Hometown: Reno, NV
Degrees: BS Stanford University; DDS Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry
Favorite Aspect of Teaching at Pacific: Being able to see the growth and development in my students.
“What’s special about Pacific Dugoni and sets us apart are the relationships that are built, the family that is created here.”
A dentist, teacher, mentor, counselor and parent - these are just some of the roles that Mark Booth has as a group practice leader at Pacific Dugoni. But before all this, did you know he was a highly competitive gymnast who was part of the US national team and also tried out for the Olympics? He took up gymnastics at a very young age and was such a natural at it that he started competing right away. "I was first exposed to gymnastics from my older sister and it just took off from there," recalls Mark.
Gymnastics played a huge role when it came to deciding on colleges. As an athlete, he wanted to be in a program that had a good chance of doing well in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. However, he also wanted a quality education, which made Stanford University an easy choice for him. During his time at Stanford, Mark competed for the men's gymnastics team and also for the US national team, where he competed in international competitions. He also tried out for the Olympic team, which he unfortunately did not make.
"I had a lot of injuries in college which made it difficult to have a successful career," says Mark. "But I'm really happy with my athletic career. It's helped shape who I am today."
So how did Mark go from being a competitive gymnast to a dental educator at Pacific Dugoni? Well it turns out that dentistry was also something he loved at a young age. While most kids dread going to the dentist, he enjoyed it. "I have great memories of my pediatric dentist," Mark said. "He was always educative, including kids in the discussion of what's going on." Mark's interactions with his dentist helped him realize that he too wanted a career where he could help people, and that this career should be in healthcare.
As an alumnus of Pacific Dugoni, Mark has good memories of his time at the dental school. The best memories he has are the relationships he formed, not just with his classmates, but with the faculty - some of which are his colleagues now. But it was during his residency in Pacific Dugoni's Advanced Education in General Dentistry program in Union City that he caught the teaching bug. During his second year of residency, he oversaw the rotating student dentists and also helped out the other residents.
"Both my parents come from educational backgrounds so it was always a part of me," says Mark. "I really realized that it was a passion of mine during the program."
However, it would be three more years before Mark would find himself back at Pacific Dugoni. Shortly after finishing the residency, he bought a small private practice in Concord, CA. He really loved his private practice, in particular his patient population and his staff. But he felt very isolated. He was used to being in an environment where he could talk about dentistry and dental cases to his colleagues. But a small solo practice didn't provide him with that opportunity and he felt unfulfilled.
"It was an easy decision to come back as a full-time educator," says Mark. "I was a little hesitant because most people don't go into dental school to be an educator, but the moment I got in the building, I realized quickly that I was meant to do this."
Now in his fifth year of teaching at Pacific Dugoni, Mark has no regrets. He loves the diversity of his position as Group Practice Leader. In addition to being a teacher, he is a counselor and parent to his students and helps them with the growing pains that occur with life. Having been through it himself, he does his best to make it easy for the students so they can focus on the learning. "It's the relationships that I enjoy and I think that's the special part of dentistry," Mark said. "It's also the special part of what we have here at Pacific Dugoni - the family." People are always willing to be supportive no matter what's at stake and for him, that support is what makes it worth coming in to work.
He's inspired by his students and mentions the "aha moment" that many dental educators talk about. However, he believes that moment is more of a process. He sees the light going on and off in the students and sees the growth and development in them. "We're not just here to educate them as dentists; we're here to make them better people as well," says Mark.
The feeling of respect and admiration is mutual among his students as he's won numerous teaching awards over the past four years — the 2011 Associated Student Body Award for teaching excellence in the second year, 2012 Dr. Mark S. Hagge Faculty Endowment Award, 2013 Lucien Szmyd Memorial Award, and 2014 Dr. Mark S. Hagge Faculty Endowment Award. Mark feels very lucky because he has a special relationship with his students, and it's made him a stronger and more well-rounded dentist.
"Pacific Dugoni is such a great place to be — such a positive environment," says Mark. "I really enjoy what I do here. The opportunities I have here have helped me grow as an educator as well as a dentist at the same time."