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Last Monday, I had a fantastic opportunity to play one of the top golf courses in the country, the Lake Course at the Olympic Club, just south of San Francisco.

More impressive than the quality of the course, however, was the goal of this special event, the 12th annual “Kids in the Klinic” Golf Classic. Our school raised nearly $90,000 through the tournament, silent auction, live auction and sponsor donations.

The Kids in the Klinic endowment helps fund dental services for underserved children throughout Northern California. More than 1,500 children, including some with special needs, extensive medical conditions and debilitating conditions, call the Dugoni School of Dentistry their dental office. This year especially, the endowment plays a critical role in providing care in this time of economic need by so many families.

While my golf game could use a tune-up, I felt great about my round, no matter what the score. This event brings out the best in our school family. We had student and staff volunteers, donors, alumni, recent graduates and friends of the school all participating and getting involved to produce a unique event at one of the most historic athletic clubs in the country. If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you haven’t yet participated, please keep it in mind for next year.

Dr. Susan Bittner, one of our school’s graduates, started Kids in the Klinic in 1997. She had the vision and took the initiative to create this endowment, which has positively impacted thousands of children over the years.

I’d also like to also thank our event chairman Steve Mollinelli, who put so much time into the Golf Classic. He and his wife just welcomed a new baby boy a few weeks ago. We’re thankful for everything he did to organize the event amid his busy schedule with his newborn son.

Our corporate sponsors also stepped up to the tee to support this cause. You can read our full list of sponsors, as well as a recap of the event, by visiting the news story posted here. Thanks again to everyone involved!

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Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni and Dean Patrick Ferrillo
Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni and Dean Patrick Ferrillo

I recently shared some news with our faculty and staff about a treasured member of our school family, Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni.

When I started in July 2006, Art was very kind during my entire transition. He graciously stayed to lend an ear and provide valuable input as Dean Emeritus. He was supposed to take a sabbatical that year, but chose to remain to help in the transition. Over the last three years, Art has been, and continues to be, an important mentor to me personally, as well as to the entire Dugoni School of Dentistry family. I consider him my personal “Consigliori,” a term you may be aware of if you are a fan of Italian culture.

Art is now going to take a well-deserved sabbatical beginning July 1, 2009. I know he will enjoy spending more time with Kaye and the entire Dugoni family, including his children and grandchildren. In fact, they will soon be traveling to Italy on a family trip. Art informs me he also has plans to spend time chronicling his collection of slides and writing articles and perhaps even a book on humanism and education.

I want to recognize Art, who continues to be an important source of inspiration to the students, faculty, staff and alumni at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. He gave us 28 years as dean, not to mention the 62 years in all that he has served in various capacities with the school. Art has made an incredible mark on dental education and the profession. I will miss seeing him around the school hallways, but he will remain close to my heart. I will continue to meet with him periodically during the year.

Please wish him the very best if you see him before his trip to Italy, and congratulate him on this much-earned break.

Our DDS Class of 2009
Our DDS Class of 2009

A key component of our school’s mission statement is to “actualize individual potential” and one of our core values is Humanism (dignity, integrity, responsibility). In other words, we aspire to help individuals become everything that they are capable of through our supportive and encouraging environment.

I’ve often wondered why the humanistic model of education is such an important part of the culture and success at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Why do so many students, residents, faculty, and staff thrive as members of the Pacific family? Is there any science that explains why our model works?

Here’s something to ponder. Many years ago, Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that influenced a number of different fields, including education. He theorized that individuals can only self-actualize when certain basic needs are achieved in a specific order. His hierarchy theory is often represented as a pyramid with physiological needs (e.g. oxygen, food) at the base; followed by safety needs; needs for love affection and belongingness; needs for esteem; and at the top, needs for self-actualization. When the environment is supportive, individuals will grow and actualize the potential they have inherited.

Maslow believed that the only reason people did not move well in the direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He stated that education could be one of these hindrances and we need to switch from “person-stunting” tactics to “person-growing” approaches.

At Pacific, we’ve definitely adopted the person-growing approach. Our humanistic family environment fosters a feeling of mutual respect, dignity, and self-worth. Our approach to dental education is to create a supportive environment for teaching, learning, and working.

I agree with my mentor and friend Dr. Art Dugoni who said, “I am firmly convinced that we must not just develop superior dentists to succeed as dentists but rather individuals who have truly learned the meaning of life: the ability to express themselves; and the willingness to improve, to listen, and to grow through meaningful experiences with other human beings. What greater gift can we give to our students than the development of their own self worth? This special ingredient says to every individual that they are worthwhile, they are important.”

So this year, as we graduate another group of outstanding students and residents, and celebrate another year of achievement and accomplishment, take the time to think about our fantastic model of education. There’s science behind our success.

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This is a tumultuous time for state budgets around the country, and the Golden State is no different.

I would like to call your attention to a proposed cut in the California state budget that threatens the oral health of our citizens.

The state legislature has eliminated adult Denti-Cal insurance benefits from the state budget as of July 1, 2009. Denti-Cal is part of Medi-Cal, which is California’s version of the federal Medicaid program. Medi-Cal provides health care to 6.6 million low-income and disabled residents. The proposed cuts will impact thousands of adults, including many from already underserved and vulnerable populations.

If Denti-Cal insurance is eliminated, people around the state will suffer from the loss of quality dental care, including preventative procedures. Patients will then require more complex and costly procedures, and when in need may turn to hospital emergency rooms and other expensive options.

Our school is monitoring the situation closely. The proposed cuts directly impact the patient base at our clinics, especially the main dental clinic in San Francisco, since many patients there use Denti-Cal insurance. The clinic staff, students and faculty have been communicating with patients to inform them about the proposed elimination of Denti-Cal benefits.

I encourage members of the dental community to voice support for Denti-Cal by contacting their representatives in the Senate and Assembly. If you want to send a message, you can find your representatives by going to http://www.legislature.ca.gov and typing in your address in the “Find My District” box in the right-hand column. The link will take you to the representative’s web site through which you can send an email asking that Denti-Cal benefits funding be restored.