"The humanistic paradigm of Pacific Dugoni means that we treat every student, every faculty and every patient as a valuable individual."
Dr. William Sands '71 never planned to come back to Pacific Dugoni and be a dental educator, yet after years in private practice and travelling the world, he found himself back where it all started. If there's one thing he loves in life, it's a good challenge.
Following graduation, William started a successful private practice in Livermore, California. It was there that he met a patient who worked as a missionary in Africa. Always wanting to do more to help others, William offered to take some vacation time and lend his assistance. So he traveled to Nigeria and spent a month working in a small dental clinic in the bush. That experience proved to be life changing.
"I'd been in private practice for 16 years and loved it. But while I was there, I determined that the people in Africa needed me more than the people in Livermore," recalls William. "I sold my practice within days and moved out there."
For the next three years, William set up small clinics and worked in 20 different villages in Nigeria, West Africa. Twenty different villages also meant 20 different tribes with 20 different languages. But William ably rose to the occasion, even managing to set up health care systems in two of the villages. Feeling that he had made the most of his time in Africa, he moved back to the States. For the next 16 years, he worked outside of dentistry, although continuing to maintain his license.
"I helped with many humanitarian projects in dozens of countries, setting up teams of 30-50 people from the United States to go and help the poorest of the poor," said William. "I typically worked in villages and places in the world that most people wouldn't go."
After years of traveling constantly for his humanitarian efforts, William decided to retire. But when he phoned his good buddy Dr. Peter Hansen, who at the time was chairman of the department of removable prosthodontics at Pacific Dugoni, he was offered a job. Having been out of dentistry in the United States for an extended period of time, he was hesitant to accept the offer. However, Dr. Hansen's persistence convinced him. He started working in the clinic three days a week before joining the eight Group Practice Leaders and eventually moving to his current position as vice chairperson for the clinical practice strand.
William is excited to face the challenges of this newly created position. He sees it as a unique opportunity to successfully put in place a clinical model that will allow the students that graduate to be the best in the world. Of the five strands of the Helix Curriculum, he believes that the clinical strand is the final building block. He finds the students to be very bright, with a great desire to learn which makes his job very enjoyable.
"The most exciting part of the job for me is not only working with the faculty and students, but also the challenge of the goal," says William. "To have a noble, worthy goal — that is to be the global leader in dental education — and to keep that vision in front of you as decisions are made to get us there...well I think it's just terrific."
William readily admits that he never expected to come back to the school for more than a visit, let alone teach here. But he has discovered how much fun it is. Not only does he get to teach the best students but he is constantly inspired by Pacific Dugoni's humanistic atmosphere.
"So much of what I've done has been because I value people, whether in the United States or in another country," says William. "The humanistic paradigm of Pacific Dugoni means that we treat every student, every faculty and every patient as a valuable individual. I think that's what excites me the most about the school."