Dugoni alumnus’ artistic outlet helps him ‘to better the lives of others’

James Ichijui ’19 was a student speaker at the June 2019 Commencement for University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco. Ichijui uses his experience as an award-winning artist in his dental practice.

Dugoni alumnus’ artistic outlet helps him ‘to better the lives of others’

James Ichiuji DDS ’19 has managed to take a head-to-toe artistic approach to pursuing his passions to fulfill his purpose.

“I love to draw and paint, especially on shoes,” said Ichiuji, a June graduate of University of the Pacific’s Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco. “When I was younger, I would see the older guys in school who had cool, rare and colorful sneakers and I felt that I could draw on mine to stand out in the same way.”

There are several pairs of daring-but-failed experiments hidden in the back of his closet, but for the most part Ichiuji found that people enjoyed his designs as much as he enjoyed coming up with them. That spurred him to enter a design contest put on by Freshness magazine and NikeiD, an online service allowing customers to customize their Nike gear, and Ichiuji’s design won in 2010.

Ultimately, the family profession called. Growing up around his father John’s dental practice in San Ramon, medicine had always been an interest of the younger Ichiuji. Both his dad and brother, Trent, are Dugoni School alumni, so it was natural to follow in their footsteps. After interning, volunteering and attending outreach events, Ichiuji knew dentistry was his professional passion.

James Ichijui ’19 won an art contest with this shoe design and today uses his artistic skills in his dental practice.

The most rewarding aspect for him, whether working on the mouth or on footwear, is knowing that he’s doing something that people will be pleased to see.

“That’s exactly how I see dentistry,” Ichiuji said. “I’m doing something that people appreciate and I’m directly affecting the lives of others.”

His creativity can be put to use in his dentistry. Much like painting on shoes, dentistry allows him to work with his hands. He’s able to sculpt teeth that will improve the oral health of his patients and it helps to channel his artistic energy.

Ichiuji participated in many outreach activities while at dental school and served as a student leader for a Jamaica Mission Trip, during which Dugoni students, faculty and staff volunteered to set up rural clinics and provide much-needed oral health care to underserved patients. Ichiuji was a primary organizer for the mission, recruiting volunteers and coordinating trip logistics and all the necessary supplies. The Dugoni volunteers also visited local schools to provide oral health instruction to children.

“I really wanted to put myself in a situation where I would be able to give back,” Ichiuji said. “I know how privileged I was to attend my dream school and it was important for me to get involved and help a population in serious need.”

Ichiuji credited Dugoni faculty, staff and administration for creating an environment that promotes growth, not only as clinicians, but also as individuals.

“I really believe that we are united as a family of health care professionals with a duty to better the lives of others,” Ichiuji said. “It’s the humanism that truly highlighted my time at the Dugoni School.”

This family atmosphere was also the reason that Ichiuji chose to audition to be the student speaker during his commencement ceremony. Ichiuji was chosen by a panel of faculty and staff from among several Dugoni School graduating students.

“I wanted to represent my class since they had done so much for me and I wanted to show my appreciation for them,” Ichiuji said.

The school’s focus on heart and humanism have shaped Ichiuji into the person he said he wants to be — someone to effect change and make a difference in his patients’ lives. As he works in private practice with his father, Ichiuji is happy knowing he’s putting a smile on people’s faces, whether it’s through dentistry or through his customized shoes.