Dr. Art Dugoni has had a legendary career within both dental education and organized dentistry. Arguably the longest-serving dental school dean in the nation, Dr. Dugoni will retire on June 30th after 28 years as Dean of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry at the University of the Pacific, which was named in his honor in 2004. A past President of both the American Dental Association and the American Dental Education Association, Dr. Dugoni is currently President of the American Dental Association Foundation (ADAF) and Honorary Chair of Dental Education: Our Legacy – Our Future, a national awareness effort for dental education. Recently Global Health Nexus spoke with Dr. Dugoni about his vision for this effort.
Global Health Nexus (GHN): Why do we need to raise awareness of dental education?
Dr. Dugoni: Dental education is the foundation on which all of dentistry is sustained and advanced. Dental education nurtures ethics and professionalism. It is responsible for dentistry’s image as a trusted healthcare profession. It provides the framework within which scientific discoveries are made and treatment advances are developed. Dental schools create the desire in students to become educators, researchers and practitioners. Dental schools are also the safety net for poor people in underserved communities who would not otherwise have access to care. A strong dental education system produces a vigorous dental profession, resulting in the highest level of oral health care for the public. Dental education today is in trouble, which means that the future of the dental profession is at risk.
GHN: In what ways is dental education in trouble?
Dr. Dugoni: We face a national shortage of dental educators to train future generations of students and to maintain and expand the level of research that universities expect from their various schools. The cost of a dental education and the indebtedness of students is skyrocketing. The dental student population does not reflect the diversity of our nation’s population. The physical facilities and infrastructure in which dental education is delivered are aging. Dental schools are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with today’s escalating technological and scientific advances. If allowed to persist unchecked, these challenges will diminish American dental education’s status as the best in the world and will ultimately compromise the level and quality of private practice, oral health care and general health.
In the past, many dental schools were not sufficiently aggressive about the need to raise funds – particularly schools that receive public funding. However, public funds are no longer readily available. As a result, in too many instances, dental schools were closed because their parent universities were not willing to invest the funds required to upgrade programs and facilities. The bottom line is that great universities and great dental schools are built on endowments, and there is a huge need for dental education endowment funds that will send a message to universities that their dental schools are an important and vital component of the educational community.
These are nationwide problems, and nothing less than a national effort is required to solve them. I’m extremely pleased that the ADA and the ADAF realize that dental education, the foundation of our profession, needs significant support and that they are committed to working with our partners to make this happen.
GHN: You’ve referred to Our Legacy – Our Future as a BHAG, a “Big Hairy Ambitious Goal,” a phrase taken from Jim Collins’s books, Built to Last and Good to Great. What does that mean?
Dr. Dugoni: A BHAG engages people – it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People get it right away; it takes little or no explanation. Our BHAG is to raise $500 million for dental education over the next decade to address core issues facing the future of dental education and its status as the best in the world.
GHN: How will the initiative work?
Dr. Dugoni: Let me answer that by saying what this initiative is and is not. Dental Education: Our Legacy – Our Future is not a fund-raising effort in itself, but rather an awareness effort. The objective is to raise awareness of the need for philanthropic support of dental education and to create greater visibility for the fund-raising campaigns of our many partner organizations. It’s not important to the national initiative where the support goes, as long as we can engage and motivate donors to join us in securing the future of dental education.
Many dental schools are already working to address the challenges facing dental education. We are not asking these schools to give up their goals or to change direction. On the contrary, we seek to support all the excellent work that’s currently done in dental education, as well as to inspire innovative new approaches that will augment their efforts.
GHN: Where will the funds come from?
Dr. Dugoni: They will come from practicing dentists, other dental education stakeholders, including corporations, dental industry leaders, and foundations and from the public, which benefits from the excellent oral health care that the profession provides. I believe that the key to success in this initiative is to create a “culture of philanthropy” within the profession, industry-wide and in the hearts of the public.
GHN: How will Our Legacy – Our Future do this?
Dr. Dugoni: By creating awareness, passion and pride; awareness of the need to secure the future of dental education; passion among dentists to own the future of their own profession; and pride in being philanthropic.
Every person can be philanthropic within his or her means. But they have to understand the need, become involved in the cause, and be motivated by leaders who can inspire the desire to be philanthropic. I like to quote Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
It’s a matter of raising awareness and starting people on the road to philanthropy. Once you start to give, you discover the joy of giving and the value of giving. Your first gift is never your last, or your largest; rather, you’re motivated to continue to give.
GHN: You’ve been extremely successful in raising funds as Dean at the University of the Pacific. Could you share some of your strategies?
Dr. Dugoni: My philosophy as Dean has been that you begin to nurture the culture of philanthropy on Day One of dental school by making students realize that they are special, and part of a very special profession. They have been selected from a very large group; they are entering a learned profession with high ethical standards. They should be very proud of the fact that they are training to become doctors, health professionals who improve the quality of the lives and the health of their patients, and that they are respected and valued citizens in their communities who are expected to make a difference.
At Pacific, I worked to create an attitude of pride in being part of the Pacific family and to cultivate the desire to give in order to keep Pacific awesome. How do you create that sense of pride? I believe it is by treating students with dignity, nurturing their self worth and listening to and valuing their opinions and concerns.
I’ve taken a humanistic approach. For example, I often say, “We grow people at Pacific; along the way, they become doctors.” Another phrase that has become ingrained in our community is that “the magic of Pacific is in its people.” Other strategies include sending motivational e-mails to students, having brown-bag luncheons with them, and including them in meetings and future planning so that they know they are special and valued. We’ve had student retreats in Monterey and Marin counties, and special events such as Pacific Pride Day and the white coat ceremony.
GHN: How have these strategies worked?
Dr. Dugoni: Let me give you an example. Recently we undertook a $50 million fund-raising campaign for Pacific. When the campaign ended, we had raised over $62 million. Not only that, but 46 percent of alumni contributed almost $30 million to the campaign, and 2,200 alumni showed up at an event to announce the campaign’s success. That’s the kind of results you get when you create a “culture of philanthropy,” and that’s what Dental Education: Our Legacy – Our Future will do. Just a look at the list of partners on the opposite page shows you that we’re off to a great start.
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill