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I had the great pleasure of attending the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Annual Session held recently in Iguacu Falls, Brazil. As you can see from the picture, the falls are spectacular. But more importantly, my visit was an opportunity for me to attend the IADR meeting as a representative of the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations (IFDEA) as well as Pacific Dugoni. Although it rarely happens, during this meeting I had a great deal of free time that allowed me to sit in on many of the oral presentations. I spent the afternoon attending most of the presentations focusing on implantology and learned quite a bit.

I was particularly struck by how science continues to evolve at such a rapid pace. I feel strongly that all of us should be taking a strong interest in the new discoveries — how they can address age-old problems as well as new problems. 

It seems to me we need to continue to always focus on science. We, as teachers and educators, need to ensure we are incorporating the latest findings and, of course, also contributing to the body of research whenever possible. Truly, there should really be no distinction between attending an American Dental Education Association (ADEA) meeting and an IADR meeting. Education and science are deeply intertwined and inseparable — as they should be. As teachers, we want to know the latest research, and, as researchers, we want to know how to best incorporate our teachings in a healthy learning environment – and encourage a new generation of scientific explorers.

I want to encourage all of us to attend future IADR meetings as teachers as well as researchers. One does not need to have a strong background in research, only a desire to learn.

I hope you all are enjoying your break and that when we all return, we will be refreshed, revitalized, and ready to continue teaching, researching and serving the community — and always learning along the way.

In September I visited Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara (SDM) College of Dental Sciences and Hospital in Hubli, India.

The reason for my trip was that I had been asked by the ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to lead a delegation of consultants to visit the school as they begin the process of getting accredited. This is the first time a school outside the United States has reached this particular state in the ADA’s accreditation process. I travelled with two other dental educators (one from NYU and one from Baylor); ADA staff members; and a practicing U.S. dentist who is originally from India.

My experience at SDM was very positive. It is an extraordinary, young school – just 25 years old. In recent years they have worked very hard to move toward compliance with CODA’s standards. And while they perhaps have more to do, my impression was they were extremely passionate about providing high-quality dental education, and had great resources at their disposal. I observed that respect for education is high inIndia, visibly so at SDM. In seeing how enthusiastic the educators at SDM are, I have found a new respect for dental education and the work of my colleagues abroad as well as in the United States.

During my visit I also had the privilege of meeting the president of the SDM Educational Society, an organization which oversees not only this dental school, but many schools throughout Southern India. He is a visionary leader and his passion for trying to improve the quality of life for Indian citizens through educational innovation will lead to advancements in his country.

The Indian people I met were incredibly friendly, helpful and kind. I was fascinated by their strong religious beliefs and customs, particularly their reverence of cows. Despite often facing overwhelming poverty, the Indian people are deeply passionate and hardworking, especially in the city of Hubli.

Trips like this remind me that our school’s international partnerships are worth the time we put into nurturing them. In addition to helping each other become better dental education institutions, we can find a new respect for what we do along the way.

Dean Ferrillo during his recent trip to Venezuela.
Dean Ferrillo during his recent trip to Venezuela.

I spent several days last week on an informative trip to Venezuela to represent University of the Pacific and the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in meetings with some of our international colleagues. It was a brief visit to the country, but it offered a good opportunity to build bridges with leaders in higher education and dentistry.

After starting my trip in the bustling capital city of Caracas, I took a short flight the following morning to the city of Barcelona to meet with the Dental School Faculty Council at the Universidad Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho (UGMA). I had the pleasure to get a tour of the UGMA’s dental school facilities and patient clinic. While there I also discussed some ways our dental schools might work together under the partnership agreement between UGMA and University of the Pacific. The University has a long history of commitment to international education and cross-cultural understanding. Some of these partnerships and programs, such as the Inter-American Program, are highlighted on the School of International Studies web page.

When I returned to Caracas, a group of dental school deans from throughout the country gathered together for a meeting of the Venezuelan Association of Dental Schools and Faculties (AVEFO). I gave a presentation — “Challenges Facing Global Dental Education” — and learned more about some of the issues and opportunities faced by the dental schools in Venezuela. I also had the chance to give an update on behalf of the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations and inform the group about resources available from IFDEA.

All in all, I found a great deal of common ground and commitment to training the next generation of dentists, and to sharing knowledge and resources across the globe. It will be exciting to see what results from these partnerships.

Dean Ferrillo meets students at the dental school in Venezuela.
Dean Ferrillo meets students at the dental school in Venezuela.

Dean Ferrillo with the faculty of Guanghua School of Stomatology
Dean Ferrillo with the faculty of
Guanghua School of Stomatology

Amid all of the attention on China’s impact on the global economy — from manufacturing to energy to its growing consumer culture — I recently had the chance to learn more about its approach to healthcare and dentistry, one area we don’t read as much about.

During the first week of January, a small group from our school visited China as part of a cross-cultural exchange. My traveling companions across many miles were Dr. Colin Wong, a graduate and former president of both the Pacific Dugoni Foundation and the school’s Alumni Association, and Gary Mitchell, current president of the Pacific Dugoni Foundation.

During the trip, we were fortunate to visit with students and faculty at the School & Hospital of Stomatology at Wenzhou Medical College in Wenzhou, a major city in the southeastern Zhejiang province. The leaders at the School & Hospital of Stomatology were kind and knowledgeable hosts to our group. They organized a tour of the school and meetings with faculty, where I learned more about their opportunities and challenges. Jianfeng Ma M.S.D, Professor and Dean of the school, recently spent time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry here in San Francisco where she and several colleagues gave a presentation, visited with our faculty and toured our facilities.

We also spent time in Guangzhou at the Guanghua College of Stomatology at Sun Yat-sen University where I gave a presentation and met with students and faculty. It was an honor to be presented with a letter of appointment from University President Huang Daren naming me as a visiting professor to the school for two years.

Our group was very grateful for the extraordinarily warm hospitality the Chinese extended us both in Wenzhou and Guangzhou. They truly opened up the doors for an exchange. I believe these dental schools together with the Dugoni School of Dentistry can develop ways to improve the quality of dental education.

As always, I am immensely impressed with the rapid development going on in China. The Chinese economy will rank second in the world, if it has not already, only below the United States. They continue to make tremendous progress in developing their economy and I’m greatly interested in continuing to follow their development.

As president of the International Federation of Dental Educators and Associations, I’ve had the pleasure to meet with many of the leading dental educators around the world to hear what’s working in their countries. By sharing best practices and learning from other educators, we can raise the standards of dental education globally and improve oral health for people around the world.