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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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I would like to take a moment to wish each and every one of you happy and safe holidays. I recognize that this is a very busy time of the year. Much is happening to wrap up the academic year, not to mention all of the holiday-related preparations and activities. I hope that the upcoming break offers you a chance to relax, reenergize, and spend special time with family and friends. Pacific Dugoni is a unique family of students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, patients, and friends. Our collective impact on the world is significant thanks to all of your efforts.

2013 was an extraordinary year in the history of Pacific Dugoni. You have completed many of the significant tasks that we embarked upon when we set up the strategic plan Advancing Greatness. Several months ago, I sent you a partial list of all your accomplishments. It is extraordinary. You have contributed so much to Pacific Dugoni’s legacy.

2014 will be another major milestone for us. Thank you for all the hard work that you are doing in preparing our new home. I know it is always a challenge to move from a place where we have fond memories, but in our new home, we will build on those memories and create new ones.

I know there will be a lot of work for every one of you during the coming six months. Please accept my deepest appreciation for all that you have done. Your contributions and commitment to our vision and leading the improvement of health by advancing oral health is commendable. We have much to celebrate and much to look forward to in the new year.

Happy holidays!