Dr. Elisa Chavez, visionary teacher, expert in geriatric dentistry, receives 2020 Dugoni Faculty Award

December 7, 2020
Quick Summary: Over much of her career, Dr. Chavez has been dedicated to improving access to care for geriatric patients. “Receiving this award has been another opportunity to reflect on Dr. Dugoni’s life and attributes as an educator, leader and individual,” she said.

Elisa Chavez, DDS, professor of diagnostic sciences and director of the Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, has received the California Dental Association Foundation’s Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni Faculty Award for 2020.

“Dr. Chavez has a consistent record of service to the school, university and the profession,” said fellow faculty member Paul Subar, DDS, who nominated Chavez for the award. “She models important philanthropic values every day.”

Founded in 2006, the award is named for the late Arthur A. Dugoni, DDS, MSD, who is credited with the development and management of many innovations that elevated the University of the Pacific to national prominence, including the enhancement of the humanistic model of education. The annual award acknowledges eligible faculty members affiliated with California’s six dental schools for their exceptional leadership, innovation, collaboration, compassion, philanthropic spirit and integrity in dental education.

“Receiving this award has been another opportunity to reflect on Dr. Dugoni’s life and attributes as an educator, leader and individual,” Chavez said, adding that the acknowledgment is especially meaningful to her because she had the privilege of working with Dr. Dugoni.

“I am mindful of how much he meant to so many and the importance of the spirit in which this award from the CDA Foundation is given. Staying true to the core value of humanism that he established and modeled for us at the Dugoni School of Dentistry and as a leader in our profession is so important, now more than ever.”

Helping students ‘gain a holistic view of their role in health care’

After earning her DDS in 1994 from UCSF School of Dentistry, Chavez went on to receive a certificate in geriatric dentistry from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Over much of her career, including 16 years at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, she has been dedicated to improving access to care for geriatric patients.

In 2001, Chavez developed the pre- and postdoctoral clinical education programs for the Dugoni School of Dentistry at On Lok Lifeways, a nonprofit organization that pursues quality of life and care for older adults and their families. She continues to serve as director of programs and is a staff dentist at On Lok, overseeing student rotations for medically complex geriatric patients.

“Dr. Chavez’s vision in developing these programs has been for students to gain a holistic view of their role in health care and see value in every service they provide,” said Dr. Subar, who himself received the Dugoni award in 2006. “She has consistently received high marks and praise for the clinical education she has given countless students during her time as director.”

Chavez later expanded the Dugoni School of Dentistry’s extramural offerings by developing and launching a clinical rotation for predoctoral students at Stanford University’s department of surgery.

“These intense, low faculty-to-student ratio experiences prepare students for lifelong learning in a nurturing, caring and collaborative environment,” Subar added.

‘An exceptional credit to dental education’ 

As course director of Integrated Clinical Sciences II at the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Chavez is credited for her ability to integrate interprofessional education and collaboration in unique and innovative ways, using asynchronous technologies such as web-based methods, videos and voice-over modules.

Ninety percent of Chavez’s time at the Dugoni School of Dentistry is delegated to teaching. However, her leadership activities extend well beyond the classroom. She has served on the curriculum, library, interprofessional education and extramural committees at Dugoni. And she is chair (since 2016) of the school’s Strategic Plan Oversight Committee, which is tasked with reformulating the dental school’s mission, vision and overall strategic direction for the next decade.

Chavez is a Founders Fellow with The Santa Fe Group, where her research focuses on improving the oral health of America’s seniors, and she has authored or co-authored over two dozen articles, abstracts and book chapters in peer-reviewed journals and text books, primarily in the areas of education and care for geriatric patients. She also has presented on treatment planning for older adults, aging and oral health, expanding Medicare dental benefits and other topics at national, state and local meetings and symposiums.

In October 2019, Chavez presented at the Symposium on Geriatric Oral Health in California, hosted by CDA and the Dugoni School of Dentistry, and she served as guest editor of the CDA Journal’s April 2019 issue dedicated to the oral health of older adults.

Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry, calls Chavez “an exceptional credit to dental education and the extended professional community whose genuine, sustained commitment to our fragile elderly make her a force for change.”

Chavez received a monetary award of $1,500, which she says she would like to use to support a collaboration for scholarship between herself and Dugoni students through the Pacific Center for Equity in Oral Health Care.

“I usually learn at least as much ― if not more ― from our students as they do from me, so this would definitely be an opportunity for growth!” she said.

The Foundation will accept nominations for the 2021 Dugoni Faculty Award beginning Jan. 1. Awardees will be notified in November 2021. See nomination guidelines or learn more about the award and see a list of past recipients.

The CDA Foundation offers financial support to dental professionals and community-based organizations statewide that provide dental care to underserved communities. Visit the Foundation website to learn more about other grants, awards and programs.


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