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Amid this month’s flurry of holiday activities and festivities, the Dugoni School of Dentistry received notice that we have been selected to receive the 2011 Gies Award for Outstanding Vision — Academic Dental Institution. This is a very special honor that speaks to the vision, talent and hard work of all of our students, faculty and staff.

While you are undoubtedly familiar with the Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, you may not be as familiar with the dental education community’s very own awards presented during the American Dental Education Association session each year. The William J. Gies Awards, given by the ADEAGies Foundation, recognize exceptional contributions to oral health and dental education worldwide.

I am so proud of the work of our entire team. The education community continues to take notice of our curriculum enhancements, student leadership, community involvement, new approaches to faculty development, international partnerships and our focus on feasibility planning for new facilities, to name just a few areas.

We look forward to the ADEA Annual Session in March in San Diego where we’ll join fellow recipients on stage during an awards dinner. Even though it won’t have the celebrity quotient of the entertainment industry’s award shows, the Gies Awards will certainly celebrate some of our own “stars” from the dental education world. We’re pleased to be part of the excitement.

It has been a great opportunity for me to serve as interim provost, especially working with President Eibeck and her cabinet and administration. I have gotten to spend more time interacting with the fantastic faculty, staff and students in Stockton. These days, I have a greater appreciation for all the wonderful things the University is doing.

My time as interim provost will be coming to a close early next year, as the University recently announced the appointment of Dr. Maria G. Pallavicini as the new provost after a year-long national search. Dr. Pallavicini has a terrific background in teaching, research and administration and I have no doubt she is going to be a great asset to us all. The official announcement about her appointment can be found on the main University of the Pacific website.

She is due to come on board as provost on February 1, 2011. I look forward to returning home to San Francisco to once again be an intimate part of the Dugoni School family. You particularly appreciate family when you have been away!

Thanks for all the hard work you have all done during my absence, and for the great support you have given Dr. Nadershahi. His accomplishments as acting dean have been extraordinary.

Until the new provost officially starts, I will continue to maintain my schedule as interim provost in Stockton, with occasional visits back to the dental school in San Francisco.

Throughout all these changes, we are still moving forward on our important initiative: the future of the dental school’s facilities. I am looking forward to being able to continue to devote more time and energy to this project, and am excited to see what (and where) the future brings us!

River in Montana

My job at University of the Pacific was made busier these past few months due to my current role as interim provost for the University. Still, late this summer, as I try to do each summer, I made an effort to set aside a weekend for one of my favorite pastimes — fly fishing.

I was so fortunate recently to get a chance to combine my work and my pastime during a trip to Montana, where I got together with several people, including a dental school alumnus who met up with the group, to spend time in the beautiful outdoors. It was terrific to connect with this group, and we enjoyed talking to each other enjoying the peaceful calm of the river and trees.

Those of you who are dental students are expected to put in a great deal of time on your studies and patients. Those of you who are finished with your education but are working, whether as staff or faculty at the school, or as dentists, hygienists (or even outside the dental profession!) probably also find that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the things you need to do, much less to do the things you enjoy.

Yet your leisure time matters as much if not more as anything else; it grounds and recharges you. It makes you a more productive student and worker  — and a happier human being. I urge you to always make time for your favorite pastimes no matter where you find yourself in life. For those who are studying or working in the San Francisco Bay Area, we certainly are fortunate to have plenty of trails, mountains, parks, water and other outdoor attractions outside our front doors, along with a temperate climate. All good reasons to get away from it all — even if only for a few hours at a time.

Dean Ferrillo catches a fish

Dental school alumni sure have been active in the last few months. It’s been such a pleasure attending some of the Alumni Association events and meeting recent graduates whose faces are so familiar, as well as some of the many graduates from years past. During the September California Dental Association conference in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to meet up with alumni at Thirsty Bear.  (See photos)

One of our new employees at the dental school mentioned to me that when he first walked into Thirsty Bear, he was impressed with the turnout. However he had only seen half of the room. Upon realizing that the other half was also packed with alumni, he went from “impressed” to “amazed and astounded.”

The Alumni Association board of directors also met during the recent CDA conference. You should feel proud of this entire board under the leadership and close involvement of Association President Debra Woo ’86. They continue to strategize about how to take the association from great heights to greater heights, while making sure to address the wishes and needs of alumni.

While I’ve been temporarily spending much more time in Stockton during my role as interim provost, the experience has given me greater opportunities to connect with alumni in the Central Valley. I enjoyed talking to people at the recent alumni meeting in Stockton as well as at a Fresno alumni reception held at the dental practice of one of our graduates.  I also had the chance to meet up with Las Vegas-area alumni during a reception held there several months ago.  (Of course, you can’t be everywhere at once, so I missed the alumni get-togethers in Del Mar and at the LA Dodgers game… perhaps next year!)

I recently learned from our Alumni Association office that the dental school has 6,584 living alumni, which is an amazing number when you think about it. We are very fortunate in this regard. Alumni make an impact on the dental profession, their communities, the university and each other. The bonds forged during dental school experience certainly carry a long way through life, as I hear when I talk to older alumni who continue to stay in contact with each other throughout the years.

In addition to their effect on each other, alumni certainly make a tremendous impact on the current generation of dental school students through their mentorship of recent graduates, involvement at events and contributions to ensure that our legacy stays strong.

I am looking forward to the other alumni events happening throughout the year, including the upcoming alumni reception at the ADA Annual Session in Orlando and the big alumni weekend in the spring in San Francisco. Hope to see you at one of our next events.