Faculty and Staff, Pediatric Dentistry

Wright Named Bawden Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Dentistry

Dr. J. Timothy Wright has been named the first Dr. James W. Bawden Distinguished Professor of Pediatric Dentistry in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

Wright serves as chair of the School’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry. Friends and colleagues of Dr. James Bawden, who was dean of the School from 1966 to 1974, established the endowed chair to attract or retain a distinguished teacher and scholar within the School’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry.

The gift of more than $333,000 was provided by more than 165 individuals and organizations; state funds of $167,000 were matched to this amount to create an endowment exceeding $500,000.

“Dr. Bawden had an incredible vision for our school, and you see his influence in so many of our strengths – patient-centered research and collaboration with our fellow health affairs schools are just two examples,” said Dean John N. Williams. “Dr. Wright has directed almost the entirety of his career to advancing the field of pediatric dentistry, and his efforts have had a major influence on patient care, education and research at our School. He richly deserves this honor.”

Dr. Patrick Flood (middle), associate dean for research, and Dean John N. Williams (right) speak to Dr. James Bawden, former dean, before he gives the keynote address at the 2007 Dental Research in Review Day on Feb. 21.

Wright received his doctor of dental surgery degree from the West Virginia University School of Dentistry and his master of science degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He began his career in 1978 as director of the Children’s Dental Clinic, a component of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department in West Virginia. Wright, who joined the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry faculty in 1990, also is a practicing dentist in the school’s Pediatric Dentistry Clinics and specializes in care for patients with special medical and dental health-care needs.

His research interests include the diagnosis and treatment of developmental abnormalities in teeth that result from hereditary and environmental conditions, and understanding normal tooth development. He is the author of more than 130 journal publications, edited texts and chapters. Wright’s research has identified mutations in genes that are critical to normal tooth and bone formation. His research has provided the clinical tools to diagnose a variety of craniofacial conditions and has led to novel treatment approaches for disorders that are associated with devastating malformations involving the head and neck.

Bawden received his doctor of dental surgery and master’s degrees and doctorate from the University of Iowa. He was a dental officer in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps from 1954 to 1956 before practicing privately in Glenwood, Colo. When he came to UNC-Chapel Hill as an assistant professor in 1961, his career accelerated quickly. In 1962, he became an associate professor, and the following year he was appointed assistant dean and coordinator of research.

He achieved the rank of full professor in 1965 and dean in 1966. Bawden served as the School’s dean through 1974, providing crucial leadership in the School’s establishment of its research infrastructure. The Dental Research Center, which he helped dedicate in 1967, is celebrating its 40th year of operation this year.

As a researcher, Bawden led studies on enamel formation, mechanisms of fluoride action and clinical effects of topical fluorides. He retired in 2000.

“I’m just delighted that Tim got this,” Bawden said. “I think he is a fantastic scientist, teacher and clinician, and he is doing a wonderful job as department chairman.”

Of the professorship established in his honor, Bawden said, “It was a huge honor, one of the nicest things that has happened to me in my long career.”

Wright said Bawden was a pioneer in research investigating the effectiveness and safety of fluorides in preventive dentistry. “He helped envision a statewide plan for preventive oral health care and referral for children from birth to 3 years of age and has been a leader in preventative health care for children.

Dr. Tim Wright and Dr. James Bawden enjoy a moment of conversation on Dental Research in Review Day Feb. 21.

“I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Bawden in his research laboratory when I first joined the UNC faculty and was immediately impressed by his undying conviction for the search for truth,” Wright added. “He has been an incredible role model and a tremendously positive influence on my thought process in approaching research and then applying those finding to improve the oral health of children.”