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Alumni: Proud and Active

August 1, 2017

John D.B. FeatherstoneDean John D.B. Featherstone's August column:

When our students graduate from the School of Dentistry, they go on to be many things: private practice clinicians, academicians, researchers, advocates for public health or community dentistry, to name a few. One thing they all become, though, is alumni — now numbering nearly 6,900 living members. For many, that is a distinct point of pride.

I recently attended a gathering in Fresno, hosted by Dianne and alumnus Arnold Gazerian, DDS, that included some 30 alumni, ranging from recent graduates to alumni from the 1950s. It’s always interesting to talk to people at such events about what their education was like, what they’ve done with their lives. Not unexpectedly, those who come to such an event often are particularly loyal to UCSF.

Our alumni from the last couple of decades have tended to be more positive about their experiences at UCSF than in years prior. They convey this in diverse ways.

One recent alumnus, from about four years ago, recently shared with me his story of starting work as a dentist in a federally qualified health center serving an underserved patient base — a passion of his, particularly stemming from his own background as a first-generation college and professional-school graduate. Upon starting at the center, he felt his UCSF education had prepared him exceptionally well, in comparison to other recently-graduated dentists from other schools.

Alumni express their support and gratitude in many other ways. Many support the school financially: from donating $1,000 or more a year to the annual giving fund, to giving very large sums of money to support endowed professorships and scholarships. Of course, we owe many thanks to them for their generosity.

Many others give back in time. A considerable number of our faculty are alumni: Some serve on a part-time basis; many others — more than 200 — serve as volunteers. They perform in a variety of capacities, but the majority teach students in the clinics. Their commitment to educating our next generation of dentists is evident, and we owe them too a debt of gratitude.

Others give their time in service in our Dental Alumni Association (DAA), especially those serving on the board. They spend countless hours, working largely in the background to put on alumni events, support the school with student functions, and spending time with students. The DAA also funds scholarships and provides financial support by way of providing the white coats at the “white coat ceremony” for our DDS students, and donating the class sweatshirts to each incoming dental class. The members truly want to make our students feel a part of the family.

That outreach includes events such as the Bear Bash (usually held in late October or early November), an alumni-student reception and mixer; the annual UCSF Alumni Weekend (set for June 1-2, 2018); and smaller meet-and-greet events coordinated by our DAA student liaison, Michael Lopez, DDS ’74.

It truly has been wonderful, over the course of my 10-year tenure as dean of the UCSF School of Dentistry, to build relationships with our alumni: building friendships, learning where their lives have taken them and how their UCSF education has served them. I will forever treasure the many interactions that I have had with alumni and the fabulous support that I have received for the school from many alumni.