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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.

Here is a summary of the issues identified in the strategic plan:

  1. Lead educational innovation
  2. Develop professionals committed to improving the health of all people
  3. Build focused and valued research initiatives
  4. Build upon the Dugoni School’s unique strengths to create and enhance revenue streams
  5. Create a resource-rich, supportive, and diverse culture to develop, retain, and recruit outstanding individuals
  6. Optimize our faculty assets and technology investments

I think it is worth taking a deeper look at each of these. Today I am going to discuss the broad topic of educational innovation.

What we are trying to say in these few words is that the school must become a leader in formulating new and creative ways to face the health care challenges in the local community, the nation, and the world. We must not only educate oral health care providers in the delivery of dental services, but also in understanding the importance of oral health to overall health.

It is our responsibility to develop professionals committed to improving the health of the public by nurturing future leaders, implementing innovative curricula including service learning, collaborating in private and public partnerships, and enhancing clinical care through cultural understanding and international collaborations.

In my next post, I will talk about some of the ways in which we apply these practices.

What distinguishes a graduate of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry from the other dental professionals? That was the question we set ourselves to answer last year when the faculty and advisors met last year to create a strategic plan for the next five years.

It is tough to improve on the outstanding. It is an understatement to say that it was a challenge even to contemplate creating a roadmap to advance the Dugoni School to the next level. How to build on the rich tradition of excellence of the Dugoni School, maintaining the core attributes while advancing the organization to a new level of greatness?

Among the most distinguishing features of the school are these:

  • Leadership and innovation
  • The humanistic model of education
  • Clinical excellence
  • A three-year curriculum
  • Alumni allegiance
  • Family-like culture
  • Life-long passion for Pacific

These features are central to both the past and future success of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. They are what make us unique within our profession.

There are many significant issues facing dental education and our School. In choosing the issues – some of which I will discuss in future blog posts – that form the structure of our strategic plan, we asked ourselves these questions:

  1. In addressing this issue, do we advance the vision, mission, and values of our School and our University?
  2. Does this issue provide us with opportunities to take the School in new and exceptional directions?
  3. If not addressed, does this issue threaten the future of the School?
  4. Do our stakeholders consider this issue important?
  5. Does this issue build on our distinctive core competencies?
  6. Is there evidence that the School should make this issue a priority?

We used these questions as criteria to ascertain the most critical issues facing the School, and organized our strategy around six strategic directions and 22 goals. I will discuss these in my next blog entry. Meanwhile, I would welcome your input about what you believe are the biggest issues we should be addressing!