Dugoni: 'Live beyond the nine-by-nine operatory'

Stepping to the podium in the ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco, Arthur A. Dugoni, DDS, MSD, reached for his speech titled "If Not You, Then Who?" and decided to toss it to the side. Dugoni was speaking to a room full of students from the various dental schools across the state and in his mind, his preplanned speech was full of topics they had already heard.

Instead, he switched gears. Looking around the room, Dugoni, who is dean emeritus and professor of orthodontics at the dental school named after him, the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, said he saw not just future dentists, but professors, deans of dental schools, presidents of universities, mayors, governors and presidents of companies in the audience. Dugoni challenged the dental students to do more than practice dentistry after they graduate. He urged them to make a difference in their profession and in their communities.

"Congratulations, you're the best of the best. You've been elected to leadership positions, but you've become very special partners in the fraternity of educated people who truly will and can make a difference; who truly can live a life that matters," Dugoni said. "You have to live beyond the nine-by-nine operatory and your high-speed hand piece."

Dugoni spoke at the CDA student networking event at CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in San Francisco on Aug. 21. Having been a part of dentistry for 71 years, he said he has seen his fair share of dentists become leaders in the profession and around the world and knows many of those in attendance would accomplish the same.

"As leaders you're going to carve out some new and different paths ... as you strive to improve health and access to care in this nation, and enrich dentistry," Dugoni said. "I urge you, go where there's no path and leave a trail of footprints for others to follow. I challenge you to travel that road with passion and conviction."

As the students set their footprints in the profession, they will experience many changes in the way they practice. Dugoni listed off what dentistry looked like when he graduated from school as a way to illustrate how the profession has evolved: no cooling systems, no evacuation systems, no implants, no cosmetic dentistry, no fluoride, no veneers and no invisible braces. Dugoni said dentists did more dentures and extractions than restorations at that time and typically had one-chair offices, sometimes above a pharmacy with no registered dental hygienists or assistants.

But times have changed, and Dugoni predicts they will change a lot more over the next 71 years. Dugoni, who has served as president of the ADA, the American Dental Education Association, the American Dental Association Foundation, the American Board of Orthodontics and CDA, gave a glimpse into the future of dentistry by listing what he believes is on the horizon:

  • More prevention and fewer restorations.
  • Use of more pharmaceuticals.
  • Use of stem cells to fabricate dental tissues and organs.
  • Nontherapeutic cloning devices to treat some of the most devastating illnesses and diseases.
  • Fully integrated practices with comprehensive teams — no longer the isolation practice. Practices will feature teams with MDs, pharmacists and geneticists.
  • Genomic alteration, even of the genetic code, to prevent disease.
  • Planning your patients' lives and your own on predictions from your DNA genetic code to prevent and treat.

"You're going to do more prevention of disease rather than treating it," Dugoni said.

Alexandra Chamberlain is a CDA student delegate at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC and said she found Dugoni's speech to be inspirational.

"His message was inspirational, empowering and well-received by all, regardless of school allegiance. It was definitely the highlight of the weekend," Chamberlain said.

Nicholas Bumacod is a student delegate at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine and shared the same sentiments.

"His words inspired me to continue smiling every day and to never stop excelling and moving our profession of dentistry forward as a humble leader," Bumacod said.

Smiling and loving life was another theme of Dugoni's speech. He encouraged the students to not sweat the small things in life, learn to laugh "a lot," surround themselves with the things they love and to take care of their bodies.

"Passion leads to persistence. Persistence leads to loving what you do. And loving what you do leads to excellence. Persist long enough and the whole world will believe in your vision. But do not forget: smile. Smile along the way and the whole world will smile with you," Dugoni said.

During his 28 years as dean, Dugoni was credited with developing and managing many innovations that have taken the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry to its current level of national prominence, including the enhancement of the humanistic model of education. Dugoni has presented more than 1,000 lectures, papers, clinics and essays and is the author of more than 175 published articles.

As for that original speech he planned to give, Dugoni told the students in the audience to email him if they still wanted to read it.

Dugoni took a moment following his speech to share his thoughts on organized dentistry.

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