Font resize Email Print

Setting Forth With a Degree — and a Measure of Compassion

July 1, 2017

Dean Featherstone's July 2017 column:

John D.B. FeatherstoneAnother graduation season has come to a close.

In recent days, we’ve celebrated commencement for our DDS and master’s in dental hygiene students, and feted our students in specialty programs with graduation dinners. Like those in the classes before them, our graduating students have finished this stage of training here, and are embarking on endeavors for which their time here at UCSF has fitted them. They are headed for new phases in their lives.

It’s always a great pleasure for me to experience the commencement ceremony for our DDS and MS programs. We have such an atmosphere of fun, together with the formal and important nature of this activity; similarly with all the postgraduate programs that have graduated their students in the last couple of weeks. (You can view this year’s commencement ceremony on YouTube.)

Reflecting on my years as dean, having seen 10 classes go forth, I look back with a sense of pride on our graduates: how well they’ve been educated, how well prepared they have been, how well they are doing in their lives. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of our recent graduates at various functions and visits across the country; I’ve heard great stories of their successes, the way they’re continuing their tradition of community service. It is very satisfying to realize that many hundreds of students and trainees have graduated successfully during my time as dean.

These are interesting times in which our students are going forth. It seems each day’s news brings another unexpected event, another sign of the turmoil of our world. However, it’s worth remembering that in our history, there have been times when the world was in even more turmoil. The precipitation of both the First and Second World Wars come to mind.

What does this mean for our graduates? We live in a continually troubled world, but one thing remains constant: our duty to contribute to the wellbeing of people; to be compassionate, caring, regardless of what others might do. We must work on the principle that we each can make a difference to the people around us, to our families, friends, patients and whomever we interact with in our other activities outside of dentistry.

For those of us who teach, it’s even more important that we strive for excellence in all we do to prepare our students and trainees both technically and emotionally. We need to be sure that whatever education we impart or possess, even beyond what we’ve learned or taught in the School of Dentistry, fits us to cope. Not just in our professional lives, but in our personal lives as well.

And life does march on. Just the other day, the new International Dentist Program students arrived here. I was privileged to welcome them to UCSF and San Francisco. These extremely intelligent people, from all over the world, have come to UCSF to enhance their education.

These departures and arrivals signify benchmarks, turning points where one can take one’s education, compassion and caring into the world and make a difference. The Dalai Lama captures this eloquently:

… There is no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is the temple. The philosophy is loving kindness and compassion.