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Dr. Dudley Cheu
Dr. Dudley Cheu

On Sunday, July 12, I attended a touching event in honor of an extraordinary person. It was a celebration of Dr. Dudley Cheu’s life. Dr. Cheu, who had been teaching at our school since 1994, was an assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry. It was a very sad event due to his early passing and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

I learned a great deal about Dr. Cheu’s life at the ceremony. I knew him at campus from his smiling face; incredibly positive attitude; compassion and desire to help our students; and the fact that he always got things done around the school. He was always commendable and supportive when interacting with our students. And the students clearly felt just as positive about him. A year ago, for example, students honored him at an awards dinner as an outstanding faculty member.

With his passing, we should all contemplate what lessons we can learn from his positive approach to life. As I watched more than 300 people gather to commemorate his life and listen to his friends talk about him, I learned what an extraordinary role model he was for us all, including myself.

Dr. Cheu clearly knew how to balance his life. His family, including his wife Genevieve, two sons Jason and Derek, and grandchildren were important parts of his life. He loved his profession and his patients, and at the same time had the opportunity to enjoy many other aspects of life. He was well travelled, enjoyed great food and fantastic wines. We should all remember his approach as an example to live by – a person who knew how to balance his priorities and do it well. He embraced life and enjoyed it to the fullest. He will be missed by all, but never forgotten.

Our DDS Class of 2009
Our DDS Class of 2009

A key component of our school’s mission statement is to “actualize individual potential” and one of our core values is Humanism (dignity, integrity, responsibility). In other words, we aspire to help individuals become everything that they are capable of through our supportive and encouraging environment.

I’ve often wondered why the humanistic model of education is such an important part of the culture and success at the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Why do so many students, residents, faculty, and staff thrive as members of the Pacific family? Is there any science that explains why our model works?

Here’s something to ponder. Many years ago, Abraham Maslow developed a theory of personality that influenced a number of different fields, including education. He theorized that individuals can only self-actualize when certain basic needs are achieved in a specific order. His hierarchy theory is often represented as a pyramid with physiological needs (e.g. oxygen, food) at the base; followed by safety needs; needs for love affection and belongingness; needs for esteem; and at the top, needs for self-actualization. When the environment is supportive, individuals will grow and actualize the potential they have inherited.

Maslow believed that the only reason people did not move well in the direction of self-actualization is because of hindrances placed in their way by society. He stated that education could be one of these hindrances and we need to switch from “person-stunting” tactics to “person-growing” approaches.

At Pacific, we’ve definitely adopted the person-growing approach. Our humanistic family environment fosters a feeling of mutual respect, dignity, and self-worth. Our approach to dental education is to create a supportive environment for teaching, learning, and working.

I agree with my mentor and friend Dr. Art Dugoni who said, “I am firmly convinced that we must not just develop superior dentists to succeed as dentists but rather individuals who have truly learned the meaning of life: the ability to express themselves; and the willingness to improve, to listen, and to grow through meaningful experiences with other human beings. What greater gift can we give to our students than the development of their own self worth? This special ingredient says to every individual that they are worthwhile, they are important.”

So this year, as we graduate another group of outstanding students and residents, and celebrate another year of achievement and accomplishment, take the time to think about our fantastic model of education. There’s science behind our success.

As I have said many times, the Dugoni School of Dentistry is one large family. Throughout our daily lives, we work together, play together, share each other’s joys and, unfortunately at times, share sad moments.

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit with a group of our alums who are part of an event called the Greco-Roman Fly Fishing Week, held in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. These people have spent so much time together throughout their lives, sharing their joys and unhappy times as well. Their friendships have endured for many years. I had the opportunity to see multiple generations – sons of our graduates who are also graduates of our institution. Their love for each other is tremendous, as is their love for the Pacific family, which was expressed often during the gathering.

Patients are part of our family here as well. I recently received a letter from a patient who wrote how blessed I must feel to be dean of this great dental school. Her needs were taken care of in a compassionate and friendly manner, and she was very pleased. I wrote back to her and said I’m very blessed to be the dean of such a great dental school.

To all the faculty, staff, students, alums and friends – thank you for all you do for the school, for our patients and for me. It is truly a unique place. In all of my career experiences in various capacities, I have never have seen an organization of this nature. It is all because of our people. A school can have great facilities, but not very good people and as a result, the institution as a whole won’t be very good. Here, we have great people, great facilities, and are very blessed to all be working together.

My best wishes to you all. I continue to want to hear thoughts and ideas from you, whether online or in person at the various school events coming up throughout the year.

I had a great time this past Saturday participating in the annual Pacific Pride Day open house at our school. This year we had approximately 300 potential students and their family members tour our facilities, learn more about our programs and visit with our family of students, faculty and staff.

Pacific Pride Day is an energizing experience for me. I’m passionate about our field and enjoy talking to anyone considering oral healthcare as a profession.

Our profession is really all about people. Oral healthcare providers make a tremendous impact on people’s lives. Our profession puts a smile on people’s faces. Some people are ashamed of their mouth or their smile. Dentists make a direct impact on a person’s health and state of mind.

Those in the field of oral healthcare also teach people that what goes on in their mouths affects their lives. Saliva in the mouth can tell you about your overall health in many ways. For women who are pregnant, diseases of the mouth can impact the health of their baby. Research has also shown that there is an association between periodontal (gum) diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease illness and Alzheimer’s disease.

Our profession also makes a tremendous impact on children. Dental decay is one of the most common chronic infectious diseases among childrenthe young. Oral healthcare providers screen and treat thousands of children every day, helping to alleviate pain and give these children a reason to smile.

My education in dentistry led me to my running my own endodontic specialty practice for many years. I was rewarded every day from people I met and treated. I knew I was making a difference in their health and, in doing so, was making an impact on their lives.

For those considering oral healthcare as a profession, I’m here to encourage you. Whether you find a home at our school or another school, I’m glad you are considering this rewarding field.