RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Santa Fe dentist Dr. Robert Vogel recently returned from Saudi Arabia where he taught 24 post-graduate dental students advanced dental techniques and he said he was surprised at their eagerness to learn.
“It was the most intense teaching experience I have ever had,” he said. “They were there to learn the very latest techniques. I had forgotten how much I enjoy teaching.”
Vogel taught pre-clinical dentists for four years at USC and on five continents in almost every major city in the U.S. and Canada during the past 25 years. His specialties are dental implants and esthetic dentistry.
It was a reconnection with a former colleague that resulted in the invitation to go to Riyadh to lecture students at the Prince Abdul Rahman Institute for Advanced Dental Studies in April.
Vogel attended USC for both his undergraduate and graduate work where he met Dr. Marwan Abou Rass, chairman of the post-graduate endodonic program. They both taught at USC for four years from 1972 to 1976. Vogel grew to admire Rass a great deal, he said.
Vogel moved from Pasadena to Rancho Santa Fe in 1975 and lost touch with his friend.
“I wanted to open a small, hands-on practice,” he said. His wife Susan is the business manager and runs the front desk.
“She makes it possible for me to do the dentistry,” he said.
Over the years Vogel became an expert in osseointegration, or implants. He became fellow and a committee chair of
the Academy of Osseointegration. It was through his work there that Rass, who he hadn’t seen in some 40 years, saw his name and asked if it was the same Robert Vogel who practiced in Pasadena.
Vogel responded that he was one and the same.
He said Rass asked him if he was still practicing or if he was “turning to rust.”
Vogel responded that indeed he was still practicing and that he felt he was doing some of the best work of his career.
He said Rass felt he too was doing the best work of his career and told Vogel he was an official at the school and invited him to lecture there.
Vogel said he jumped at the chance.
“It took months to prepare,” he said. “There was a lot of material.”
In advance of the trip, one of the tasks Vogel had to do was write down for students step-by-step techniques.
“It made me refocus on why I do many things that are second nature,” he said.
Because Saudi Arabia is a very rich country, when he arrived at the dental school he found state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line equipment.
“I was totally impressed with what I saw,” he said.
He also found a group of very intense, very focused students who were two years past their doctoral degree and were now taking a two-year residency in advanced techniques, he said. They would eventually become teachers themselves.
He enjoyed his stay and said he was treated like a VIP or royalty.
“Saudis are very hospitable people and incredibly polite,” he said. “The architecture is simply not to be believed. The costs are off the charts. They can afford the best architects in the world.”
The only thing he found a little uncomfortable was being driving around the city, where drivers pay no attention of traffic laws or signs. He “white knuckled it,” all five days to and from his luxurious five-star hotel.
He said during his travels during the past 25 years, he has “lived in the culture” of the countries he visits.
“What it has done for me is introduce me to different cultures,” he said. “It has made me a better listener and I cherish all these experiences.”
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