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What a month it has been! March has been packed with important events and activities.

Pacific ADEA attendees gathered after the Gies Awards ceremony to celebrate the school's award.
Pacific ADEA attendees gathered after the Gies Awards ceremony to celebrate the school's award.
On the weekend of March 4, the Alumni Association hosted its 112th Annual Alumni Meeting here in San Francisco. It was the first time since my return from Stockton that I really got to reconnect closely with the greater Pacific Dugoni alumni family. We’re fortunate to have one of the largest alumni reunions of any dental school and it really shows the pride people have in their alma mater. The best moment for me — during a weekend of many wonderful moments — was during the Friday Alumni Luncheon, when I was presented with the Medallion of Distinction. What a terrific “welcome home” gift.

Then this past Monday, I had the pleasure to attend the Gies Awards ceremony at the ADEA Annual Session where the school received its award for Outstanding Vision — Academic Dental Institution. I was so proud to accept the award on behalf of the entire school in a ballroom filled with leaders in dental education.

The vision, talent, and collaborative hard work of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends keep us on the forefront. Our peers continue to take notice of our many student and faculty accomplishments, curriculum enhancements, community service, international partnerships, facilities planning, and other projects identified as part of our school’s strategic plan implementation.

Congratulations to our entire school community — this is your award. Thank you for your commitment to living our vision — “Leading the Improvement of Health by Advancing Oral Health” — and for making our school such a special place.

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.

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.

What an extraordinary weekend at the Dugoni School, with two great events sponsored by our great Alumni Association. The welcoming cioppino feast and the White Coat Ceremony were the key activities this weekend.

The cioppino dinner began many years ago when a group of our graduates came together to provide a meal to welcome the new students. These gentlemen from the alumni get together each year in one of their backyard kitchens, begin early in the morning, select the seafood, and prepare the cioppino. For two years, I have had the privilege to watch them and somewhat participate in the cioppino preparation. During the time I spent with them, I got to see their passion and commitment to the Dugoni School, but more important, their passion and commitment to each other.

I have said to the classes as they enter that the people you meet during these three years will become some of your very best friends. This group of graduates is truly an example of how that friendship has been maintained through many years. They are not only colleagues, but they are truly deep friends. They celebrate all the important occasions together as a large family.

The White Coat Ceremony has also been a long term tradition at the Dugoni School. It is important to point out that we were the very first dental school to conduct the White Coat Ceremony. Today, I am pleased to say that most dental schools in the United States have a similar event. It was impressive to look from the stage into the audience and see our DDS, IDS and dental hygiene students in their white coats. It made me think about how lucky we are to have such dedicated young people. I realize our profession is in good hands with them, but more important, the patients they will be treating now and into the future are in excellent hands. These young people are about to embark on the new experience of patient care. I am so proud to be a part of this new experience.

As always, we celebrate important occasions. That is a part of our great culture here at the Dugoni School. I want to again thank all the staff who worked so hard to pull these events together, and all the volunteers who give up the precious little time they have to help make these events extraordinary.

Finally, thank you to the great Alumni Association. It is so impressive all the things they do, the alumni weekend, which I know many of you will participate in as students and future graduates, and the graduation awards banquet at the Ritz Carlton is also an extraordinary event. They support the Articulating Paper. These are just a few of the examples of all that they do for the Dugoni School.

I am proud of you – the alumni – and I really want to say on behalf of everyone, thank you for what you do.