Giving Back: Dr. Mark Lisagor

Posted on: Monday, 12/17/2018

Dr. Mark Lisagor’s desire to become a dentist began at a young age when he went to have a retainer made to fix a noticeable diastema. That dental visit made an impact on the impressionable 9-year-old Mark. After moving to Los Angeles as a teenager, he started taking college courses at UCLA, which denoted the beginning of more than a decade at the world-renowned campus.

“Going to UCLA for my undergraduate degree ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Dr. Lisagor. “I met my wife Terri at UCLA. For my studies, I chose to major in public health because I believed that everyone should have access to quality health care.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Dr. Lisagor recalled the dentist’s help from the decade prior and was inspired to apply to dental school. After being accepted into the UCLA School of Dentistry’s Class of 1973, he continued his passion for public health. While in dental school, he provided dental care to Native Americans in central Arizona for two summers in a row. After receiving his DDS degree, public health continued to be a priority, and he enlisted in the Indian Health Service and made his way back to Arizona.

“I was familiar with the patient population and felt I could make an impact,” said Dr. Lisagor. “It was during those first few years of treating Navajo children that I decided to specialize in pediatric dentistry. It was the right path.”

UCLA had just started a 2-year hospital-based pediatric dentistry residency program at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in the city of Torrance. Dr. Lisagor was accepted into the program as he knew that the caliber of training would be exceptional.

Upon completion of his residency program in 1977, Dr. Lisagor had the opportunity to start a practice in the expanding Southern California community of Camarillo and also to purchase a practice from a retiring dentist in Oxnard. Fresh out of residency, he was already running two practices on his own. Over the next 30 years, he built a name for himself in Ventura County and grew from two locations to four. The practice is continuing to grow even after his retirement in 2010.

As his practice grew, Dr. Lisagor began to add more specialists, giving him more freedom to expand on passions for public health, advocacy, and community involvement. He started volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club of Camarillo, and became involved with CDA Cares. He was even able to entice the organizers to create a CDA Cares Ventura. In addition, a promise to his business partner led to an international volunteer trip to Jerusalem to provide dental care to the underserved. After that trip, he was hooked on traveling to foreign countries to provide dental care. To date, he has coordinated and led nearly 60 overseas dental clinics and has worked in nine different countries.

In his eighth year of retirement, Dr. Lisagor’s “hobby” of volunteering is essentially a full-time job, and he’s never been busier or happier. “My international volunteer work feeds three of my passions—travel to places most people don’t get to see, the joy of project managing, and, of course, giving back.”

Dr. Lisagor is also working on policies that affect access to care, which is where he believes he can make the biggest impact. In 2008, he was elected to the Ventura County Board of Education, where he focuses his attention on helping children with special needs and those in foster care. He is also very involved with the UCLA Friends of Pediatric Dentistry serving as the past president for the support group that fundraises for UCLA’s section of pediatric dentistry. This past July, Mark accepted the role of co-chair to lead the UCLA Children’s Dental Center Renovation Campaign. 

“People may not realize that along with having an incredible training program, an entire generation of pediatric dentists are being exposed to the needs of the community. UCLA graduates are choosing to practice in non-traditional settings where their skills are needed the most. I’m so impressed with the UCLA Dentistry leadership and pediatric dentistry faculty.”

Dr. Lisagor says that he and Terri, who recently celebrated their 50th anniversary, are thrilled to give back through philanthropy and volunteering. He says that he wouldn’t have been able to accomplish as much had it not been for the support of his wife, a professor at Cal State Northridge, and his two children. He now has added the proud title of grandfather to his many roles.