D. Michael Duggan, DDS, PhD, SEP

The most important thing I would like you to know about myself is not how much education I have and not what schools I graduated from (though I have included my educational background below). The most important thing that I would like you to know about me is how much I care about dental students and dental patients and how passionate I am about educating both students and patients alike.

I often suggest to my students that they should have some dental work done themselves.  That way they will be able to understand their dental patients.  They will be able to empathize with their patients.   I CAN empathize because, over the years, I’ve had a great deal of dental work done. Not all of it has been good dental work.

That is why I feel passionate about sharing with dental students and patients what I know and what I have experienced.  Anything I can do to help dental patients to have the best possible experience when they go to the dentist — That is what I want to do!

To get a little flavor of the way I think about dentistry – you might jump to some sections that might directly impact you as a dental patient:

Sample topics: Training of Dentists, Selection of a Dentist, the Skills of Dentistry, and FAQ – General Questions about dentistry.

For a few case histories representing the level of involvement I have had with people through dentistry, explore Case Illustrations.

If you want to know more about me and my educational background or if you want to know more about who has inspired me, please continue reading . . .

Education and Activities

I attended college at Brown University, majoring in inorganic chemistry.  This is where I had my first experience teaching, 54 years ago!  I knew then, that teaching was in my blood, but I did not pursue teaching right away. Next a PhD in physical inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois, and then two years doing research at the California Institute of Technology and ultimately a five year faculty position at University of California at Irvine, CA.  I then went on to spend seven years at the Sun Company in Pennsylvania, as a Senior Scientist in their Applied Research and Development Division.  After many years working with some of the most accomplished scientists in the world, some part of me knew that it was time to move on.  It was time for a change.

For whatever reason, I was drawn to dentistry.  Upon researching the state of dentistry, it became very clear to me that many things were not known, or poorly defined.  That meant to me that there were many research opportunities for someone with my background as a physical-inorganic chemist.  Also, I have always enjoyed working with very small objects and problem-solving complex systems.  And the human mouth is certainly a complex system.  So it seemed like a match made in heaven!

So, in 1988 I began to study dentistry at Loma Linda University. Ultimately the school hired me (while still a student) to teach a course to help first year students do well on the challenging National Dental Board Basic Sciences Exam.  Again it seems, I was organically drawn back into teaching.  I taught these review courses for many years, and continued to do this off campus as well. 

Immediately after graduation, the dean of Loma Linda University School of Dentistry made me an offer to teach there full-time.  I whole-heartedly accepted this position because, as I said, I knew teaching was in my blood – but also because this position left me with at least one day per week for private practice, as well as opportunities for course instruction, and research.

Also, immediately after graduation, I was asked by a former teacher to help her pass the challenging California Dental Board Clinical Exam – the most difficult clinical examination in the country.  This single request, ultimately lead me to working with over 200 dentists per year – helping them to pass this exam.  Additionally, I taught a course to help “tune up” the graduating seniors to the point where they could easily pass this exam.  I did the same thing at New York University School of Dentistry from 1999-2005.

By this time, teaching courses in basic clinical dentistry, emphasizing precision and strategies for the rational approach to restoring teeth, had become my primary passion.  When a student asked me to help his wife pass the California Restorative Technique examination, strictly for international graduates, my passion reached its peak.  And my passion is still at its peak!

I did build my own private practice and ran it for five years.  And I did thoroughly enjoy my teaching position at LLUSD. But by the year 2000, it was clear to me that teaching international dentists was something that I wanted to pursue full-time. While I taught international dentists since 1992, this was my sole occupation starting in 2000 with private business entities the current iteration being the Duggan Institute of Dentistry, where I work as the program director and lead instructor.

To date I have worked with over 5000 international dentists, and dentists from the U.S.  One of my goals was upgrading their skills and understanding of dental techniques and strategies to the point where they could easily pass a challenging examination.  But that is not all I sought to do.  I wanted my students to a have a clear picture of what it means to do “good dentistry”.  It brings immense satisfaction when I reflect on the fact that I have even taught a second generation of dentists on many occasions  – sons and daughters of former students. 

My credo has been that if I am going to teach someone how to do something, I have to be able to DO it.  I wanted the students to be able to SEE me do it, in minute detail.  This is why I have chosen to move from student to student around the room.  I wanted to show them first hand, how to modify what they have done to make it easier to finish well, and work more efficiently and effectively.  Toward that end, I developed a point-of-view camera system and I have used this camera system for over 21 years.  That helps the students to see exactly what I see.

Motivations – leaving something behind …

I want to repeat what I said at the outset of this biographical statement. My love for teaching should now be clear, but I no longer want to only teach dental students.  I have become equally excited about educating dental patients.  I want to do everything in my power, to help dental patients have the best possible experience when they go to the dentist. And I want them to leave the dental office, not being afraid to go back. THAT, I am equally passionate about!

And – recently I have begun the development of a course that I will teach online to dental faculty – which helps to calibrate them in communication skills. How well our students learn depends entirely on the ability of the teacher to clarify every aspect of the subject. I believe this is the first role-playing program within dentistry with the goal to take students to the highest level of competence, again, to benefit the public.

Inspirations of a lifetime

To All Those Who Have Inspired Me —- I Thank You …

There have been many individuals that have inspired me throughout my life. I haven’t always had the presence of mind or integrity “in the moment” to take advantage of everything they had to offer. I would like to acknowledge their presence in my life and thank them, nonetheless.

Mario Leopoldo Garcia, PhD, Clairol Research Laboratories, retired. Dr. Garcia introduced me to the idea that one can be both passionate and “scientifically” minded at the same time.

Edward Koren, MFA, New Yorker Artist. Edward taught me that one can use art to evoke humor – in addition to many other emotions.

David Hendrickson, PhD, University of California San Diego – Emeritus, formerly University of Illinois . Dr. Hendrickson made it clear to me that in order to achieve what I want, total and long-term dedication is required. .

Guru Rattan Kaur Khalsa, PhD, Thiel College, Greenville, PA and Espanola, New Mexico . Dr. Khalsa introduced me to the idea that a personal life and a spiritual life is needed to balance my academic and intellectual life.

Harry B. Gray, PhD, Priestley Medal. California Institute of Technology. Dr. Gray taught me that innovation and daring in science need have no limits.

John Bercaw, PhD, California Institute of Technology, Emeritus. Dr. Bercaw taught me to entertain the possibility that structure in science is less important than function.

Robert Woodward, PhD, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, formerly of Harvard University. Dr. Woodward increased my awareness that the greatest minds are born of humility.

Linus Pauling, PhD, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Peace Prize. California Institute of Technology, Emeritus. Dr. Pauling taught me that no chance to teach what you know should be missed, and that you can teach with humility.

James E. Lyons, PhD, The Sun Company, Applied Research and Development. Dr. Lyons taught me that science is ultimately about how things can be done better.

Ansel Adams, Photographer. Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ansel taught me that printing a negative is about how the print makes you feel.

Raymond O. West, MD. Former epidemiology professor at Loma Linda University. Dr. West taught me that no matter how firmly held are your beliefs and your faith, you can truly listen to another’s views, and objectively evaluate the data.

Judson Klooster, DDS, former Dean Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. Dr. Klooster taught me that giving to others is best carried out without expecting something in return. .

Douglass B. Roberts, DDS, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry. Dr. Roberts taught me that a passion for excellence supersedes social concerns.

Richard V. Tucker, DDS, The Tucker Cast Gold Study Clubs. Dr. Tucker taught me that there are many who give their best, but remain quiet about it.

Michael C. Alfano, DMD, PhD, Dean New York University School of Dentistry, Emeritus. Founder of the Santa Fe Group. Dr. Alfano taught me that ego has no role in education.

Judith Albino, PhD. President Emerita (University of Colorado) and professor at Colorado School of Public Health. Dr. Albino taught me that when a good idea comes along you grab it and shoot for the stars!

Lori Ann Parker, PhD, GCFP, SEP, Founder of The Embodied Mindfulness Method ™ , Irvine CA. It is hard to put words to what Dr. Parker taught me, but I can say that after meeting her, it became clear to me that there is more to myself and my life than I ever imagined. She cast a light on those parts of myself that had to-date remained hidden, but nonetheless have continued to influence everything that I do. She taught me that my ignorance (lack of awareness) is the source of my personal distress. She brought the words of Socrates to life for me: “An unexamined life is not worth living”. She also brought the words of Abraham Maslow to life for me: “All of life must first be known experientially. There is no substitute for experience, none at all”.

This site is dedicated to all of those individuals named above. May everyone find such people on their life path – from whom they might learn the great lessons of life – if they possess the humility to do so.