in the ADA House of Delegates. This reflects one of our school’s values — leadership.

The Alumni Association also held a reception over weekend to give Pacific graduates a chance to get together. It was great to see the large turnout and I was impressed by the energy in the room. I know people really enjoyed themselves and many stayed well past the event’s closing time.

I would like to thank the Alumni Association for organizing a successful event, along with the help of Alumni Association President Dr. Marvin Carnow ’74A and local organizers such as Dr. Gerald Kim ’98 (and ’00 Orthodontics). Dr. Joseph Yamamoto ’49 was a wonderful host who greeted guests at the door with special macadamia treats and brought a smile to everyone’s faces. It was an inspiring opportunity to visit with some of the Hawaiian dental professionals who are part of the long legacy of our school.

The Dugoni School of Dentistry has a history of close involvement in organized dentistry, and I was glad to see this tradition continue at the ADA event. We make a direct impact on the future of our profession through our involvement in local dental societies on up through the state and national dental associations.