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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.

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As the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry moves from strength to strength, how is our progress reflected in the oral health of the country at large? And how do our goals, successes, and initiatives here in San Francisco affect other countries — especially emerging nations?

As you know, my mandate includes a substantial amount of contact with our international colleagues. We continue to forge bonds that, one by one, bring the worldwide dental community closer together and play a part in influencing the way that our profession affects global healthcare issues. But there are problems closer to home.

Nationally, we are seeing a decline in overall dental health. Part of this is due to a surge in immigration by individuals who — for reasons of income or culture or habit — cannot afford to or do not budget to put dental care into their lives. The trouble is, this has created a downward slide in the overall health of these individuals, with a follow-on impact on national healthcare allocation and budgeting. All of us, from the newest student to the most senior member of the faculty, need to keep this issue front and center in every aspect of our professional lives.

Many of the more established members of our community are working to influence legislation, raise funds and create a consciousness about this problem. Our Kids in the Klinic program involves just about everyone who attends, or used to, or even been into contact with the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. It is a wonderful program. Please, do not let it slide when you graduate! Build into your career goals a plan to take part in a golf tournament, buy a raffle ticket or waive the fees for one disadvantaged patient every now and then. Dr. Renee DellAcqua, at her Palm Desert practice, regularly holds free Tooth Fairy clinics for the children of low-income families. She and her staff go the extra mile by dressing up in full fairy outfits, wings, and all. If you do not want to wear a fairy outfit — just plan to do as she does and, when you graduate, help make a difference, one child at a time.

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I want to congratulate so many people at the Dugoni School who have been, and will continue to be, engaged in leadership. As you know, one of our seven values is leadership. It is constantly demonstrated that we are true leaders. I was pleased to see that our students were recognized and assumed leadership roles during the recent American Student Dental Association meeting. Again, it is a great recognition of what value we contribute to organized dentistry, to dental education, and many other avenues. I am also pleased that many of our students, as well as former students, will be engaged in leadership roles during the upcoming California Dental Association meeting in San Francisco.

During my recent travels, I was also happy to see Dr. Anders Nattestad recognized as a leader at the Association of Dental Educators for Europe meeting. He was engaged in numerous presentations. At the same time, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Dr. Derry Shanley was given an honorary membership into ADEE during that meeting.

These are only a few of the examples of leadership roles that so many people from the Dugoni School are involved in. It is important that we maintain that value and continue to contribute to organized dentistry and to society at large. I look forward to seeing you all. Thank you.

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Sorry that I have missed the past couple of weeks with additions to the blog. In the future, I hope to be more consistent keeping the blog current.

One of the things I always try to stress is values, that we must keep those values strong in our minds throughout everything that we do. As you know, we at the Dugoni School cherish those values of humanism, innovation, leadership, collaboration, stewardship, reflection, and philanthropy. These should always continue to be what guides us in our thought processes. Values can be more significant than even a strategic plan and implementation. We should always stick to our values. Today, I think if you look at society, individuals and organizations struggle because they either do not have strong values, or they do not stick to their values. Keep those in mind as we continue to progress as a great institution.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in another event that supports our initiatives in providing oral health care to children who are in need. The Kids in the Klinic project, which was originally started by Dr. Susan Bittner, continues to flourish. This weekend, the fashion show, chaired by Ms. Bonnie Kwong, one of our strong supporters not only of the dental school, but of this project, was extraordinary. Many volunteers, including our students and staff, gave up their Saturday to help make this a spectacular event. It brought out the very best in the Dugoni School family. Many friends of the community, especially those of Bonnie Kwong, had the opportunity to see our values of commitment, passion for humanism, as well as other values. This program helps provide care for kids who are the most vulnerable. With today’s budget cuts, especially here in the state of California, less and less is going toward providing oral health care for those who are at risk. I want to congratulate everyone for their strong commitment to this project and strong commitment to serving the public in so many ways.

In the coming weeks, I will be talking about our global initiatives. During the Labor Day weekend, I will be traveling to Europe to meet with our colleagues in dental education to discuss issues of how we can improve the quality of dental education, therefore improving the oral health care provided to the public. I will keep you posted. I also look forward to feedback from the readers.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the three-day holiday. I know you all need that time away. Thanks again for all that everyone does on behalf of the Pacific Dugoni School.