UC Provost Hume Urges Students to Excel Through Research and Service

By Jeff Miller

yatt R. (Rory) Hume, DDS, PhD

Wyatt R. (Rory) Hume, DDS, PhD, provost and executive vice president, academic and health affairs, UC Office of the President, extolled students in the recent UCSF Dentistry Research Day audience to take advantage of the School of Dentistry's research opportunities and put that knowledge to work for the common good. "You have potential careers that no one else in history has had before. It's a great time and UCSF is a great place," said the onetime chair of the school's Department of Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences to an overflow crowd in Cole Hall on Oct. 16. In his keynote speech, part of a daylong program that included presentations and awards, Hume, speaking without notes, personalized the theme with a quick tour of his early career in his native Australia and the United States. "I was not phenomenally talented," he acknowledged. But he was curious, and in a tribute to the power of mentoring, Hume recounted how he was advised by an otherwise dour administrator that the future of dentistry lay in research. "I took his advice and decided to learn about the research method, about formulating a hypothesis and testing it in a laboratory," Hume explained. His career trajectory ultimately ricocheted among public health, administration and research posts, but it was in research where Hume made his mark first. "In the 1970s, I was the first person in the world to look at the release of chemicals in filling materials," he said. Hume also played a role in the early experiments that formed the basis for the male potency drug Viagra. "I'm a little embarrassed to admit that," he confessed. Hume was not at all shy about describing his time in the Australian public health service, where he and many others helped to eliminate rampant dental disease in children. "Until that time, dentists in Australia had been failing children. Dentists kept saying they were going to fix the caries problem, but they didn't. And people got tired of waiting." The result: the national recruitment and training of dental technicians who, working under the direction of certified dentists, helped provide care to a whole generation of children coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s. A similar solution is being proposed for America's current dental health crisis, in which large numbers of children and adults, lacking dental insurance of any kind, are not receiving even the most basic preventive care. Hume remembered how Australian dentists "screamed" at the idea of drill-and-fill specialists, who were perceived as a threat to the dentists' livelihoods. "What they found instead is that they had created a whole new group of patients who would be with them for life. It turned out to be good for business," he said. The University of California system has also been good for California, Hume concluded, a fact that he urged students to speak about openly and proudly as they move ahead in their careers. "The University of California is probably the greatest university system the world has ever seen. But there has been a backing away from public support because the benefits have been cast as private [and personal]. Part of your job is to let the people of California know [by your actions, discoveries and service] how valuable UC is to them and to the world." Related Links: Wyatt (Rory) Hume, DDS, PhD