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During the past few weeks, I had the chance to travel to several cities and meet with people, including many of our alumni, who are doing some remarkable things.

First, I had the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony for Dr. Cindy Lyon, chair of our Department of Dental Practice, from the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) program. A one-year program of leadership training for women in academic medicine, dentistry and public health, ELAM is part of the International Center for Executive Leadership in Academics at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA.

Each year, ELAM selects a group of 54 women candidates from a significantly large pool of applicants. The applicants have already demonstrated leadership, but this is an opportunity to improve on their leadership skills. They ask the deans to come to two days of graduation activities at the end of the program, and I had the opportunity to participate.

Dr. Lyon graduated from the prestigious ELAM program.
Dr. Lyon graduated from the prestigious ELAM program.

I was extremely impressed with Cindy and the project she has accomplished as part of the program. Her project focused on the future move of our Dental Hygiene program from Stockton to San Francisco. While that may seem somewhat simple, it is a very complex project because it involves many people and areas. I heard a high number of positive comments about Cindy from her fellow classmates.

The next activity, which I enjoyed immensely, was attending the California Dental Association’s annual meeting in Anaheim held April 30-May 2. I had an opportunity to meet with many of our alumni from throughout the region. The Pacific Dugoni Alumni Reception held at the Anabella Hotel was a great opportunity to connect. I heard so many positive stories about what our alums are doing, not only in their practices, but also in their personal lives, and how they are giving back to their communities. As we all know, we are proud of our graduates. Meeting our alumni at these types of events reinforces that strong feeling. It is always inspiring to hear about their achievements and leadership in their local communities.

Meeting with alumni at the Pacific Dugoni Alumni Reception held at the Anabella Hotel during CDA Presents - Anaheim.

Finally, on May 2, I had the opportunity to meet up with one of our graduates, Dr. Bill Dorfman ’83. In addition to his very successful cosmetic dentistry practice, he is involved in METal International, a membership group for dynamic entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The purpose of their Saturday gatherings is to network, not necessarily to help themselves with their businesses, but to connect each other to all the good things that they are doing in the community.

Today, we hear about so many negative things in the world, but it was heartening and impressive to listen to these leaders as they discussed all the different community activities they are involved with and to which they are giving their time, talent, and treasure.

Bill Dorfman himself is making a difference through a program he co-founded called LEAP (which stands for Leadership, Excellence and Accelerating Potential). It helps young people begin to prepare better for their future by teaching them goal-setting, mentorship, self-motivation, professionalism and effective communication skills. Often, these young people have limited exposure to role models. People who volunteer for the program help fill that void.

Once again, I am always proud to see what our people are doing out in the world. As dean, it is very fulfilling for me to visit with our wonderful graduates and hear their stories.

Over the past month, the Pacific Dugoni family gathered together to celebrate an exciting milestone in our school’s history. But more importantly, you celebrated the bonds you have with your fellow classmates and colleagues. You remind me every day of how fortunate I am to call you my family.

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Dugoni staff exploring the new building.

More than 2,000 members of the Pacific Dugoni family visited San Francisco for Alumni Weekend and the dedication of our new building at 155 Fifth Street. It was amazing to see so many generations of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends exploring our new home. Your enthusiasm and energy put the finishing touches on the building and filled it with life.

Dedication - Students
Pacific Dugoni students get a preview of their simulation lab.

Having an extended family means that there’s a home for you wherever you travel. I had the opportunity to meet with more than 30 Pacific Dugoni alumni in Dallas, and I was touched to hear that they get together frequently to socialize and share what they are up to personally and professionally. They have built a community in their city and continue to live out Pacific Dugoni’s values of humanism, collaboration and respect.

Last month, more than 70 members of the Pacific Dugoni family gathered in San Antonio for the American Dental Education Association’s Annual Session. We hosted a dinner on the River Walk on the Sunday evening of the event, and invited our alumni who live in and around San Antonio. As a school family, we learn and work together. But we also have the chance to relax, gathering together over a table to share food and conversation.

Alumni Meeting
Alumni come together at the Annual Alumni Meeting.

One of my favorite philosophers, Marcus Aurelius, once said, “Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” I know that transition can bring challenges and opportunities, whether it’s moving to a new school, graduating, starting out in a new program, finding mentors, developing a practice or just trying a new way of doing things. Fortunately, the Pacific Dugoni family is a strong support network that reaches far and wide. With all my heart, thank you for being a family that stays connected.

Alumni Luncheon

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Over the holiday break I had an opportunity to visit my extended family in Italy. My travels took me to San Salvatore Telesino, located just a bit northeast of Naples. My grandparents lived there before they immigrated to the United States. It is where my grandmother was born and raised.

Meeting my extended Italian family was quite a thrill. They showed me the local sights, shared delicious food and wine, discussed family members past and present, and shared stories about their daily life in Italy. The importance of family in Italian culture cannot be understated and this trip certainly brought that point to life.

Similarly, the Pacific Dugoni family ties run deep. The anticipation I felt in Italy before meeting my extended relatives was similar to how our new students might feel before they first meet their fellow classmates and faculty members.

Our school family enjoys a special bond built over time. Shared interests and experiences bring us together. Just like in Italy, food and family hospitality are part of our school culture. Our traditions include the Cioppino dinner for first-year students hosted by alumni, new student orientation weekend, the Over the Hump party, our Bridge Builders international culture and food festival, White Coat Ceremony, dinners for student leaders/administrators, and the third-year class trip to Asilomar in Pacific Grove, just to name a few. The school’s family ties are strengthened during the countless hours of classes, clinic sessions, community outreach, lunch and learns, and socializing.

These ties continue after a student graduates from our school. He or she will be an alumnus of Pacific Dugoni for life. We hope our graduates will stay in touch after they have “left the nest” and come home for reunions and other events.

As with any family dynamic, the dental school experience has many aspects. It can be challenging, humorous, joyful and stressful – but ultimately rewarding. We members of the Pacific Dugoni community grow, laugh, challenge ourselves and learn from each other knowing that each of us cares for the success of one another.
My famiglia, indeed!

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A cioppino feast for incoming dental school students
A cioppino feast for incoming dental school students

Each July, our first-year students get a special treat from a group of our distinguished alumni. At the end of a very busy first week of classes, the students are invited to a cioppino dinner in the Café Cagnone on the 2nd floor to eat, socialize and relax.

In case you haven’t heard of it (or unlike me, haven’t spent much time with a big Italian family), cioppino is a fish stew derived from the various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.

A group of alumni have been organizing this event for many years. Their work starts early in the morning when they go to the fish market to choose their ingredients, and continues as they spend the day preparing the cioppino feast. This year, they gathered to cook at Gaspare Pizza, a restaurant owned by Gaspare and Robin Indelicato, who are the parents of one of our students. After a day of camaraderie, cooking and eating, the group then comes to the school to serve the cioppino to more than 160 incoming students in the DDS and IDS programs.
This wonderful event is an incredible example of the passion for Pacific and the friendships that are developed during the time our students spend here. This group of alums has been together as friends since they day they started school. I expect that the incoming class will begin to form similar ties.

In order to help build those relationships, first-year students also travel to the University of the Pacific’s main campus in Stockton during their second week for a class retreat. They spend two days together interacting in scheduled and unscheduled activities such as bowling and playing sponge dodge ball. Between the cioppino dinner and the first-year retreat, we hope that students get to know one another and forge bonds that will last throughout their dental school experience. It’s likely they’ll even make some friends for a lifetime.