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I hope everybody had a restful Thanksgiving. I know everyone at Pacific Dugoni needed a rest from all the hard work and intense studying that has been happening this quarter. Surely everyone is also looking forward to the beginning of the holiday season as well as a much longer rest period.

During my Thanksgiving break, I had an opportunity to take some time off, sit and relax, and do some reading, which I much enjoy, in particular historical nonfiction. Over this break, I enjoyed a book about the history of World War II.

What struck me as I read were the hardships that people both in this country and throughout the world faced at that time – the loss of life, the need to sacrifice material comforts, and many other challenges to the nation. It made me even more thankful for what I have today. Fortunately, as a country, we are relatively at peace. Two military engagements that we have been involved in for the past several years seem to be winding down at last. It is to be hoped that this will mean no more loss of life.

Our current era has its own set of challenges, particular economic ones. While everyone has had to make some sacrifices during this difficult time, they do not compare in magnitude to those during World War II, not to mention World War I. And as those difficult periods eventually came to an end, history tells us that this one will as well.

I’m very thankful for my health, family, friends and the opportunity to work at a great institution with great programs and a lot of fantastic people. We will continue to have challenges as we move forward and into our future new facilities, but I am grateful that we will have the opportunity to enhance the Pacific Dugoni reputation locally, nationally and internationally.

I want to wish everyone the very best during the coming weeks. Hopefully I will get to see many of you before we break for the holiday season. In the meantime, if you should have any comments or questions, please get in touch. Thank you all for making my life a very blessed one. Again, if there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In September I visited Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) College of Dental Sciences and Hospital in Hubli, India.

The reason for my trip was that I had been asked by the ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to lead a delegation of consultants to visit the school as they begin the process of getting accredited. This is the first time a school outside the United States has reached this particular state in the ADA’s accreditation process. I travelled with two other dental educators (one from NYU and one from Baylor); ADA staff members; and a practicing U.S. dentist who is originally from India.

My experience at SDM was very positive. It is an extraordinary, young school – just 25 years old. In recent years they have worked very hard to move toward compliance with CODA’s standards. And while they perhaps have more to do, my impression was they were extremely passionate about providing high-quality dental education, and had great resources at their disposal. I observed that respect for education is high inIndia, visibly so at SDM. In seeing how enthusiastic the educators at SDM are, I have found a new respect for dental education and the work of my colleagues abroad as well as in the United States.

During my visit I also had the privilege of meeting the president of the SDM Educational Society, an organization which oversees not only this dental school, but many schools throughout Southern India. He is a visionary leader and his passion for trying to improve the quality of life for Indian citizens through educational innovation will lead to advancements in his country.

The Indian people I met were incredibly friendly, helpful and kind. I was fascinated by their strong religious beliefs and customs, particularly their reverence of cows. Despite often facing overwhelming poverty, the Indian people are deeply passionate and hardworking, especially in the city of Hubli.

Trips like this remind me that our school’s international partnerships are worth the time we put into nurturing them. In addition to helping each other become better dental education institutions, we can find a new respect for what we do along the way.

Those who are closely involved with our school know that innovation is one of our core values. This value is embodied in many ways around our school, particularly in how we approach our curriculum.

As we say in our mission statement, we prepare oral healthcare providers for scientifically based practice and define new standards for education. To that end, we have started to implement the Pacific Dental Helix Curriculum. A new white paper, which I encourage you to read, provides an overview of this new integrated D.D.S. curriculum and describes how it is shaping our school today and into the future. The curriculum is the result of four years of research and planning done as part of the implementation of our school’s strategic plan, Advancing Greatness.

The new curriculum focuses on active versus passive learning. It offers new ways for our students and faculty to interact. It involves small-group, case-based learning, and reorganization of our clinical model into eight small group practices instead of four large ones. These are just some of the changes you’ll read about which exemplify how we are staying at the forefront when it comes to our curriculum.

Read the white paper >>

The issue of access to dental care — or the lack thereof — is getting its fair share of attention in organized dentistry and throughout the communities.

The access-to-care issue (or “barriers to care” as some organizations refer to it) involves this question: how to best provide dental care to people with lesser economic means, those who live in remote rural areas, seniors, or other underserved or vulnerable Americans who may not be able to access traditional private dental practices or community health clinics?

Ongoing debates are happening in California and across the United States. This is a complex topic because it is a complex problem. States are trying different approaches and a “one-size-fits-all” model will most likely not prevail in the immediate future based on differences between states, not to mention the residents they serve.

I was recently asked by the California Dental Association to chair its Taskforce on Workforce. Several years ago, funding for the Taskforce was approved by the CDA House of Delegates. The Taskforce report has now been released, and I direct you to the CDA's website where CDA members may access the report. There is much in the report that should be digested by all members of our profession. The committee members plus staff worked on the project for many hours.

The process will continue to be long and surely will not be solved overnight. Dental professionals and leaders in organized dentistry are weighing in with their views. Any recommendations for change in our state will ultimately be reviewed and voted upon by the CDA House of Delegates.

The bottom line is that everyone involved in this issue should look at the evidence. Examine the research and findings of experts who are studying the issue. Whatever your personal position is on this complex issue, I invite you to be at the table. Stay up to date on the evidence. Learn a little more about different models of care. Get involved in CDA and other dental organizations. Discuss the issue with colleagues at local dental society meetings. The CDA has published a list of a series of town hall meetings. I encourage you to attend.

Leadership is one of the core values of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. One of the phrases we often hear around our school is that as a dentist, you are a leader simply by the nature of your role. You are a leader to your patients, family, friends, staff, and professional colleagues as well as in the community.

It is important for dentists to stay engaged with the complex issue of access to care.