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There is a saying that the true test of character is how a person behaves when no one is looking. What action do they take without an audience? It might be picking up a piece of trash in the school hallway when no one else is around. Or dropping off cans of food or a toy to a charity collection bin. Or holding a door open for someone you don’t know and will never meet again.

In a broader sense, the way we give back to the community also shows a bit about our character, especially when no one is looking. During the holiday season, so many of us are asked to give of our time, talents and treasury to organizations and causes. How do we respond?

It is always heartwarming to hear from our students, faculty and alumni who volunteer for many causes within the world of dentistry and outside of it. We even have students and faculty members who volunteer over their breaks to go on humanitarian dentistry trips to help underserved families overseas. I would like to thank these volunteers who give their time and talent without seeking applause or acknowledgement from others. This is in contrast with some celebrities, corporate representatives and politicians we occasionally see on TV who are all about the cameras and the publicity.

At Pacific Dugoni, we are fortunate to have many opportunities to give back to the community. Some of these opportunities are initiated by students, and others are organized by staff or faculty members. In many ways, the Season of Giving around our school extends far into the New Year and beyond.

In whatever way you give back, I encourage you to keep in mind the spirit of the cause and the good work you are doing in and of itself.

photo pig roast Chicago alumni September 2012

It is always great to travel around the country and meet our wonderful alumni as they get together to maintain their friendships. Recently, I was in Chicago and had the opportunity to attend a pig roast organized by Dr. Jason Primavera, Class of 2011, who is in his second year of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Chicago, along with his fiancée, Frances Wang, who is also a graduate of the Class of 2011. We were joined by Dr. Stephanie Moniz, the fiancée of Dr. Ryan Colletta, who is in his second year of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery program. Both Frances and Stephanie are practicing general dentistry in Chicago. We were also joined by Dr. Kevin Robertson, who is in his first year of residency at Loyola in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery; Dr. Alan Chee, who is in a GPR program; and Dr. Scott Sutter, who is attending the endo program in St. Louis.

It was a spectacular evening in Chicago. The weather was wonderful and the food was great, but seeing our alums enjoying each other and strengthening their ties of friendship was very impressive. Their feeling toward the dental school was positive and it certainly made me proud to see them continue to gather to reminisce and reconnect amid their busy professional and personal lives. May they long maintain their connections with each other — and with the school where those connections were forged.

Every day, great examples of leadership are displayed around the clinics, classrooms and research labs at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. If you’re familiar with the heritage of the dental school, it should come as no surprise to hear that the people at Pacific continually show their passion for pav­ing the way.

Our commitment to excellence keeps our school in the vanguard, a term which describes people who are fore­most in a movement, field or cultural trend.

Leadership is one characteristic we especially foster, contributing to our success as an organization and keeping us on the forefront of oral health education around the world.

My new white paper focuses on the topic of leadership and outlines some of the many ways that our school’s people and programs have stayed on the cutting edge. It also highlights our plan for new facilities that will allow us to provide a distinctive and flexible home for students, patients, faculty, staff, alumni and others.

A leader must evolve, plan strategies for the future and make changes that set the pace for others. Our school’s move to new facilities in San Francisco is an opportunity for us to do just that.

This is an exciting time of the year as we welcome our incoming students and residents, as well as new faculty and staff to the Pacific Dugoni family. With our unique accelerated schedule, we start our new academic year much earlier than other universities, so our “back to school” season starts in July.

I would like to wish the very best to our newest students and their families, friends and other supporters who will be working with them behind the scenes to make their dental experience a success. It was a pleasure to see some of our students’ family members during our orientation luncheon held recently at the school.

The beginning of the new academic year also features some hallmark events. On the first Friday of the new quarter, several local members of the school’s Alumni Association cook all day long and host an annual Cioppino Dinner for new students. This is a tradition that goes back to 1988 and demonstrates the wonderful support that our local alumni have for our new students. This past weekend we also hosted our annual White Coat Ceremony for second-year DDS students, first-year IDS students and second-year DH students. This event commemorates the beginning of our students’ clinical experience and emphasizes their role as health care providers. With the many other orientation activities for students, faculty and staff taking place, there certainly is a lot of activity and enthusiasm around our hallways.

Of course, adding to the whirl of activities around the school is the ongoing planning for our new facilities.  I will continue to keep you updated regarding the future new facilities at 155 Fifth Street. I encourage you to go to the special web page covering our building plans. We will be taking photographs of the various stages of construction and will keep you updated.

We are currently planning at the end of August to begin demolition of the existing skin of the building — in other words, stripping the building down to structural steel and concrete. Sometime in early winter, the new outside skirt or skin will be going into place and the building will look remarkably different than it does now. We are planning a visit to the new facilities for the incoming DDS class to take place on July 20. This is the first class that will graduate from the new campus, so we wanted to invite them to see the structure for themselves. We will be arranging transportation to the facilities, including lunch, so that they will have the opportunity to see the new site and the surrounding community.

Best wishes to everyone for a great year.  Thank you for all that you do for Pacific Dugoni.