"I feel privileged to be a dentist and an educator, and I’m very happy to do what I do."
Faculty member Dr. Allen Wong has a true passion for treating people with medical problems and disabilities. From participating in service projects in college and dental school, to his current role as director of Hospital Dentistry at Pacific, to volunteering in his free time, Allen has been caring for the vulnerable population of people with developmental disabilities for nearly 25 years.
People with developmental disabilities often face severe access to care issues, and live with a reality of communication barriers, social restrictions and health problems. Allen is determined to better the quality of life for these patients, a group of people often thought of as challenging and therefore often overlooked.
"When I chose to focus on hospital dentistry, I had many people ask me why I didn't choose to do 'regular' dentistry," said Allen. "I always told them I am doing regular dentistry — on people that really need it."
Patients travel from all over Northern California to see Allen and his colleagues at the dental school's Special Care Clinic. It's here that he teaches dental students how to best care for patients with special needs, and to remember that they're not just fixing teeth, they're caring for people.
"I love watching students grow and come to realize they're treating an actual person," he said. "Watching them think critically, apply what they've learned and show compassion is my favorite aspect of teaching."
To complement his role as a successful educator, Allen is very involved with humanitarian dentistry work in the US and abroad. In recent years he's spearheaded a yearly trip to Fiji to provide dental care and education to Fijian villagers. He has also travelled to Cambodia, the Philippines, China and other countries to provide treatment and to educate local dentists and doctors on preventative care. He hopes that by providing such education to these groups, the locations visited by today's mission trips will eventually no longer require volunteers to come in and provide treatment because they'll be able to do it on their own.
"Having travelled to other countries, I've realized how fortunate we are here in the US," he said. "Being able to teach what we know to other countries and help them improve the health of their population provides a great sense of fulfillment to me."
As if his roles of educator, care provider and humanitarian dentist weren't keeping him busy enough, Allen spends much of his free time volunteering for the Special Olympics. He has held the position of Northern California Special Olympics dental coordinator, and he currently works with the national and international Special Olympics as a dental educator/ trainer. Whenever possible he coordinates dental screenings for the athletes and teaches dentists from throughout the world how to treat patients with disabilities.
Allen mentioned that he feels extremely lucky to be where he is professionally and personally. When he was young his family emigrated from China to the US and became restaurant owners. His family gave him the choice to do whatever he wanted to do - he chose dentistry.
"I feel privileged to be a dentist and I'm very happy to do what I do," he said. "I celebrate the opportunities I've had by giving back to dentistry and the educational process. I also have tremendous support from my family and friends, which inspires me every day."