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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.