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Students collect donations during a break at school.
Students collect donations during a break at school.

The impact of our dental school on people in our community reaches far beyond our school's walls and the dental clinics here on campus. I wanted to highlight a few special activities taking place this holiday season, since many of our students are volunteering above and beyond their typical dental school schedule.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, students and faculty members will provide dental services for people in need during Project Homeless Connect at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. For over two years, students have taken an active role in organizing the dental services that are part of this event held several times a year. At each event, more then 1,000 community volunteers partner with government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector to provide a one-stop shop of health and human services for homeless San Franciscans. During PHC’s events, participants are able to accomplish in one day what might normally take eight months.

During the Dec. 9 event, our school will provide expanded oral health services in addition to the usual screenings. People who need further treatment will be taken back to the school for additional dental services here on campus. To learn more about Project Homeless Connect, visit www.projecthomelessconnect.com.

In another special activity this month, students involved in our American Student Dental Association (ASDA) school chapter have “adopted” a family at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. The ASDA students have been collecting gifts and will present them to the family before the holiday break.

Last month, November 10-20, students organized a holiday food drive to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank. More than 400 cans or boxes of food were donated. Students also took up a collection, raising an additional $1,674 for the Food Bank.

Both the “adopt a family” program and food drive are part of an initiative called Pacific Pays it Forward. This is a student-led series of activities to give students, faculty and staff a chance to get involved in volunteer activities outside the scope of dentistry. The ASDA chapter has been busy exploring other ideas and planning for the new year, so we look forward to future opportunities to help.

My hat goes off to all of our students who are so involved in these projects to benefit the community. It is inspiring to see their commitment to assisting others, whether by providing oral health services for the public, or providing a helping hand in other ways not connected to dentistry.

A cioppino feast for incoming dental school students
A cioppino feast for incoming dental school students

Each July, our first-year students get a special treat from a group of our distinguished alumni. At the end of a very busy first week of classes, the students are invited to a cioppino dinner in the Café Cagnone on the 2nd floor to eat, socialize and relax.

In case you haven’t heard of it (or unlike me, haven’t spent much time with a big Italian family), cioppino is a fish stew derived from the various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.

A group of alumni have been organizing this event for many years. Their work starts early in the morning when they go to the fish market to choose their ingredients, and continues as they spend the day preparing the cioppino feast. This year, they gathered to cook at Gaspare Pizza, a restaurant owned by Gaspare and Robin Indelicato, who are the parents of one of our students. After a day of camaraderie, cooking and eating, the group then comes to the school to serve the cioppino to more than 160 incoming students in the DDS and IDS programs.
This wonderful event is an incredible example of the passion for Pacific and the friendships that are developed during the time our students spend here. This group of alums has been together as friends since they day they started school. I expect that the incoming class will begin to form similar ties.

In order to help build those relationships, first-year students also travel to the University of the Pacific’s main campus in Stockton during their second week for a class retreat. They spend two days together interacting in scheduled and unscheduled activities such as bowling and playing sponge dodge ball. Between the cioppino dinner and the first-year retreat, we hope that students get to know one another and forge bonds that will last throughout their dental school experience. It’s likely they’ll even make some friends for a lifetime.