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A recent story in The New York Times, “State Lags in Dental Health Care for Children”, highlights the dire need for dental care for children in this state.

According to the article:

California children’s dental health was ranked third from the bottom in the National Survey of Children’s Health, above only Arizona and Texas. In the Bay Area, children and teenagers up to the age of 17 made nearly 1,980 visits to emergency rooms for preventable dental conditions in 2007. The cost of these visits averaged $172, but if a problem required hospitalization it cost an average of $5,000.

In 2007, the last year that data for many reports was available, more than 500,000 California children between the ages of 5 and 17 missed at least one day of school in a year because of dental problems, costing school districts $29.7 million dollars in lost revenue.

Even though these statistics sound dire, I do hope this press coverage will encourage families, members of the dental community, legislative representatives and others involved in healthcare issues to reinforce the need for our state to do a better job in providing early prevention and regular dental care for children, including those from the neediest families among us. As we hear with many other issues these days, the status quo is unacceptable.

The timing of this article relates to a recent event I attended to support dental care for children of underserved families. Our school’s Kids in the Klinic endowment helps thousands of needy children in the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley each year obtain care at the dental school’s clinics. Some have complex medical dental problems. The goal is to establish a $2 million Kids in the Klinic Endowment to help provide ongoing funding to address the dental needs of our community’s children, from infants to teenagers.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the May 8 Vino de Mayo wine auction and fundraiser, an event I recently attended that raised more than $125,000 for Kids in the Klinic — the most ever raised at the event.

Another opportunity to show support for children’s dental care is by attending the Kids in the Klinic Golf Classic on June 29, 2010 at The Olympic Club. Participants will enjoy an 18-hole round of golf on the Ocean Course or the exclusive Lake Course, which has been ranked as one of the top courses in the United States and is the site of the 2012 U.S. Open. There also will be a silent and live auction, and dinner. Find out more and register >>

If you can’t make this event, feel free to visit www.kidsintheklinic.org to learn more about how to support the Kids in the Klinic Endowment. This endowment is just one small part of the solution to the crisis around children’s dental care in California. Every week we see grateful parents and children who are receiving much-needed care thanks to this funding, so we know it is making a difference in their lives.

Please click below to learn more about Kids in the Klinic and see how it is changing lives one smile at a time:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDoAkQesTpE]

From San Francisco to Stockton...

It has been an exciting couple of weeks during which I moved forward to accept a new role as Interim Provost of University of the Pacific, a position which will start on July 1, 2010. I’ll be spending up to four days per week in Stockton in this interim role, with additional travel back to San Francisco and to our Sacramento campus.

I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the University community on a deeper level and working with my colleagues in the Central Valley.

Still, as I prepare to adjust my schedule in the next couple of months, I recall some of the daily aspects of life in the City that I enjoy and that I’m going to leave behind for a while.

One of the things I’ll especially miss is walking to work through the beautiful Pacific Heights neighborhood. It’s hard to beat the charm of the well-kept Victorian houses, parks filled with dog walkers, joggers and families, trees and steep but scenic hills that span this part of San Francisco. It’s truly a special neighborhood like no other.

I’ll also miss Fillmore Street with its neighborhood shops and delicious restaurants. Many of them have become familiar haunts where the proprietors recognize me the minute I walk in.

Most importantly, I’ll miss the daily interactions with students, faculty and staff that take place in our building as a matter of course. Our school is close-knit in more ways than one. In the elevators, stairways and hallways — especially during “rush hour” between classes — we get to know each other when criss-crossing the building for meetings, lunch or classes. Many a quick elevator meeting allows us to catch up with colleagues. It’s amazing what you can find out in a few seconds between floors!

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to getting to know the University community at an even deeper level, working with all of the various departments and students across the Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco campuses. The people at the other campuses have been very welcoming during my time with them and I expect they will introduce me to more of their favorite places in their towns as well!

Beyond my attachment to this place, there is a bigger picture. University of the Pacific’s three-campus organization positively affects the three communities around the campuses and gives us a unique regional identity. We have a significant impact on the Central Valley, Sacramento and San Francisco communities through the students, faculty, staff, patients, and community ties that we have in each of these cities.

So while I’ll miss some of the day-to-day aspects of San Francisco, there are many upsides to this interim role. And I’m looking forward to spending more time in the warmth of the Central Valley, especially on the chilly fog-filled summer days in the City by the Bay.

Dean Ferrillo addresses the crowd at the Alumni Luncheon.
Dean Ferrillo addresses the crowd at the Alumni Luncheon.

The Fairmont Hotel was filled with the energy and excitement of nearly 1,400 alumni who recently returned to San Francisco for the 111th Annual Alumni meeting held March 12-13.

We have an incredibly talented and tight-knight group of alumni. It was a pleasure to get to know more of them at this annual meeting and at regional events throughout the year.

During my remarks at Friday’s awards luncheon, I had a chance to share my pride in the strength of our people and programs, and present some ideas about the future, especially as it relates to our facilities.

First, as our alumni exemplify, we have amazing students and residents graduating from the school each year. People are at the heart of our school’s culture and behind our incredible success. A caring and humanistic approach, leadership, collaboration, philanthropy and other positive values are demonstrated by our students, faculty, staff and alumni every day. It’s refreshing to see people living these values, especially in a world often consumed with less-than-positive values.

In addition to our people, we are fortunate to have respected and innovative programs. From the nation’s only three-year DDS curriculum, to all of our other academic offerings, including our International Dental Studies, graduate and continuing education programs, we continue to be known for high-quality education. We’re not resting our laurels, however. We’re moving forward to define new standards for education. For example, the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum currently being implemented places a strong focus on active learning and critical thinking through integration across multiple disciplines and the use of small-group, case-based learning.

Great organizations, including great dental schools, have great people and programs, as well as great facilities. As we continue to move forward to sustain our unique culture and advance our programs, we must also take a look at our facilities to make sure they serve the needs of our school. The Dugoni School of Dentistry has always strived to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, materials and clinical advances used in the practice of dentistry. We must also take a hard look at our existing building to make sure our physical classrooms and clinics are designed to fulfill the modern needs of dental education and clinical practice.

After a thorough study of our existing facilities over the last two years, the University’s Board of Regents recently approved the dental school to take an even closer look at facility needs for the future. The school is now moving forward with a feasibility study to examine relocating the dental school within San Francisco. You may have read the recent news announcement.

This is truly an exciting time. As we evaluate our current and future needs for space, we must think about how classrooms and clinics should be designed for the future. I look forward to working with all of our stakeholders, including our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, as we plan for the future of our facilities.

Dean Ferrillo with the faculty of Guanghua School of Stomatology
Dean Ferrillo with the faculty of
Guanghua School of Stomatology

Amid all of the attention on China’s impact on the global economy — from manufacturing to energy to its growing consumer culture — I recently had the chance to learn more about its approach to healthcare and dentistry, one area we don’t read as much about.

During the first week of January, a small group from our school visited China as part of a cross-cultural exchange. My traveling companions across many miles were Dr. Colin Wong, a graduate and former president of both the Pacific Dugoni Foundation and the school’s Alumni Association, and Gary Mitchell, current president of the Pacific Dugoni Foundation.

During the trip, we were fortunate to visit with students and faculty at the School & Hospital of Stomatology at Wenzhou Medical College in Wenzhou, a major city in the southeastern Zhejiang province. The leaders at the School & Hospital of Stomatology were kind and knowledgeable hosts to our group. They organized a tour of the school and meetings with faculty, where I learned more about their opportunities and challenges. Jianfeng Ma M.S.D, Professor and Dean of the school, recently spent time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry here in San Francisco where she and several colleagues gave a presentation, visited with our faculty and toured our facilities.

We also spent time in Guangzhou at the Guanghua College of Stomatology at Sun Yat-sen University where I gave a presentation and met with students and faculty. It was an honor to be presented with a letter of appointment from University President Huang Daren naming me as a visiting professor to the school for two years.

Our group was very grateful for the extraordinarily warm hospitality the Chinese extended us both in Wenzhou and Guangzhou. They truly opened up the doors for an exchange. I believe these dental schools together with the Dugoni School of Dentistry can develop ways to improve the quality of dental education.

As always, I am immensely impressed with the rapid development going on in China. The Chinese economy will rank second in the world, if it has not already, only below the United States. They continue to make tremendous progress in developing their economy and I’m greatly interested in continuing to follow their development.

As president of the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations, I’ve had the pleasure to meet with many of the leading dental educators around the world to hear what’s working in their countries. By sharing best practices and learning from other educators, we can raise the standards of dental education globally and improve oral health for people around the world.