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This Sunday, March 20, marks the first day of Spring and is also the celebration of Nowruz — the Persian New Year. This “new day” is celebrated by millions of people around the world. Thank you to our Iranian-American Student Dental Association (IASDA) for taking time to assemble the Haft-sin on the 1st floor in honor of the occasion. I am grateful that our Dugoni School family can celebrate Nowruz as my family did as I was growing up.

Haft-sin table at the Dugoni School

March 20 is also the celebration of World Oral Health Day, an initiative of FDI World Dental Federation, an organization that brings together the world of dentistry with the aim of achieving optimal oral health for everyone. A variety of resources are highlighted on the World Oral Health Day website so please check it out.

The American Dental Education Association Annual Session is taking place March 19-22 in Philadelphia and several Dugoni School students, faculty, and staff will be attending starting this weekend. Thanks to those of you who are participating and to the many who have been involved in and lead ADEA Section meetings or other activities. It will be a very special event for me as I will be moving into a new leadership role as Chair of the Board of ADEA for the coming year. It is always a privilege to represent our school and I am grateful for your support and participation.

This weekend, our CDE department is welcoming guests for the 3rd International Bone Symposium in Implant Dentistry being held March 19 and 20 at the school. Learn more about the program and the impressive list of guests speakers from around the world here. Thank you to all involved in organizing this special CDE opportunity.

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.