New professorship in dental public health established

June 19, 2014

The UNC School of Dentistry and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health announced the establishment of a new dental public health professorship on June 5. Made possible by Chester Douglass, DMD, PhD, and Joy Douglass, the R. Gary Rozier and Chester W. Douglass Distinguished Professorship in Dental Public Health will support a jointly appointed faculty member, as yet unnamed, who specializes in dental public health.

Dr. Gary Rozier (left) is acknowledged by Dr. Chet Douglass at a dinner celebrating Rozier's career. Jeanette Rozier looks on.

Dr. Gary Rozier (left) is acknowledged by Dr. Chet Douglass at a dinner celebrating Rozier’s career. Jeanette Rozier looks on. Photo by Tom Fuldner.

The professorship, which honors Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH, professor of health policy and management at the Gillings School and a respected national leader in dental public health, was announced after a day-long symposium held at both schools, during which panel discussions addressed the future of dental public health. At a dinner planned to celebrate his career, Rozier learned that the professorship would bear his name as well as Douglass’s.

“This professorship provides assurance that this important academic discipline will have a home here at UNC,” said Jane Weintraub, DDS, MPH, dean of the UNC School of Dentistry. “It ensures a continued collaboration between the schools of dentistry and public health, which are arguably among the best in the nation and already have a history of working together for the betterment of the health of citizens of North Carolina.”

Through his research at UNC – which spans 38 years – and strong collaborations with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies, Rozier has created a legacy of impact, demonstrated through scores of peer-reviewed publications.

His Into the Mouths of Babes  program has been shown to be a cost-effective way to reduce dental caries and hospitalizations among children in low-income families. The program now is used across the U.S. and in several other countries, to the benefit of millions of children. Rozier has mentored more than 100 students, many of whom have advanced to leadership roles in the dental profession.

“Dr. Gary Rozier exemplifies what it means to be a gentleman and a scholar,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, Alumni Distinguished Professor and dean of the Gillings School. “His scholarship is legendary, impressive in both the quantity of his publications and the depth and breadth of his research impact. He is a great example of how academic research can benefit people in our communities. Gary also is an outstanding mentor and colleague, gracious, kind, a notably great collaborator and a generous citizen of the university and his profession.”

Douglass, whose generous private contribution made the professorship possible, dedicated his career to improving dental care for those living in the U.S. He authored more than 140 papers on topics including dental public health, oral epidemiology and health policy. As former chair of Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology, he mentored students, encouraging them to “think big” and continue learning.

While on the UNC faculty from 1971 to 1978, Douglass spent one year (1975-1976) as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., working as a member of the health staff in the U.S. Senate.

“Chet has mentored an amazing number of leaders in many different aspects of the dental profession, many of whom celebrated dental public health with us on June 5,” Weintraub said. “This generous gift from Chet and Joy allows us to create something special here at UNC – a true home for the discipline of dental public health – while honoring Chet and Gary, who blazed the trail of dental public health research for all of us.”

During the day’s events, the dentistry and public health schools also celebrated a generous grant from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation to support the Excellence in Dental Public Health initiative and a gift from Delta Dental to support dental public health. The Excellence in Dental Public Health initiative will focus on dental public health problems and challenges in North Carolina.

“North Carolina has a proud history of coming together to find innovative solutions to improve the oral health of our most vulnerable populations,” said Brad Wilson, president and chief executive officer of BCBSNC, chair of the BCBSNC Foundation and long-time proponent of improved dental health. “We need to do more, and we need to do it now. We look forward to a continued and active partnership with the Gillings School and the School of Dentistry as you continue to sharpen UNC’s focus on oral health across two great learning institutions.”

Curtis R. Ladig, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of North Carolina, noted that his organization’s mission is to improve the oral health of the communities it serves.

“Delta Dental is therefore pleased to be a partner in addressing critical dental public health issues in North Carolina with support for the North Carolina Collaborative for Excellence in Dental Public Health,” Ladig said.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu.