Photo by Emily Yang

Role Model Celebrated

Most of us enter the health profession with idyllic views and goals of being able to treat all patients equally, reducing obstacles to provide for the underserved, and changing lives.

However, many of us are met with the realities of debt and changes in the healthcare system. Scores of us travel across the country to lobby for changes, and sometimes it’s hard to see any headway or find stories that inspire us rather than make the task seem more daunting.

Every year, the UCSF Dental Almuni Association awards a Medal of Honor, and the American College of Dentists awards a Distinguished Faculty Member. The ACD is dedicated to fostering growth and ethics in the profession of dentistry, and the award goes to a few, deserving individuals who have gone above and beyond to dedicate themselves not just to profession but to students and patients as well.

One of our own alumni and faculty, Dr. Antonio Ragadio, was among those honored with both awards this year.

Dr. Ragadio emigrated to the United States in 1960, and has been making his community a better place ever since. He always states that he is so fortunate to provide the underserved, fortunate to recruit and foster many minority students to UCSF, fortunate to receive several accolades for his work from several dental organizations, and fortunate to teach at UCSF while volunteering for humanitarian activities and officiating youth sports.

It’s clear that Dr. Ragadio is more than just lucky. He is a role model for pursuing your passion to bring care to the underserved and to instill that value in future dentists who come after you. The key, as you’ll find in his speech, is to stay humble and express gratitude to the people who help you grow. As he thanks those people in his life, you travel along his journey to doing what he loves while helping those in need.

Thanks to Dr. Ragadio for a great list of inspirational figures, and congratulations on your well-deserved award.

The following is the entire transcript of Dr. Ragadio’s acceptance speech.

“I am still trying to have this moment sink in. I’m not used to getting this much attention; not getting it at home. I’m overwhelmed. I never dreamed of being honored for what I already love doing.

Is this the equivalent of a walk off home run, a buzzer beater, a winning touchdown? No…This is better and sweeter because those other things will never happen for me. Yes, I do feel happy, my heart sings, I’m blessed, I’m lucky, I’m living the dream. I’m in a fairy tale. A magic carpet ride. I could not have planned my life any better. But I don’t take life for granted. I have no illusions. I don’t deserve to be this happy. I don’t deserve this award. My credentials are modest at best. Like they say, ‘Better lucky than good.’

As some of you know, I am also a basketball referee. God only knows that my calls on the court are not 100% correct. I hope that the medal-of-honor selection committee made the right call on this medal because I am not giving it back.

I’m so glad all of you could join us to share this special and memorable day.

Now, if you would indulge me, for this once in a lifetime opportunity, please let me acknowledge a few friends, colleagues, and family, past and present. If nothing else, this award grants me this once in a lifetime chance to express my profound gratitude to them. We don’t get enough opportunity to express our gratitude and affection to others. Permit me to pay my respect and deep gratitude to the following people. I’m so very lucky to have them all on my corner.

My late parents: In 1960 they sacrificed much to escape a declining Philippine economy and political corruption to come to America with a promise of a better future. The unique immigrant experience is a story for another place and for another time. Let me just say that my parents taught me the value of perseverance, sacrifice, resiliency, generosity, gratitude, and family. I hope they are looking down at me with much pride.

Gordon Douglas recruited me to be a faculty member at UC in 1997. At first I did not know what I was getting myself into. The saying goes: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” So true. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed teaching until I actually did it. I now know the value of teaching and have recruited and mentored a number of faculty members into UC, some of them are here today.

All the students former and present: These gifted overachievers get smarter, more talented and more diverse each year. They are dedicated and committed to a lifetime of faithful and generous public service and volunteerism. I learn more from them than they from me. Working with them each and every day is a privilege and a joy.

It is a great pleasure to see their transformation, their metamorphosis along the way to become men and women with strong character, ethics and values. Hopefully this award reflects my love and passion for teaching. Teaching has enriched my life. I’m proud to have recruited and mentored many students over the years and continue to this day.

Robert Brigante, Maribeth Monti, Ben Pavone, Barbara Richardson, Bill Hoskins, George Castaneda, and George Catambay: My incredible dental journey began in 1972 when these important people conspired to get me into UCSF. I did not have stellar grades but I did really well in the performance test UC had back then.

Believe it or not, I only applied to one school because I figured if UC was not going to take me no other school was going to. I should also give credit to the affirmative action program, an extension of the Civil Rights act of 1964. After I received the thick letter of acceptance in the mail, George Catambay told me that I just punched my ticket.

As it turned out, George’s words were prophetic. The ticket led me to a fulfilling career. Walt Disney said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It was beyond a dream to become a dentist let alone be in academia and be receiving this award. After a 44 year long journey, maybe this medal is my ticket to heaven. I don’t deserve to be this lucky.

Nelson Artiga: A previous medal awardee. My arm still hurts from the arm twisting he did to get me involved in the Dental Alumni Association. Nelson was a year ahead of me so I was always at his coattails with the mobilizing and organizing that went on at UCSF. As a student, Nelson started a Chicano group and of course I then followed up with a Filipino group of my own.

Alan Budenz: Also a previous medalist. Alan is the no-nonsense guy who just gets things done both at UCSF and UOP. He has tremendous leadership qualities. He is Mr. Reliable in my book.

Robert Ho: My friend and colleague. The ever popular faculty member. All the students love him; he spreads wisdom and enlightenment to the students – the Zen Master. Thank you Robert, for nominating me for this award.

John Featherstone, the late Bill Bird, Dabby Perry, and George Taylor: I have no FBI or CIA proof but these four individuals and many others worked behind the scenes to keep me on board at UC for the past 20 years. A lot of the credit and gratitude also goes to the steadfast and continued commitment to diversity and inclusivity of Dean Featherstone, Chancellor Hawgood and UC President Napolitano.

Phoenix Sinclair, Denis Lynch: Both previous medal recipients. The three of us were from the class of 1976. I would not have survived the rigorous dental curriculum without them. They literally carried me for four long years. We also had a blast during that time. A story for another day.

Wanda Claro: My partner in crime. We went on numerous successful recruitment trips together up and down the state while we were students at UCSF. She recently sold her practice and went into academia in Tennessee to teach orthodontics. Smart move, Wanda. Congratulations.

Mary Porteous: Another recent medal winner. She’s a prime example of high energy and professionalism. I had the pleasure of having two of her children, Pam and Garrett as my students at UCSF. Both are now very successful dentists who inherited all the great character traits of their mom.

Michael Lopez: Someone who has all the great ideas in how to do outreach and recruit more minorities. Dr. Lopez received the medal last year. I just tag along with him with the hope that some of his charisma rubs off on me.

LaJuan Hall and the entire DAA executive board (Don, Doug, Chris, Carmen, Mike, Michelle, Kristy, Rob, Hibret, Ruth, Mark, Nancy) a bunch of dedicated and loyal group. Their strong loyalty and dedication to UCSF is contagious.

Phyllis Ishida and Gordon Lee: Both volunteer extraordinaire who are happy just working behind the scenes without taking any credit. Drs. Dependable. Great role models.

All the staff and faculty: Rene Parisi, Ralph Podesta, Don Nakahata, John Ino, Mark Dellinges, Alton Lacy, Hajime Hamaguchi, Steve Silverstein, John and Debbie Greenspan, Charlie Watkins, Al Schuhard, Adm Bob Birtcil, Troy Daniels, Howard Pollick, Don Martin, Dave Graham, Ernie Kahl,Thomas Wood, Steve Harrington, Linda Centore, Gwen Essex, John Fujikawa, Natalie Hastings, Liz Couch, Rey Moyco: These former and present instructors, mentors, colleagues, friends all helped me get better as a teacher and as a person.

All my loyal patients: For most of us; I dare say for all of us, we would be happy doing dentistry without getting paid. It’s not just the satisfaction of creating smiles, getting patients out of pain, helping patients to eat again, or bringing back their self-esteem. It’s about developing relationships. I’m so lucky to be able to now see third generation of patients. I have patients who went on to become successful dentists. I hope that in some way I had some positive influence with their decision to go into the health care profession.

My sister in law Elisa: She had the most brilliant idea of introducing her younger sister to me. And the rest, as they say, is history. She brought two campus protesters together: Her sister from Berkeley and me from San Francisco State who both demonstrated against the Vietnam War and the US military. The irony of that story is that three of our four sons are now actively serving in the U. S. Navy.

Because of her, my wife and I have four successful sons, two beautiful and accomplished daughters in law and three wonderful grandkids, our pride and joy. I want to introduce the rest of my family because I’m so proud of them all. Someone said that life is just a series of events; birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and so forth.

Your first born is always a special event, so I’m going to pick on the oldest of our four sons, Commander Jerome Ragadio. Jerome is a navy dentist stationed in San Diego. He is married to Emily, an ER nurse he met of all places, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I kid both of them about meeting there of all places. They have a 16 month old son named Jack.

I never told Jerome this but when he was accepted to dental school, I felt so great that I could have died and gone to heaven. I felt that my job as a father was complete. I was so proud of him. That proud moment in time ranks up there with receiving this medal.

Our second son is Commander Jeremiah Ragadio. He flies the Navy MH-60R Seahawk combat helicopter. He is presently working on the defense budget at the Pentagon. He met his wife Salina, a Montessori teacher, when she was the navy ship navigator and he was the guest pilot on her ship. They have two kids, four-year-old Rex and 16-month-old Marlo-Grace, the very first baby girl in the family.

Our third son is a weapons officer in a navy nuclear submarine, Lt Cdr Joshua Ragadio. Josh is on special assignment in Washington DC, where he resides. He is single for all you single ladies out there.

Our fourth and youngest son is a civilian middle school math teacher, Joseph Ragadio. His students call him Mr. Ragadio. He is here with his girlfriend, Julie, who teaches Language Arts at the same school.

My sister in law’s husband, Dr. Ritchie Wong and their two daughters Kim and Marissa are also here.

Last but not least, my lovely wife Delia: My conscience, the gate keeper who keeps me grounded; my boss, my partner, my companion, my hero, my strength, my best friend, my love, always and forevermore. She plays a major part in fulfilling my dreams. She did not want me to mention her at all so I don’t know if I should go back to my table after this.

To all of them, and so many others, I am deeply grateful. They inspire me. They have enriched my life. Without their help, love, and support, I would not be here before you. I stand on their shoulders. I share this medal with all of them.

Finally, let me end my remarks with a pledge.

I hereby promise to live up to the gravity and covenant demanded by this medal. I will treasure and cherish it always. My love for the profession, mentoring the next generation, volunteerism, activism, are goals that inspire and sustain me. This award is not the finish line. There is no finish line. It is just another reminder that there is more work to do to make this world a better place. Let’s celebrate now and then, get back to work!”