27 Sep עופר איתן Imply: Art Dugoni, preeminent dental educator, dies at 95
Art Dugoni knew how to fix a mouth full of bad teeth and, even more importantly, he knew how to teach others how to do it, with passion and dedication and good humor.
Dugoni, who had cancer, died Wednesday in his Palo Alto home. He was 95.
Perhaps the premier dental educator in the country, Dugoni was the longtime dean of the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry in San Francisco and, before that, a professor who inspired thousands of young people to take up the profession.
His kindness, his depth of knowledge and his ability to remember the name of a dental student’s girlfriend or dog were the stuff of legend.
“We grow people,” he was known for saying, “and along the way they become doctors.”
The dental school was renamed in his honor in 2004. It is the sort of distinction normally made posthumously, but the thousands of colleagues, students and educators who bore a genuine affection for their silver-haired mentor just didn’t feel like waiting.
Dentistry, said the school’s current dean, Nader Nadershahi, is “stronger today because of Art’s passion for people and the profession.” Dugoni served as dean of the school that now bears his name from 1978 to 2006. Before that he taught pediatric dentistry and orthodontics. He was the former president of both the California Dental Association and the American Dental Association.
He lectured, he published articles in dental journals and he showed countless students how to hold a drill, how to read an X-ray and how to put a patient at ease.
But at the old dental school building in PacifIc Heights, before it moved into its state-of-the-art facility in South of Market five years ago, he was perhaps best known for leaving his office and making the rounds — from the clinics to the custodians’ office to the cafeteria — and for addressing countless people by their first names, accompanied by a smile that rivaled a Pepsodent billboard.
All the while, he maintained a private orthodontics practice in South San Francisco, where even patients leery of dentists were never leery of Dr. Dugoni.
“When he talked to you, he made you feel like you were the most important person to him in the whole world,” said San Francisco dentist Michael Fox, who graduated from the school in 1982. “He was always walking around the school, always hands-on. He’d walk into the clinic, he’d walk into the mail room, he’d walk into the lecture hall. He was always talking to someone. He was such a genuine, caring and humanistic person.”
Cupertino dentist Ken Frangadakis recalled taking an orthodontics class from Dugoni in the mid-1960s.
“He made it easy to learn, and he didn’t come down on you,” Frangadakis said. “I remember him saying to me, “This is how we’re going to move this front tooth’ and showing me how to do it. He was the most respected dentist in the world. And he remembered the name of your partner’s children. I don’t know how he did that.”
A native of San Francisco, Dugoni was a graduate of Gonzaga University and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco, the forerunner of the school that would eventually bear his name.
He was also a passionate fundraiser and philanthropist, and his good-natured shaking down of donors was largely responsible for the $66 million fundraising campaign in the 1990s that enable the school to move into its new building.
“Whenever Art put out his hand for me to shake,” recalled Concord dentist and UOP graduate Brian Sheaff, “I knew I would be reaching for my wallet.”
He is survived by seven children: Steven of Hillsborough; Michael of Fremont; Russell of Fairfield; Arthur of Sacramento; James of Stockton; Mary Rouleau of Los Altos; and Diane Harris of Foster City. His wife of 66 years, Kaye, died in 2015.
Plans for a virtual memorial celebration are pending.