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Over the past month, the Pacific Dugoni family gathered together to celebrate an exciting milestone in our school’s history. But more importantly, you celebrated the bonds you have with your fellow classmates and colleagues. You remind me every day of how fortunate I am to call you my family.

Staff Photo
Dugoni staff exploring the new building.

More than 2,000 members of the Pacific Dugoni family visited San Francisco for Alumni Weekend and the dedication of our new building at 155 Fifth Street. It was amazing to see so many generations of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends exploring our new home. Your enthusiasm and energy put the finishing touches on the building and filled it with life.

Dedication - Students
Pacific Dugoni students get a preview of their simulation lab.

Having an extended family means that there’s a home for you wherever you travel. I had the opportunity to meet with more than 30 Pacific Dugoni alumni in Dallas, and I was touched to hear that they get together frequently to socialize and share what they are up to personally and professionally. They have built a community in their city and continue to live out Pacific Dugoni’s values of humanism, collaboration and respect.

Last month, more than 70 members of the Pacific Dugoni family gathered in San Antonio for the American Dental Education Association’s Annual Session. We hosted a dinner on the River Walk on the Sunday evening of the event, and invited our alumni who live in and around San Antonio. As a school family, we learn and work together. But we also have the chance to relax, gathering together over a table to share food and conversation.

Alumni Meeting
Alumni come together at the Annual Alumni Meeting.

One of my favorite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius, once said, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” I know that transition can bring challenges and opportunities, whether it’s moving to a new school, graduating, starting out in a new program, finding mentors, developing a practice or just trying a new way of doing things. Fortunately, the Pacific Dugoni family is a strong support network that reaches far and wide. With all my heart, thank you for being a family that stays connected.

Alumni Luncheon

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Over the holiday break I had an opportunity to visit my extended family in Italy. My travels took me to San Salvatore Telesino, located just a bit northeast of Naples. My grandparents lived there before they immigrated to the United States. It is where my grandmother was born and raised.

Meeting my extended Italian family was quite a thrill. They showed me the local sights, shared delicious food and wine, discussed family members past and present, and shared stories about their daily life in Italy. The importance of family in Italian culture cannot be understated and this trip certainly brought that point to life.

Similarly, the Pacific Dugoni family ties run deep. The anticipation I felt in Italy before meeting my extended relatives was similar to how our new students might feel before they first meet their fellow classmates and faculty members.

Our school family enjoys a special bond built over time. Shared interests and experiences bring us together. Just like in Italy, food and family hospitality are part of our school culture. Our traditions include the Cioppino dinner for first-year students hosted by alumni, new student orientation weekend, the Over the Hump party, our Bridge Builders international culture and food festival, White Coat Ceremony, dinners for student leaders/administrators, and the third-year class trip to Asilomar in Pacific Grove, just to name a few. The school’s family ties are strengthened during the countless hours of classes, clinic sessions, community outreach, lunch and learns, and socializing.

These ties continue after a student graduates from our school. He or she will be an alumnus of Pacific Dugoni for life. We hope our graduates will stay in touch after they have “left the nest” and come home for reunions and other events.

As with any family dynamic, the dental school experience has many aspects. It can be challenging, humorous, joyful and stressful – but ultimately rewarding. We members of the Pacific Dugoni community grow, laugh, challenge ourselves and learn from each other knowing that each of us cares for the success of one another.
My famiglia, indeed!

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I would like to take a moment to wish each and every one of you happy and safe holidays. I recognize that this is a very busy time of the year. Much is happening to wrap up the academic year, not to mention all of the holiday-related preparations and activities. I hope that the upcoming break offers you a chance to relax, reenergize, and spend special time with family and friends. Pacific Dugoni is a unique family of students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, patients, and friends. Our collective impact on the world is significant thanks to all of your efforts.

2013 was an extraordinary year in the history of Pacific Dugoni. You have completed many of the significant tasks that we embarked upon when we set up the strategic plan Advancing Greatness. Several months ago, I sent you a partial list of all your accomplishments. It is extraordinary. You have contributed so much to Pacific Dugoni’s legacy.

2014 will be another major milestone for us. Thank you for all the hard work that you are doing in preparing our new home. I know it is always a challenge to move from a place where we have fond memories, but in our new home, we will build on those memories and create new ones.

I know there will be a lot of work for every one of you during the coming six months. Please accept my deepest appreciation for all that you have done. Your contributions and commitment to our vision and leading the improvement of health by advancing oral health is commendable. We have much to celebrate and much to look forward to in the new year.

Happy holidays!

I’m very proud of our newest DDS and IDS classes for giving back to the Bay Area community during the first-year student retreat in August.

The annual two-day retreat gives students a chance to get to know each other outside the school walls so that they can bond as a class and prepare for their exciting educational journey ahead. In the last three years we have also incorporated a day of community service into the first day of the experience.

On Aug. 1, I had the opportunity to join student volunteers at GLIDE, a well-known nonprofit organization headquartered in the Tenderloin district that serves disadvantaged people throughout the city. I couldn’t have been more proud of seeing our dental students preparing meals in the kitchen to be served later that day to hundreds of people in need. Other students, faculty and staff volunteered that same day at the San Francisco Food Bank, Project Open Hand and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

While at GLIDE I also had the opportunity to learn more about the health services the organization offers to the public. Patricia Dennehy, Director of Glide Health Services, introduced me to some people on her team and showed me around the health clinic.

Our school’s core values include collaboration, philanthropy, humanism and leadership. On this day of community service, it was encouraging to see our students living these values through their actions out in community. Congratulations to all who participated in this outreach and to all of the staff and faculty members who volunteered to organize a memorable first-year student retreat.