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I was fortunate to listen to a presentation made by Dr. Ling Jun-qi, professor and dean from the Guanghua School of Stomatology in Guangzhou, China. As part of a recent visit to our school, Dr. Ling Jun-qi gave an informative update on the state of dental education and dentistry in her country.

Dental educators from China recently visited our school.
Dental educators from China during a recent meeting and tour of our school.

In the United States, roughly 20 percent of our population has no access to oral healthcare. That equates to around 60 million people.

It is extraordinary when you think of the issue in China where they are dealing with a patient population of 1.5 billion. They have roughly the same number of dentists in China as we have in the U.S. The issues of access to care have to be extremely overwhelming for the country.

As we all know, oral health and overall health go hand in hand. It gives you some sense of the magnitude of the status of health in an incredibly fast-emerging country. When you read about China, it does not give you an excuse to say we are better off. We have significant problems here that need to be solved.

The U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world. At one time, before the economic downturn, California was estimated to have the seventh-largest economy in the world. Yet our state has some of the highest rates of tooth decay among children in the U.S. My perspective is that we have a significant problem for a country of our size and wealth.

Perhaps we have something to learn as other countries struggle with the problem of access to care. How they solve these issues may give us some insight into solving our problems as well. The bottom line is we have a lot to learn from each other. That is the importance of being involved globally. While problems may be of a different magnitude, they are the same in many ways. Access to care for the population is a worldwide problem. It’s a greater problem in many other countries, but we still all should work to develop strategies to address it.

I enjoyed discussing some of these shared issues with the leaders from the Guanghua School of Stomatology. You can read more about their visit and see a photo of the group with our Dean’s Cabinet on our Web site.

What distinguishes a graduate of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry from the other dental professionals? That was the question we set ourselves to answer last year when the faculty and advisors met last year to create a strategic plan for the next five years.

It is tough to improve on the outstanding. It is an understatement to say that it was a challenge even to contemplate creating a roadmap to advance the Dugoni School to the next level. How to build on the rich tradition of excellence of the Dugoni School, maintaining the core attributes while advancing the organization to a new level of greatness?

Among the most distinguishing features of the school are these:

  • Leadership and innovation
  • The humanistic model of education
  • Clinical excellence
  • A three-year curriculum
  • Alumni allegiance
  • Family-like culture
  • Life-long passion for Pacific

These features are central to both the past and future success of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. They are what make us unique within our profession.

There are many significant issues facing dental education and our School. In choosing the issues – some of which I will discuss in future blog posts – that form the structure of our strategic plan, we asked ourselves these questions:

  1. In addressing this issue, do we advance the vision, mission, and values of our School and our University?
  2. Does this issue provide us with opportunities to take the School in new and exceptional directions?
  3. If not addressed, does this issue threaten the future of the School?
  4. Do our stakeholders consider this issue important?
  5. Does this issue build on our distinctive core competencies?
  6. Is there evidence that the School should make this issue a priority?

We used these questions as criteria to ascertain the most critical issues facing the School, and organized our strategy around six strategic directions and 22 goals. I will discuss these in my next blog entry. Meanwhile, I would welcome your input about what you believe are the biggest issues we should be addressing!

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During my recent vacation, I had time to do some extensive reading. One book that caught my interest was A Letter to America by David Boren. A Rhodes Scholar, the longest-serving chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a U.S. senator and governor of Oklahoma, he has served as president of the University of Oklahoma for the past 13 years.

Mr. Boren believes that our country is at a crossroads. He raises many issues, including our image in the international community, lack of bipartisan cooperation and downward trend of the quality of education.

He also discusses the need for us to understand the cultures, values and beliefs of the world. We must recognize that 95 percent of the world’s population exists outside the United States. At the Dugoni School, I believe we understand the need to think globally. I am so pleased that we have embarked on many global initiatives to date, for example SCOPE and the IDS program. We will be considering additional ones in the very near future.

If you get time, I encourage you to read the book.