Discovering Another Artform

Posted on: Thursday, 07/26/2018

When you first meet Dr. Margaret Pan Quon, you are struck by her warm presence and genuine smile. The retired endodontist and UCLA alum has taken up oil painting and based on her work, she has approached painting the same way she approached her dental career – with passion and precision.

Margaret was part of the very first class graduating class from UCLA School of Dentistry in 1968, and even more astounding, is that she was the only female student in the class. She was a pioneer in the dental field and held her own in a classroom full of men. “I’ve seen the dental school change a lot over the years. The first class had 28 students versus today’s 108 and more than half of the student body is now women,” said Margaret. “Advanced degrees are offered, the clinics have gone high-tech, and the growth of research is evident.”

The budding artist emigrated from China in 1939 and enrolled at UCLA in 1955, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics Education in 1959. She decided to continue her education and went on to earn a Master of Science degree in Nutrition and then stayed on as a lecturer for two years in the same subject. Her passion for learning pushed her to apply to the new dental school that had just been built on campus.

“At the time, I was a minority in my field and there were times when I felt people’s doubt because of my gender,” said the alum, who also served as a UCLA Dentistry Board of Counselors member for over 10 years. “I’ve always tried to maintain a good attitude and believe that success comes from being honest and fair, and showing compassion and kindness.”

Following dental school, Margaret completed an Endodontics Specialty program at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital. She then went on to work in private practice in Endodontics for the next 30 years. When asked about what she would do upon retirement, it dawned on her that she had no idea. The next thing she knew, she found herself in an oil painting class at a local art school where she lives in Orange County.  

“I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and looking at beautiful objects,” she said. “An understanding of spatial relationship, subtle change in shades of color, and attention to details are reflected in my style of painting. The hand-eye coordination I refined in my dental practice definitely helps.”

In addition to her artwork, the 2015 Alumnus of the Year is still very involved with her alma mater, and giving back to the dental school remains a priority. In 2008, Margaret and her family funded the establishment of an endowed scholarship for students. In addition, Margaret has lent the School two of her oil paintings, as shown in the Table of Contents, to be displayed in the School’s academic building.

“My advice for dental students just starting out, would be to perform each procedure as if you were being graded; and be good to your staff for they are reflections of you and are your best asset,” said Margaret. “Don’t make the financial reward a top priority, if you enjoy your work, this will come automatically.”

If you are an artist that would like to donate or lend the UCLA School of Dentistry pieces of your work for display throughout the dental school, please contact the Administrative Offices at (310) 206-6063 or email at info@dentistry.ucla.edu.